Category:Philippine Dances

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The definition of 'Philippine dance' is certainly mind-boggling. Pervasive influences from the West and from our Oriental neighbors have long redefined 'Filipino dance'. Many of our dance cultures are impure to a certain degree due to these influences. For example, the Silong sa Ganding, La Jota Paloana and Lanceros de Cuyo and the Sakuting are all impure Philippine dances because these dances are influences of the Hindu, Spanish, American and Chinese, respectively. With this premise alone, Philippine dance could be hard to define as we first have to establish a definition of what is Filipino.

The Philippines have been a melting pot of sorts in this part of the globe; or more specifically, a 'melting pot of "both" (Western and Oriental) cultures'. There is an undeniable fusion of the cultures brought about by foreigners to the country with the existing culture early "Filipinos" originally had. This has resulted in such a unique blend of cultures in the country that determining the end of native culture and the beginning of foreign cultures is so hard to trace. The Philippines has indeed become a West-tempered East. Philippine dance cultures were among the most affected by Western cultures. Filipinos nowadays, fortunately, appreciate both worlds. Whether the dance is cha-cha, ballroom, folk or ballet, surely the Filipinos can always dance to the beat.



Knotted Rope

Up in the Philippines' north-central provinces is a long and treacherous mountain range that early Spanish conquistadores dubbed cordillera, in reference to the irregular and elongated terrain that looks like a "knotted rope". The Gran Cordillera (Great Mountain Range) is the home of various tribes that settled there since time immemorial. The five largest groups among the Cordillera people are collectively called in the mnemonic BIBAK (for Bontoc, Ifugao, Benguet, Apayao and Kalingga). Five other tribes who co-exist with the BIBAK but are in lesser population are the Tinggian, Bago, Ikalahan (also called Kalanguya) and the Gaddang. The Ilonggots who share kinship with the Gran Cordillera people in terms of both material and non-material culture is often categorized as an Aeta group because of their physical appearance. The Tinggian are the indigenous inhabitants of the part of Abra in the central part of the Gran Cordillera. Although, they are simply called Igorots for being people ‘who came from the mountains’, the Tinggian people call themselves Itneg which means ‘from the interior’. The Ikalahan or the Kalanguya reside in the eastern side of the Gran Cordillera in the Sierra Madre mountains in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino. The Bago is a group which emerged from the intermarriage of the Applay (Bontoc subtribe) and the Ilokanos. Most of them have adapted the Ilokano Christian faith and thus earned the nickname ‘Bagong Kristyano’ (new Christian converts) from lowlanders. The Bago however, also call themselves Itneg just like the Tinggian. Their language and dress is like a cross of both the Applay and Ilokano cultures of their ancestors. The Gaddang inhabit the northern part of the Gran Cordillera’s east side particularly in the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan facing the province of Kalingga and Apayao. They were the usual targets of the headhunting Kalingga and that in the days of old they are always at odds. In fact, the word kalingga in the Gaddang language means either ‘enemy’ or ‘headhunter’. A large part of the Gaddang population converted to Christianity as a result of the persistent missionary works in the area. The resulting new generation of Christianized Gaddang however, retained much of their ancient cultures similar to their relatives who opted to remain in their ancestors’ folkways.

These people live lives that are governed by a very rich reservoir of all sorts of culture and traditions. Life is a likened to an unending ritual for these people. From conception to birth and to death life is celebrated in rituals. There are also rituals that transcend death because their fallen ancestors become part of their deities worthy of appeasement and honor in their rituals. Their rituals are usually done in a series of songs, chants and dances. Preeminent among the many rituals of the Cordillera are the cañao (grand feast), budong (also vochong or padong) peace pact, palanos (a pre-wedding feast or a welcome party for distinguished visitors), bayas (wedding) or the grander uyauy (Kadangyan or rich people’s wedding feast), kayaw or pangangayaw (headhunting), sayam (celebration for a successful headhunt), dawak (healing ritual), begnas (agricultural ritual), waksi (shedding-off mourning), chap-es (a ritual supplication for family prosperity) and the manerwap(ritual asking for rain).

Cordillera dances can be described as 'ritual-based' with movements that are 'very basic' and 'earthbound' which projects their close affinity with the earth. Thus, ritual ceremonies are performed directly on the ground to pay respect to the earth which has all its bounty and also being the burial of their fallen ancestors. Cordillera dances are executed with the limbs held in linear and angular positions. The movements are noticeably focused on the outer extremities. The movements of their menfolk are war-like and forceful while that of their women portray femininity and deference to their menfolk. Their dances represent the part of the Philippine dance culture that is preserved in its pristine best. Their dances are pure without any influence from outside the Philippines be it among our Asian neighbors or from the west.


