The Coconut in Filipino Culture

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The coconut palm is widely distributed in the Philippines and has become an integral part of Filipino culture.


Language and Idioms

Filipinos usually refer to their heads as "coconut" as in the expression: "Use your coconut." The word for "coconut shell" is bao, which is also used to refer to the skull as in the term "bao ng ulo".

Songs and Music

The group Smokey Mountain had a hit song "Da Coconut Nut" about the benefits of the coconut.

Indigenous Games

The following indigenous games played by Filipino children, or "laro", make use of the coconut.

  1. Karera ng Baong Sangko or Cadang (coconut shell stilts race) - This game uses coconut shells with strings of rope inserted into the eyes of the shells. The strings are measured to the height of the user. The players, with their feet on the coconut shells stilts, race each other to a finish line.<ref name="test16">Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) website. Entry on Traditional Games in the Philippines (accessed November 8, 2007).</ref>


Coconuts figure prominently in four Philippine folk dances.

The dancers of Maglalatik (also called Magbabao), a dance originating in Biñan, Laguna, tie coconut shells (Filipino: Bao]] to their backs, chests, hips and thighs, and strike them with coconut shells strapped to their hands. The dance depicts a fight between Moros and Christians over the latik, which is the residue left after coconut milk has been boiled. The first two parts of the dance, the Palipasan and the Baligtaran depict the fight, while the last two parts, the Paseo and the Sayaw Escaramusashow reconciliation between the two groups. According to legend, the Moros came out victorious and obtained the latik, but the Christians sent them an envoy to offer peace and to baptize them. Maglalatik is usually performed during the town fiesta of Biñan. In the daytime, the dancers go from house to house performing this dance for money or a gift. In the evening, they dance Maglalatik in the religious procession as it moves along the streets, as an offering to the patron saint of the farmers, San Isidro de Labrador.<ref name="test1">SEAsite Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University website. Entry on Maglalatik (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>

Sigsilew, on the other hand, is a dance from Pangasinan. The dancers balance three lighted coconut shells, one on the top of the head, one held in each hand, and use their skill to keep the lights in place throughout the dance.<ref name="test2">Hiyas Philippine Folk Dance Company website. Entry on Sigsilew (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>

Lubi-Lubi is a dance from the Bicol Region that honors the many uses of the coconut with a combination of simple folk and social dance steps. According to the Bikolanos, this dance originated in Leyte and Samar, where it is still danced like the balitaw.

Mananguete is performed in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte, among the settlers from the Visayan islands. It pantomimes all the stages of tuba gathering (a mananguete is, literally, a person who gathers sap from the coconut buds, with the help of a "sanggut" or scythe, to make tuba or coconut wine). Sharpening the scythe, cleaning the bamboo containers ( "sugong" in Visayan), climbing coconut trees, getting the sap, adding powdered bark ("tangal"), and mixing and tasting the tuba are the actions portrayed.<ref name="test3">Philippine Ballroom Dance website. Entry on Philippine Folk Dances (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>


Fifteen documented festivals throughout the Philippine archipelago celebrate the coconut.

The Annual Coconut Festival celebrating the National Coconut Week is held on the last week of August of every year in Manila and hosted by the Philippine Coconut Authority.<ref name="test4">Philippine Department of Agriculture Bureau of Agricultural Research website. Article in publication about National Coconut Week (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>

Jordan, Guimaras, also in keeping with National Coconut Week, celebrates its Kalubihan Festival on the same week.<ref name="test5">Philippine Department of Tourism website. Calendar of events for August (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>

San Pablo, Laguna, on the other hand, celebrates its Coconut Festival on January 11 to 15.<ref name="test6">One Town One Product (OTOP) Philippines microsite. Region IV-A: Laguna(accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>

San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro, celebrates its Coco Festival every December 8,while Bongabong, also in the same province, celebrates its Sulyog (Suli at Niyog) Festival every March 19. (" Suli " means "banana" in Mangyan.)<ref name="test7">WOW Philippines website. Entry on Oriental Mindoro(accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>

Baganga, Davao Oriental celebrates its Niyog Festival every October 29,<ref name="test8">PhilCom website. Davao Oriental portal (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref> while Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte, celebrates its Niyogan Festival every May 15.<ref name="test9">WOW Philippines website. Entry on Lanao del Norte (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>

Barugo, Leyte, celebrates the age-old process of the making of coconut wine in its Sanggutan Festival every May 18.<ref name="test10">WOW Philippines website. Entry on Leyte (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>

Paranas, Samar, celebrates coconut harvest in its Bagulan Festival every June 19 (Bagul, literally "skull" is a reference to the hard coconut shell which looks like a face).<ref name="test11">WOW Philippines website. Entry on Samar (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>

Nabua, Camarines Sur, celebrates its Boa-boahan Festival every May 1, commemorating how the Pre-Hispanic early townfolks survived the big floods without food or water, by feeding on young coconuts, especially coconut embryos. In Thanksgiving, they offered to the deities chains of young coconut embryos, or boa.<ref name="test12">Website of the Town of Nabua, Camarines Sur. Entry on Boa-Boahan Festival (accessed on November 6, 2007).</ref>

Four places in the Philippines celebrate a festival with the same name: the Lubi-lubi Festival. Calubian, Leyte, (Calubian literally meaning 'the place where many coconuts grow' ) celebrates every August 15;<ref name="test13">WOW Philippines website. Entry on Leyte (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref> Linamon, Lanao del Norte, celebrates it every January 23;<ref name="test14">WOW Philippines website. Entry on Lanao del Norte (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref> while Gingoog, Misamis Oriental, celebrates it on the Feast of Sta. Rita, every May 22.<ref name="test15">WOW Philippines website. Entry on Misamis Oriental (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>

Glan, Sarangani, celebrates its Foundation Anniversary with the Coco Festival every October 8, and its Patronal Fiesta in honor of Sta. Catalina de Alexandria with the Lubi-lubi Festival every November 25.<ref name="test16">Official Website of Glan, Sarangani Province. Basic information about the town of Glan (accessed on November 5, 2007).</ref>


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