Most Philippine dances were originally patterned after European dances during the Spanish regime. Pandango Sa Ilaw, Cariņosa, Rigodon and Balitao are examples of these dances Filipinos are known for. Aside from these western-influenced dances, ethnic-created dances such as Tinikling made its way to nationwide recognition. Despite its apparent adaptation to western dances, still Filipinos pay tribute to their cultural roots. Every district in the islands has its own folk dance, interpreted attractively in festivals and local shows, which have added to the country’s reputed contribution to world’s illustration of traditional arts.
The following are examples of popular Philippine folk dances:
Binasuan - Originated in Pangasinan Province “meaning with the use of drinking glasses”, this vibrant dance basically shows off balancing skill of the performers. Glasses filled with rice wine are placed on the head and on each hand carefully maneuvered with graceful movements. This dance is common in weddings, fiestas and special occasions.
Rigodon - Originated from Spain, this dance is commonly performed at formal affairs like inaugural balls where prominent members of the government participate and enjoy.
Pandanggo sa Ilaw - The word pandanggo comes from the Spanish dance “fandango”characterized with lively steps and clapping while following a varying ū beat. Pandanggo requires excellent balancing skill to maintain the stability of three tinggoy, or oil lamps, placed on head and at the back of each hand. This famous dance of grace and balance originated from Lubang Island, Mindoro.
- Pandango Sa Ilaw
Sublian - The term “subli” is from two tagalog words “subsub” meaning falling on head and “bali”, which means broken. Hence, the dancers appear to be lame and crooked throughout the dance. This version is originally a ritual dance of the natives of Bauan, Batangas, which is shown during fiestas as a ceremonial worship dance to the town’s icon, the holy cross.
Kuratsa - Commonly performed during festivals in Bohol and other Visayan towns, this dance portrays a young playful couple’s attempt to get each other’s attention. It is performed in a moderate waltz style.
Itik-itik - According to history of this dance, a young woman named Kanang (short for Cayetana) happened to be the best performer in the province of Surigao del Norte. At one baptismal reception, she was asked to dance the Sibay, and began improvising her steps in the middle of her performance imitating the movements of an “itik”, a duck, as it walks with choppy steps and splashes water on its back while attracting its mate. Because of its unusual steps and fascinating interpretation, the audience began imitating her.
Tinikling - Tinnikling is considered the national folkdance with a pair of dancers hopping between two bamboo poles held just above the ground and struck together in time to music. Originated from Leyte Province, this dance is in fact a mimic movement of “tikling birds” hopping over trees, grass stems or over bamboo traps set by farmers. Dancers perform this dance with remarkable grace and speed jumping between bamboo poles.
Maglalatik - Originally performed in Binan, Laguna as a mock-war dance that demonstrates a fight between the Moros and the Christians over the prized latik or coconut meat during the Spanish rule, this dance is also shown to pay tribute to the town’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. It has a four-part performance such as the palipasan and the baligtaran showing the intense battle, the paseo and the escaramusa- the reconciliation. Moro dancers wear read trousers while the Christian dancers show up in blue. All dancers are male; with harnesses of coconut shells attached on their chests, backs, thighs and hips.
Maria Clara - Maria Clara is the main female character in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere -a literary piece that features the colonial situation of the Filipinos during the Spanish regime. She was characterized as a Filipina woman of virtue and nobility. This dance is a mix of Spanish gracefulness and customized native props, such as bamboo castanets and Asian fan. Female dancers wear Maria Clara dress that typifies the European style, while men are in barong tagalog, a traditional Filipino embroidered long-sleeve shirt made of pineapple fiber.
Cariņosa - Cariņosa is a word that describes an affectionate, friendly and lovable woman. This dance is performed in flirtatious manner with fans and handkerchiefs to assist the dancers’ hide-and-seek movements.
- LaJota Manileņo
La Jota Manileņa - It is a dance named after the capital city of the Philippines, Manila, where an adaptation of Castilian Jota afloats with the clacking of bamboo castanets played by the dancers themselves. The costume and the graceful movements of the performers noticeably inspired by Spanish Culture.
Sakuting - Originated in Abra, this dance interprets a mock fight between Ilokano Christians and non- Christians with training sticks as props. It is traditionally performed during Christmas at the town plaza or from house-to-house as a caroling show. As a return, the dancers receive presents or money locally known as “aguinaldo”.
Pantomina - Meaning "Dance of the Doves", this dance is the highlight of Sorsogon’s Kasanggayahan Festival every third week of October. Groups of participants, mainly elderly in colourful costumes, dance to the tune of Pantomina song. It is a courtship dance originated from immitating the courtship and lovemaking of doves that then showed during the dance where men attempt to please the women.
Other Philippine Ethnic Dances:
Banog - Cordillera In this dance, performers portray hunters shielding their chickens from the famishing hawk. The hawk ends up entrapped and dies in the hands of hunters.
Salisid - Kalinga, Cordillera This is a courtship dance that symbolizes a rooster trying to attract the attention of a hen. This is performed and portrayed by both male and female dancers as the rooster and hen respectively. The dance starts when each of them are given a piece of cloth known as "ayob" or "allap".