Every small hand or body gestures are very symbolic and its nuances convey lots of meanings. To the Isneg or Apayao people, for example, the trotting and the heavy stamping of the feet signify alertness and cooperative undertaking of tribal activities. Hospitality is conveyed by spreading the arms wide like the flight of mighty mountain birds. The use of tribal blankets called ayub or alliap as a usual prop in its many courtship dances means acceptance of responsibility. To the Tingguian, the clipped fingers represent unity while the arms raised upward signify thanksgiving and praise to God.

  • Bontoc Dances
  • Ifugao Dances
  • Benguet Dances
  • Apayao Dances
  • Kalingga Dances


First to Come

Popular with other names like Negrito (little black people)Ita, Ati, Dumagat (close to the sea), Ata, Mamanwa (first forest people) , Abyan (companion or friend) Remontado, Batak, Agta or Baluga (hybrid); the Aeta people are matter-of-factly the original inhabitants of the Philippines according to anthropologists and archeologists. They were the "first to come when there was none". Even the very popular island paradise of Boracay was first inhabited by the Ati long before the Visayans came to the scene. Waves of migration that followed had forcibly driven them to the interior mountainous parts of many Philippine islands. Today, Aeta population is concentrated in Zambales, Pampanga, Nueva Vizcaya, Quezon, Aurora, Rizal, Camarines provinces, Panay, Negros and Surigao.

Animal Fancy

Aeta dances are generally mimetic. Mimetic dances are those dances that imitate the motion of something that fascinates a dancer. That motion becomes the core inspiration of the dance. There are no symbolic hand gestures or body movements but plain and simple mimicry of an actual motion. Majority of researched Aeta dances mime either animals or occupations. One favorite subject of their dances is the monkey. In fact, simian antics are interpreted by almost all the Aeta groups. The Talek Bake dance of the Negritos from Botolan, Zambales may portray the monkey’s swinging from branches to branches or the scratching of lice out of its body. One rare version of the monkey dance (called Pandong) found among the Abyan Aetas in Labo, Camarines Norte have a storyline centered on a family of monkeys who was caught in a heavy rain in an open field. Caught unprepared the family scurried for a shelter but their efforts were futile. Rain-soaked, the family settled for a pandong (small twigs with leaves on). There are also dances that mimic the dragonfly, woodpecker, frogs, centipede (talek gayaman), monitor lizard (talek babarek), fly (talek lango) , fishes of the rivers, shrimps (talek paro), birds, honey gathering (talek nin manguan pulot panilan)and digging (or even stealing) kamote (talek pincamote).

Rituals and Festivals

There are also Aeta dances that can be classified as ritual-oriented or festival dances. The Talipe for example is one favorite dance performed during tribal gatherings or other festivities like weddings among the Aetas of San Marcelino, Zambales. Their festival dances are usually performed around a musician who plays a native guitar. Men may also exhort warriors through dance as in the all-male dance called Binabayani. Using their bows and arrows, they show their prowess as defenders of their community. A torture dance recorded by Reed among the Negritos of Zambales could be a mixture of a mimetic and festival dance. The Negritos rejoice the death of an enemy and especially victories at war.

There are also some rituals that call for dancing. Very important among the Ibeleng Aetas who live along the length of the Cabanatuan River is a ritual called Talibul. This ritual is performed to cast away unseen evil spirits, to give thanks for the birth of a child or as a thanksgiving offering for a victorious war. It is also performed as a healing session. One dance featured in the ritual is the Binabayanting. This Ibeleng war dance features combative movements and is performed only by male dancers. Two other war dances called Borokil and Rinompo are the known versions of all male martial dances among the Abyan Aetas of Camarines. Among the Aeta people of Bataan, there is a torture dance called Ayu-ayu performed by the captors around the victim.

Almost similar in every available version among the different Aeta groups is the Anituan curing ritual or séance performed by the Aetas of Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga and Isabela. In the Anituan, the Aeta mag-anito shaman cover the sick people with a red cloth symbolizing the sickness or disease that plagued the people. In the manner of a dance, the shaman entices the malevolent spirits to leave sick ones by offering them with food, gifts of beads and even threatening them with harm. The ritual is ended when the red cloth is pulled over the heads of the sick and the shaman-who supposedly absorbed all the sickness- falls to the ground unconscious. Slowly, the convalescents try a step or two of their festival dances as an offering of thanksgiving for the promised recovery.

The dances of some the Aeta groups converted to Christianity have also changed. The Nazareno dance of the Agta people of Datag and Siaton,Bacong, Negros Oriental, for example, is centered on honoring the Black Nazarene, the only piece of religious image in their chapel.


Aeta musical instruments are employed during dancing and the favorite among which is their native guitar. The native guitar is called a givaran bakil by the Pinatubo Aetas or the gitaha or gisada among the Abyan Aetas of Camarines and the Agta of Peñablanca, Cagayan. A bamboo instument called bikal , sticks, stones and bamboo beaters are also used at times. The continuous yelping, shrieking, shouting and the cacophony of mimic animal sounds make their dances more exciting. The Negritos’ love for music and their skill in dancing betray other striking Negroid characteristics. Using crude instruments, the Negrito music is primitive. Much of their instruments are simply rhythm –providing ones like sticks, stones and bamboo beaters. Needless to say, rhythm is a very important requisite in their dancing. There are, however, some instrument in their use that are similar to that of the lowlanders in Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales. A flute with four holes called bansic and kulibaw, a Jew’s harp made of a sliver of bamboo with a thin filament cut from it and played similar to the lowlander’s kubing are also common to the Negritos but these are not used to accompany their folk dancing. A highly-prized bronze gong was seen by William Allen Reed in 1904 among the Negritos in Zambales. The rare gong was probably of Chinese origin and as to how was it able to reach Negrito hands is a rarer occurrence. It was one favorite accompaniment in their dancing but was rarely used by them as Reed noted. The commonest instrument is the bamboo violin. Reed noted how this was made:

“It is easy to make, for the materials are ready at hand. A section of bamboo with a joint at 

each end and a couple of holes cut in one side furnishes the body. A rude neck with pegs is

fastened to one end and three abacá strings of different sizes are attached. Then with a 

small bow of abacá fiber the instrument is ready for use. No attempt was made to write down the music which was evolved from this instrument. It consisted merely in the constant repetition of four notes, the only variation being an occasional. change

of key, but it was performed in excellent time. “

These guitars (the givaran bakil or gitaha (from the Spanish guitarra)) are occasionally found among the Negritos. They are made of two pieces of wood; one is hollowed out and has a neck carved at one end, and a flat piece is glued to this with gum. These instruments have six strings usually made of abaca fibers, vines or lately metal strings. There also exists another violin found among the Aeta of Tayabas. The gurimbaw has a bow called busog. The body of the gurimbaw is made of bamboo and a kuhitan (coconut shell) is the resonator; the strings called gaka are made from the lukmong vine. These guitars and violins are by no means common, though nearly every village possesses one. The ability to play is regarded as an accomplishment. A stringed instrument called kabungbung can be considered more primitive than the givaran bakil or gitaha because it is made simply from a single section of bamboo, from which two or three fine strips of the outer bark are lifted up, split away in the center but are still attached at the ends. These strips which serve as string are of different lengths and are held apart from the body and made tight with little wedges. Another instrument is made by stretching fiber strings over bamboo tubes, different tensions producing different tones. These simpler instruments are the product of the Negrito's own brain, but they have probably borrowed the idea of stringed violins and guitars from the Christianized natives.

  • Pampanga and Zambales Aeta Dances
  • Quezon and Aurora Aetas Dances
  • Bicol Aeta (Abyan) Dances
  • Visayan Aeta DAnces


The Philippines was a Spanish Colony for some 333 years. Three centuries, 3 decades and 3 years would undeniably be more than enough for Spanish colonists to obliterate, erase and to some extent supplant the native culture of the Philippines. Religion was not the only 'good' assimilated by the colony, but also culture. Spanish soldiers, merchants, clergymen, administrators and even simple vagabonds came and along with them their own particular culture.

Spanish dances found a very warm reception among Indio dance virtuosos for they portray that "refined urbanity" and the Old World 'charm'. Lively Spanish festival dances were readily assimilated to the natives' repertoire of dances portraying, however, very Filipino temperament and execution. Jotas for example, were like watered-down versions of the Spanish original when the Filipinos performed them. They however, never lacked grace and spontaneity.

Spanish origins of those adopted dances were easily traceable from the name itself like the Jota Aragonesa, Jota Navarra, Paseo de Andaluz, Malagueña de Catanauan and the Madrileña. The jota is probably the most Filipinized in all the Spanish dances. The northern most version of the jota, geographically speaking is probably the La Jota Ivatan. Down to Cagayan and ultimately to the Visayas are 40 plus versions of the jota like the popular Jota Manileña, Jota Caviteña, Jota Rizal and the lesser know versions like the Laota, A La Fotta, Jota Echagueña, Jota Han Kalipay, Jota Calbigana and Jota de Olongapo.

Very close to the Jota was the fandango which was adapted by the natives in their versions like Pandanggo sa Sambalilo, Pandanggo sa Ilaw, Pandang-pandang, Fantanggo,Pandanggo Dumagueteño, Escala, Pandangyado, Pinandanggo and Pandanguiado Buraueño. Even the Alcamfor of Leyte is danced the fandango way.

Other European dances like the Minuet and the Potpourri(France), Redoba (Germany), Polka and Mazurka (both of Poland) also found their way to the Philippines through Spain. Dances of other Spanish colonies were also welcomed. Pastores versions and the lilty Kuratsa dances of Bicol and Visayas were believed to be of Mexican origin. Merican quadrilles like Lanceros and the Birhinia are also classified as Spanish-influenced dances.