Palok - Kalinga, Cordillera - A tribal dance. The natives of Kalinga perform this dance in most of their social events. Male dancers hold gangsa or gong- a percussion instrument made of copper, and beat it with wooden stick.
Lumagen - Kalinga, Cordillera A tribal dance. This is a traditional thanksgiving dance by the Kalinga tribe performed to celebrate good harvest and events such as birth of first-born child, victory in battles and weddings.
Idudu- Abra, Cordillera A tribal dance. This dance stages a common family life in the Itneg or Tinguian society. It illustrates the family as the main foundation of the tribe’s community. Several traits of an ordinary family are shown. It depicts a father plowing the field while the mother caring for the children. But as soon as the father finishes work, the mother takes over on planting, sowing and all the remaining chores to do in the field. At this time the father is left to take care of the kids. During the dance a Local singer breaks into an Idudu or lullaby to put the baby to sleep. Idudu, a dance taken from Idudu lullaby, obviously portrays the different roles in a Tinguian family
Dinuyya - Cordillera Ifugao dance Famous in the Ifugao region, this dance is regularly staged during festivals in Lagawe. Three kinds of gong instruments such as, ordinary gongs, tobtob- a brass gong played by beating with open palms and, hibat, a kind of gong played by beating the inner surface with a softwood are used in this dance.
Bendayan - Benguet This dance, which is more known as Bendian, is performed to commemorate the arrival of headhunters in their district. Performers dance in a circle and show off their lively traditional steps.
Binaylan - Agusan This is a ritual dance, which originated from the Bagobo tribe living in the central uplands of Mindanao, imitating the movements of a hen, her banog or baby chicks, and a hawk. The hawk is sacred and is believed that it has the power over the well being of the tribe. The hawk tries to capture one of the baby chicks and is killed by the hunters.
Malakas at maganda - Leyte A Tribal dance. This dance depicts the birth of the first man and woman who came out of a bamboo tree. It has been said that the woman named “maganda” (beautiful) and the first man “malakas” (strong) are the parents of the whole community in the island. The dance demonstrates how a bird discovered the noise coming from the inside of the bamboo and perched until it opened. A man and a woman came out of the big bamboo tree and, the birth of this legendary couple is amusingly interpreted in this dance.
Burung-Talo - Sulu The dance is a unique fighting dance in a form of martial arts by the Tausug tribe. Performers demonstrate a battle between hawk and a cat. With their acrobatic movements and tough facial expressions, this dance is highlighted with the accompanying energetic beat of drums and gongs.
Kadal-Blelah- South Cotabato A tribal dance where in the dancers perform simulation of movements of birds.
Kadal Tahaw - Tiboli dance- south cotabato A tribal dance performed by Tiboli tribe, this dance that mimics the hopping and flying behavior of Tahaw bird is performed to celebrate good harvest.
Sayaw sa Cuyo - Palawan Cuyo is a small island and capital of Palawan. There, the feast day of St. Augustin is traditionally celebrated with parades, processions and small performances by groups coming from all over Cuyo Island and the nearby islets. Island dances, blended with strong Old Cuyo ethnicity and Spanish-influenced steps, are all brought out when Cuyo celebrates its festivals. Today, pretty young girls daintily swirl hats to the waltz and other European steps designed to bring out the freshness and glow of the performers.
Karatong - Palawan A Muslim dance. During the festival of San Agustine in the island of Cuyo, the celebration also includes the blossoming of mango trees. The parade starts from the church patio and ends at the town plaza with ladies waving their colorful props “Bunga mangga” that symbolize the flowers of mango tree, while men lively strike their karatong instruments; creating a scene of joy among reveling towns folk.
Dugso - Bukidnon A thanksgiving dance from the talaindig tribe.
Gayong-gayong - Capiz -A Muslim dance. In rural gatherings, this dance offers much fun. Gayong is a pet name for Leodegario. According to the legend and to the words of the song, Gayong and Masiong (pet name for Dalmacio) once attended a feast commemorating the death of a townsman. While eating, Masiong choked on a piece of Adobo so he called, "Gayong! Gayong!" to ask for help to dislodge a bone from the Adobo meal from his throat. In this dance, Masiong’s liking for feasts and the consequence of his gluttony are held up to playful ridicule.
Kapa Malong-Malong - Cotabato A Muslim dance. This Maranao dance is performed with women wearing malong and shawl, mantle or head piece, whereas men wear sash or waist band, shorts or bahag and head gear or turban traditionally worn in the fields.
Pagapir - Lanao del Sur This dance is usually performed to commence an important affair. Dancers of this dance are usually from the royal court or high society group of Lanao Province. They use apir or fan to coordinate with their small steps called kini-kini, which symbolizes their good manners and prominent family background.
Pangalay- Zamboanga Del Sur A muslim dance. Originally performed by wealthy families during a wedding celebration, this fingernail dance is now a popular festival dance in Sulu.