  • Baile Criollo
  • Baile Provincial
  • Baile Popular



Lumad in the Visayan language means 'grown to a place'. The term was originally used by Visayan settlers in Mindanao to the original people of Mindanao to differentiate these tribal people from themselves. Originally referring to the indigenous people of Mindanao, the term Lumad, however, has been used to refer to other tribal people in the country except those in the Cordillera and the Negrito people. The Batak (although at times grouped with the Aetas), Palawanun and Tagbanwa people comprise the Palawan Lumad, while the Bukidnon and the Mondos of Calinog, Limbunao and Tapaz Mountains in Capiz and in some parts of Negros comprise the Visayan Lumad. The Mangyans represent the Mindoro Lumad.

The largest group among the Lumad peoples are the Subanons inhabiting the expanse of the Zamboanga peninsula from its southern tip extending to Misamis Oriental. A small offshoot from the Subanon, the Kolibugan converted to Islam making the influences from its Muslim neighbors like the Maguindanao and Maranao more dominant than the traditional Subanon culture. The smallest group is probably the Tasaday people which when first discovered in southeastern Davao numbered to some only twenty individuals including children. The Manobo group can be considered as the most differentiated. Linguists classified some 34 groups belonging to the Manobo family of languages. The most prominent and the largest among which are the Talaandig, Ata, Higaonon, Matigsalug, Pulangiyon and the Umayamnon.

Simplicity is not Beauty

To this group of people-especially the ones from Mindanao- belongs a very rich warp and woof of cultures that existed since time immemorial. Life is an unceasing expression of their cultural identities. From their lore, visual arts, crafts and performing arts are very rich harvest of authentic samples of extremely beautiful pre-Hispanic “Philippine” culture. Lumad crafts as seen on their costumes confirm a Filipino art’s character of 'horror vacui' or ‘space phobia’. This portrays that Filipino art and crafts leaves no space undecorated or bare (e.g. the jeepney, tutup, palaspas, etc). The albong takmun and the slaong kenibang of the T'boli people are adorned with beads, appliques and sequins arranged in traditional motifs or geometric patterns. The Higaonon pelupandung looks heavily embellished and so are the Bagobo, Tiruray, Mansaka, Mandaya and Manobo costumes which are far from being simple. To most Filipino groups, the comb is nothing but a simple implement of straightening messy hair. To the Mandaya and T’boli, however, the case is far different to the point that comb’s primary utility is seemingly impossible. Known to both the aforementioned groups as the suwat or the s’wat, wooden or bamboo combs are heavily decorated with tiny beads strung in very complex designs or patterns. Strands of these strung beads are attached to the edges or top of the comb and are allowed to dangle to the hair, cheeks or the shoulders like multicolored coarse hairs. Tiny brass hawk-eye bells called singkil or sariyew are also attached at the end of the strung beads that gives a ‘head turning’ faint chimes. At times locks of horsehair, colorful plumage of rare forest birds or even rarer shell pieces coming the sea adorn these combs.

Intricacy or complexity and high level of sophistication are also evident in their weaving. The three most complex are probably the weaving traditions of the T’boli, the Mandaya and the Bukidnon. The T’boli t’nalak, for example, is woven in an always new and never repeated pattern that a T’boli god of weaving instructs while the weavers are on sleep dreaming. This made T’boli weavers popular in the moniker ‘dream weavers’. From the hills of Davao Oriental came the known ferocious tribe of Mandaya. Such fierceness was however, very helpful in preserving their treasured material and non-material heritage including a fabulous weaving art of the dagmay, the Mandaya textile made of abaca .

Strings Attached

Lumad dances are deep-rooted. A big part of which has religious underpinnings. Their agricultural rituals, marriage celebration, religious ceremonies, tribal gatherings and other festivities are always celebrated with dance involved. It is not uncommon among the Filipino people that the name of the ritual is also the name of the dance. A good example is a ritual dance found among the Batak people of Palawan. Members of the family of a sick person perform the Diwata Kat Dibuwat to implore the diwata (literally, diety) for healing. The dance ritual involves the bathing of the sick, putting body ornaments and the usual giving of offerings to their dead ancestors. Another group from the central part of Palawan Island is the Tagbanwa people. They have an elaborate nine-day harvest time ritual called Inim or more popularly known as the Pagdidiwata. The ritual is officiated by a respected babaylan(priestess or shaman) and several lesser baylanes who perform several trance dances. While in trance the babaylan may perform the Tambol . Here, she manipulates either gently or frenzily a bundle of a sacred plant’s fiber called ugsang. Her face is covered with a dark cloth while a small porcelain bowl with lighted candles or a small sword is balanced in her head. Her assistants , the taga-iring also take turn dancing the Balisangkad, waving the hissing ugsang to the mesmerizing beat of the gimbal musical instrument. The community participates later in the Tugatak, Abellano,Soryano or the Sigumbat dances.

Aside from the ritual-roots, Lumad dances can also be described as mimetic. Mimetic dances are those that imitate the movements of the animals, non-living things or occurrences, daily chores and occupations. Pre-eminent among these dances are the many 'hawk' dances among the Lumad like the Mondos' Banog-banog and Sulognon, Agusanon, Arumanen and Kitaotao Manobo's Binanog or its Bilaan counterpart called Binatobato with some versions involving two women fighting for the attention of one man. The same “fighting-for-attention” theme is used in the T'boli Karasaguyon or Kadal sa Guyon (dance for entertainment), Bilaan’s Blit Bilaan and the Talaandig Pig-agawan. The Agusanon Manobo’s Kinugsik-kugsik and the Bagobo’s Kulasog Renek ka Kayo dances imitate forest squirrels mating or alone going up, down and around a tree stump. There is no love triangle however, in the Tboli Flaggey Libon courtship dance that imitates beautiful forest birds’ mating. The beautiful forest nymphs of the Bilaan folklore were also inspiring that they’re interpreted in the Maral Fieu Awas. The rice planting cycle is depicted in Bagobo's Miamas neng Ommoy (also called Todak or Sugod Uno) or the Mangyan's Bakal Taruk; or the hunting for food in the Bagobo Admulak or the Bilaan Agpanikop. The Matigsalug also have hunting (for edible frogs) dance called Panulo. Harvest is celebrated with the Subanen's Khinlesung and Thalak Getaw Begong or the Tagbanwa's Siring and the Palawanun’s Sarungkay. The Inanud (drifted away) part of the Dugsu probably mimes river current while the Senaylo-saylo portrays man’s indecisions. The quivering of the leaves of the banyan tree is interpreted in the Bagobo Baliti or that of the swaying bamboo leaves hit with a strong surge of wind in the Karamay to Kawayan.

  • Mindanao Lumad Dances
    • T'boli
    • B'laan
    • Manobo
      • Tigwahanon
      • Arumanen
      • Higaonon
      • Libunganen
      • Ilianen
      • Kinamigin
      • Talaandig
      • Talakag
      • Agusanon
      • Kitaotao
    • Subanen
    • Mandaya
    • Bagobo
  • Palawan Lumad Dances
    • Palawanun
    • Tagbanwa
    • Batak
  • Visayan Lumad Dances
    • Mundos
    • Capiz Bukidnon


The peopling of Mindanao mainland and the Sulu archipelago has been predominantly based on ethnic heritage and religious tradition. While it cannot be denied that an admixture of racial stocks has been developed among these people, the basic Malayan is still in their blood. Such strong Malayan identity was made even more enduring through time by the unifying cultural influence of Islam. (Haylaya:1980, 17). Bangsamoro (Moro Country) has been the favored term used by the Muslim Filipinos when referring to their homeland. Around ten language-based groups under three traditional sultanates are identified with the Bangsamoro: Maguindanao, Maranao, Yakan, Tausug, Samal (Sama dilaut), Jama Mapun (Samal Cagayan), Badjao, Sanggil, Molbog and the Palawanun Muslims. Noted Historian Teodoro Agoncillo described the Muslim Filipino as the “fiercest lover of freedom” and one who is “proud of his culture” to the extent that “one does not offer meek apologies” for whatever shortcomings his culture might have. Aided by a customary religious fundamentalism, the Filipino Muslim was more successful than his Filipino brothers in the north in preserving a less adulterated ethnic tradition. (Haylaya, 1980: 17)

As a result of selfishly protecting their culture from non-Islamic influences, the Bangsamoro people have successfully survived its age-old traditions, a great number of which are pre-Islamic practices.

Muslim dance styles have absorbed Hindu-Malayan-Arabic influences, combining them in certain degrees with their own native culture and evolving dance and music that are unmistakably Filipino, with their own atmosphere and mood. Famed dance historian Reynaldo Gamboa Alejandro described Bangsamoro dances: “Muslim [sic] dances move with a peculiar elasticity and almost serpentine suppleness; curves are emphasized in the apparently jointless backturned hands, flexible arms and rounded posture of the body.” An amalgam of earlier influences, dances of the southern region exhibit traits that link them not only to the Indo-Malayan world but also to other Islamic dances of the east. For example, an emphasis on the upper torso, bent knee and upturned toes and the use of the hands to express the nuances of feeling link these dances to the rest of Asia. (Alejandro: 2002, 90-92)Evident is the expressionless faces of the dancers which is reminiscent of the ancient Javanese court dances. Similarly, are the identifiable Indian classical dance mudras (meaningful hand gestures). Nevertheless, the original symbolism is lost and the use is simply a decorative hand gesture. The obeisance performed to the audience (which are commonly members of their royalty) by a dancer prior to a performance draws from the custom of the Muslim Arabs from the Middle East whose master-servant status is among the most stringent.

  • Maguindanao Dances
  • Maranao Dances
  • Badjao/Sama Dances
  • Yakan Dances
  • Jama Mapun Dances


Easy Life

Life among the lowland Filipinos could be the easiest. They enjoy the bounty of the plains and the wealth of the rivers and seas. Their proximity to these made life a little bearable than their relatives who opted to dwell on forest interiors or on mountainous and isolated parts of the archipelago. Such choice of lowland domicile made them also an easy prey in the colonization that happened. Prior to the reduccion policy of the Spanish colonial government, a large percentage of the natives in these islands have been situated in the plains particularly those areas close to the rivers or riverine tributaries and the open sea which facilitates mobility of goods for barter and travel. It is notable that the second largest group of the Christianized Filipinos groups has derived its name from being ‘people who live along the river’ or taga-ilog, hence, Tagalog. The same can be rooted from the Kapampangan which came from pampang, that is ‘riverside’.

Easy and happy life was also evident among the Visayans. In fact, the word bisaya is believed to have been derived from sayá or ayá both root words meaning ‘happy’. Visayans are undeniably one of the happiest among the Filipino social groups. Visayan festivals are among the most popular and certainly the merriest among the many such festivals practiced in the whole Philippines. They also boast the good singers and dancers who are always in demand in their merry-makings. Second to the Pangasinenses, the Visayans folks can be considered as the dancing-est people of the Philippintes. In fact, many Visayan folk and traditional dances became popular not only in the Philippines but even outside. The tinikling, itik-itik, cariñosa, balitaw and kuratsa are Visayan dances that became prominent in the Filipino repertoire of dances. The tinikling of Leyte has been tried in many folk dance curricula in many countries around the world. Many elementary pupils in the United States learn the “Tinickling” in their textbooks, on the other hand, Chinese students sing a Mandarin version of the Tinikling song.

Philippine Folk Christianity

The three centuries and thirty-three years of Spanish domination was effectively affected on the lowland Filipinos. They were the first people to be exposed to westernization and needless to say, the first converts. Today, more 80 percent of the whole Philippine population are Christians belonging largely to Catholicism, Iglesia Filipina Independiente and various Protestant sects brought about by subsequent colonialism. There is however, an interesting version of Philippine Christianity that is in practice nowadays. This version is a blend of Christianity and the pre-Hispanic pagan and animist folk religion anthropologists call “Philippine folk Christianity”. The Sanghiyang of Lumampong and Daine, Indang; and Alfonso, Cavite for example, is a multi-purpose ritual that involves chanting, dancing and offerings. The barko (ritual performer) chants the name of the Christian God and the various Catholic saints along with rare names which are certainly not found on Christian honor role: Santong kapayat-payatan (Gaunt Saint), Santong Kataba-tabaan (Plump Saint), Hari ng Kailaliman (King of the Underworld), Taratara and Hari ng Apat na Sulok ng Daigdig (King of the Four Corners of the Earth). The whole ritual is done in front of an altar with a crucifix as the centerpiece alongwith statues of the Virgin Mary and saints adorned with rosaries! Such dramatic juxtaposition is as interesting as the cases of the healing ritual kagong in Abucay, Bataan and the exorcism ritual pagmayaw in Can-avid, Eastern Samar. The kagong ritual is certainly pre-hispanic as the same ritual is still practiced among the Aeta Magbakun of Bataan. The ritual variably called kagun is also a healing ritual much the same as the anituan healing séance among the Pinatubo Aetas. The pagmayaw also predates colonization as evident on the food offerings and live animals laid on a ritual table. Catholic rosaries and novena booklets placed on the same table is certainly a ‘later’ addition. These rituals not different to the practices of the many manghuhula (fortune-tellers) outside the Quiapo church where their ancient babaylan-like ministrations are held simultaneously with the mass being held by priests inside the church. This version of Philippine Christianity seems to show an evident yet subtle form of subversion. Certainly, the people in Manila and Pampanga were Tagalog and Kapampangan first before they were Christians.

Whatever form Christianity is upheld nowadays is of little effect on the life of the lowland Christianized Filipinos. Spanish culture and lifeways have befallen their culture of antiquity. Whatever vestiges remained seem to be unnoticed by the present generation nurtured by the mixed blessings of science and technology and the American culture.

Not different from the present day Lumad was the culture of the prehispanic Tagalog, Bisayan, Ilokano and the rest of the now-Christianized Filipinos. Fr Ignacio Alzina reported that a ritual performed by a babaylan in Ibabao (present day Northern and Eastern Samar provinces) involves the use of a wooden receptacle for offerings called a bankasu. Similarly, the Bukidnons of Mindanao use the same bangkaso to hold a pot of fire or food offerings that is the ritual centerpiece or an equivalent to the altar in their rituals. Their dance dugsu is performed around this.

Dancing People

Dance among the Christianized Filipinos can be classified according to purpose as ritual/religious/ceremonial dances, festival dances, courtship dances and entertainment dances. Ritual/religious and ceremonial dances are those that are performed in connection to the appeasement, supplication, thanksgiving of Christian deities and also those native deities blended into Christianity. Popular among the dances of this type are the Pandanggo Santa Clara popularly known as the Sayaw sa Obando performed by childless couple to implore a triumvirate of patron saints of Obando, Bulacan: Santa Clara, San Pascual Baylon and Nuestra Señora de Salambaw for a child. The Sayaw sa Obando predates Catholicism as it is rooted in the pagan Kasilonawan festival. The Catholic Church could have done a great job in appropriating the pagan festival to Catholic festivity. Vignettes of pagan characteristics have nevertheless, survived and very noticeable among which is the offering of duck eggs before the statue of Santa Clara immediately after the pandanggo. Devotees coming from nearby Navotas and Malabon who participated in the Pandanggo Santa Clara go home in a similarly festive street dance called Bayluhan danced to the familiar Santa Clarang Pinung-pino (The Finest Saint Claire) tune. Female dancers wave white scarves and do similar steps of the pandanggo while the male dancers hold religious banners called estandartes. A similar fertility dance with pagan roots that persisted among the lowland Christianized Filipinos is the Kuraldal of Sasmuan, Pampanga.

Sun worship among the pre-Hispanic Batangueños have survived in the Saraw dance. The Saraw is derived from sa araw which means ‘to the sun’. Also popular among the Batangueños is the Subli dance held to honor the Mahal na Poong Santa Cruz in the municipalities of Bauan and Alitagtag. The Subli is certainly of pre-Hispanic origin that was performed originally to non-Christian deities or purpose. The use of the tultugan drum as the mere accompaniment of the dance is reminiscent of tribal dancing where the drum is the only musical instrument employed.

Christian Filipino dances performed during Christian festivities like Ash Wednesdays, Easter Sundays, town fiestas and Christmas are also numerous. The Jota Paoayeña, for example, dates back to the establishment of the Paoay Church during the Spanish regime. Every Ash Wednesday the following years was reserved for the Guling-guling festival when the Jota Paoayeña was always performed by the religious folks. Another Ash Wednesday dance is the Buling-buling of Guiniangan, Quezon. Here, dancers have a pair of sartin plates on each hand as they dance from house-to-house. The plates are supposed to hold the ‘performance’ money collected from the house-owners. The money is then turned-over to the church’s coffers. Younger Buling-buling dancers dance with bunches of flowers in each hand instead of plates. Easter Sunday festivities are among the merriest in the Philippines, various practices are held and are called with various names like the Salubong, Osana or the Sugat. In Boac, Marinduque the salubong is also an occasion when the turn-over of sponsorship (hermana/hermano mayor) is transferred to the following year’s sponsor. One pair from both parties performs a banner dance called Bate. One must be a lady dancer to represent Mary and the other a man, to represent the risen Christ. A happy marcha accompanies the dancing couple who vigorously beat (hence, bate) the banners. A similar banner dance also called 'Bate' is performed in Dongalo, Parañaque also during Easter Sundays and on the feast of San Dionisio. Religious mother would usually make a vow during the late stage of their pregnancies that they would let the child dance the Bate when they come out healthy. The Parañaque Bate dance is such a beautiful spectacle to behold as little boys and girls clad in beautiful dresses swishing colorful banderitas (flaglets) fulfilling the vows of their mothers. These children would dance in the streets of Parañaque accompanied by a brass band playing popular Spanish jota music. A similar ‘vow’ dance is the Panatang Sayaw from Makati. In the centuries-old Panatang Sayaw, the performers are young ladies carefully picked from among the children of prominent families in Makati. The dancers make beautiful swirls and turns using their flowered arches as the dance is performed in a specially made platform in front of the Makati church. Down in Christian Mindanao, men perform the Kinabayo dance in honor of the patron saint of Dipolog, while the people of Pagsanghan, Samar dance the traditional sinulug steps imploring the santo Niño for healing in the religious dance called Pagdayeg.

The Christmas being the culmination of the Christian calendar is undeniably the merriest part of the year. Christian Filipinos celebrate the season with utmost religiosity and revelry. Their houses are decorated with the traditional parol in different sizes and shapes. The traditional carols are also heard starting December 16th until the feast of the Three Kings. In Bikol this caroling season is called kagharong (going house-to-house), in Eastern Samar it is called panarit (asking for permission), panunuluyan in Hagonoy, Bulacan and in Mendez,Cavite it is called maytinis (evening vespers). After the 25th of December, groups of girls and boys with distinct costumes and props go house-to-house singing in Spanish, Latin or in the native language songs with central message of ‘rejoicing for the Savior is born’. The happy moods of the songs are usually accompanied with dances. These groups are called as the pastores (shepherds), pastora (shepherdess) or infantes (children). Popular among these Christmas dances are the Pandanggo Riconada, Sakuting, and the many versions of pastores dances abounding in Bicol, Visayas and in Christian Mindanao. The northernmost Christmas dance is probably the Infantes of Sanchez Mira, Cagayan.

To the lowland Christianized Philippine people belong various festival dances performed during special occasions that call for festivities like fiestas, thanksgiving, baptisms, wedding and various holidays in the Christian calendar especially Christmas and Easter. Various mimetic dances abound in this people group, notable among which are the world famous Tinikling of Leyte and the Itik-itik of Surigao. The dove is one favorite animal to imitate where many versions of lowland dances imitate its mannerisms and character. The Sinalampati of Bicol and Negros Oriental highlight the gentleness and the adorable motherly instinct of the dove, respectively. Its playfulness is also mimicked in the Salampati and Alimukoy both of Samar or its billing, cooing and graceful flight in the 'Kalapati' of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. The ‘doves’ could also go flirting like in the Palomita Coquitona from Capiz. The butterfly is also one beautiful subject where the beautiful spread wings is a metaphor of many equally beautiful things like good looks, a delicate kandungga (big triangular scarf) decoration, a blossoming flower, a colorful woman’s shawl or a dressed-to-kill woman going to church. The Ohoy! Alibangbang from Negros and Ining Alibangbang from Sorsogon are song dances similar to the Ay, ay Alibangbang! and Alibangbang Pula both from Eastern Samar . Handsome butterflies may also go courting from flower to flower as in the Mariposa of Pangasinan or the Kuykuyappo among the Isinay people of Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya. Among the Christianized Gaddang and the Yogad people of Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya, the Balamban either mimics butterflies or a flying fish.

There are also lots of Christianized Filipinos’ dances that mimic other animals notable among which are the Makonggo (monkey) of Bulacan, Itik-itik Sibonga and Itik-itik Antique (duck) of Cebu and Antique, Nilambay, Agogocoy , Sayaw sa Lambay and Inalimango (crab) of Bohol, Romblon, Leyte and Capiz and the very popular Lapay Bantigue mimicking the antiques of the funny seagulls found abundant in Bantigue, Masbate.

Various occupations and communal activities are also interpreted in their many dances and very popular throughout the country are the many ‘rice planting dances’ like the Tagalog Magtanim ay Di Biro , the Waray's Sinadukan featuring a beautiful maiden farmer wearing a native hat called saduk and the Ako’y Pobreng Manananom of Bikol. The fisherfolks also celebrate their occupations like the Mananagat of Cebu, Dinaklisan of Ilocos Norte, Manugpunit (Negros Occidental), Sudsud and An Lab-asero (both from Samar). In Basey, Samar, there is also a mat-weaving dance called Pahot-pahot. Ilokanos also have the cotton pod beating dance called Binatbatan, a cloth weaving dance called Agabel and the salt-making process is even portrayed in the Panangasin of Pagudpud. Their Panggalatok relatives welcome fishermen safely back to shore by dancing with lighted candles inside a glass. One such glass is balanced either on the head or on the forehead. Two more glasses are placed inside a wide piece of cloth or fishnets and are swung vigorously in time to the music, hence, the name of the dance Oasioas (swinging vigorously). Their wine-makers do a daring dance similar to the Binasuan in one spectacular piece called Kumakaret where dancers balance wine glasses at the foot, at both hands or even at the nape. The sturdy broom-makers enumerate the step-by-step process of making brooms in the form of a dance called Tanobong, which is also the name of the grass specie with which these brooms came from.

Courtship dances among the Christianized Filipinos have long been Hispanized as seen on the National Dance cariñosa. Spanish modesty have been imposed on the women converts that their lifestyles were altered. In the Cariñosa, Hele-hele, Bago Quiere, Polka Recreo and Pitik Mingaw; dancers still go flirting doing their courting figures but of course: Spanish system, no touch. Women may smile to the swooping man, but she must cover her mouth like a shy child. Handkerchiefs were commonly employed in many such courtship dances because it is a very handy implement in blocking attempted kiss or even just touch from the enamored men. An attempt to touch even the hem of the woman’s sobrefalda is blocked forcefully as seen in the Jota Echagueña of Isabela and the Lulay of Laguna. The persistence of a male lover is tried hard in the dance Waray Erit ('Unyielding') from Basey, Samar.

  • Ivatan Dances
  • Ilocano Dances
  • Ibanag Dances
  • Pangasinense Dances
  • Kapampangan Dances
  • Tagalog Dances
  • Bicolnon Dances
  • Cuyunen Dances
  • Ilonggo Dances
  • Sugbuhanon Dances
  • Waray Dances
  • Mindanao Christian Dances


  • Latin Ballroom in the Philippines
    • Argentine Tango/Milonga
    • Rumba
    • Brazilian Samba
    • Pachanga
  • European Ballroom
    • Vienesse Waltz
  • American Ballroom
    • Swing
    • Foxtrot
    • Charleston
    • Lindy Hop
    • Jitterbug
    • Twist
    • Square
  • Dance Sport




  • Bagobo rice cycle
  • Bulaklakan
  • Dugso
  • Lubi-lubi
  • Subli


This category has only the following subcategory.

Pages in category "Philippine Dances"

The following 2 pages are in this category, out of 2 total.