Philippine Theatre Arts

In many forms, theater was and still an effective medium to promote social awareness, as a means of entertainment and a liberal way to express one’s opinion. Most places in the Philippines have their own town fiestas flaunted with festivities and shows. During holy week, people stage the cenaculo– a theatrical presentation of the passion of Christ, and the moro-moro or comedia that relates to Christian and Muslim conflict. Some towns perform zarzuela, a Philippine version of Spanish light operetta, others present their poetic debate called duplo and karagatans. Another theatre form, the carillo, a shadow drama is usually shown after harvest. Cavite has Sanghiyang, Batangas has Subli and Laguna presents their Turumba and Pasyon. These traditional plays exemplify the union of folk religion and Catholicism.

On the first Sunday of January, Marinduque present its Three Kings’ Pageant and during the Lenten season, the same town performs its famous Moriones Festival. In the streets of Baliwag, Bulacan and Kawit, Cavite, Panunuluyan is staged on Christmas eve- a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s struggling search for shelter for the birth of Christ.

Philippine Dance

Singkil Most Philippine dances were originally patterned after European dances during the Spanish regime. Pandango Sa Ilaw, Cariñosa, 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 ¾ 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

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.Maglalatik

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.

Cariñosa – Cariñosa 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 Manileño

La Jota Manile̱a РIt 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:

BanogCordillera 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.

SalisidKalinga, 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”.

PalokKalinga, 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.

LumagenKalinga, 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.

IduduAbra, 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

DinuyyaCordillera 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.

BendayanBenguet 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.

BinaylanAgusan 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 magandaLeyte 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-TaloSulu 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-BlelahSouth Cotabato A tribal dance where in the dancers perform simulation of movements of birds.

Kadal TahawTiboli 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 CuyoPalawan 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.

KaratongPalawan 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.

DugsoBukidnon A thanksgiving dance from the talaindig tribe.

Gayong-gayongCapiz -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-MalongCotabato 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.

PagapirLanao 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.

PangalayZamboanga 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.

Philippine Music

Filipinos are known to be great musicians worldwide. This is due to their dedication and intense love for music. Even from its pre-Hispanic life, Filipinos expressed themselves through their ethnic musical instruments. These early settlers in fact played variety of musical instruments including flutes, nose flutes, and guitars to play appropriate songs in celebration of courtship, marriage, harvest and offerings. Many of their songs have been interpreted recently to pay tribute to Filipino traditional music. From ethnic rhythm to contemporary pop of the present times, Filipino musicians are thriving according to their levels of creativity. Danceable tunes delight party goers, melodious folk songs hit the radios of patriotic listeners, and romantic ballads exclusively magnetize poignant hearts.

Far from what everyone knows about music in the Philippines, the country in fact has abundant musical talents that have established themselves in the international scene. Despite the thriving influences of high-tech produced music nowadays, Filipinos kept their music roots in the family and schools. Not necessarily those ethnic ritual compositions but those original compositions formatted through adaptation of Classical music of the west produced by Filipino talents who received their trainings from the clergy during the Spanish colonial period.

The earliest foreign-influenced Filipino entertainment is the Awit and Kurido or Corrido- a musical show of dances and songs replacing the ancient epics during the conversion of early Filipinos to Christianity. Local talents adapted and performed this musical form into several dialects such as Pampango, Ilokano, Ilongo, Tagalog and Bicol.

Another form commonly known for its sophistication is Sarswela (Zarzuela), a pleasing show of combined acting and singing introduced by the Spanish in the late 19th century along with the arrival of American productions. That time, Zarzuelas were performed as a means of political protest and criticism against the colonizing Americans. Today, Zarzuelas are common festival shows taking part in commemorating the country’s rich traditions.

The most romantic of all is Kundiman, a combination of romantic words and mellow tunes interpreted through songs. Its musical structure derived basically from Kumintang or well-adored Tagalog songs composed to express romantic feelings and admiration for someone.

Below are examples of Philippine folksongs popularized according to the country’s ethno-linguistic groups:


Bahay kubo

Bahay kubo, kahit munti

Ang halaman doon ay sari-sari,

Singkamas at talong Sigarilyas at mani

Sitaw, bataw, patani

Kundol, patola, upo’t kalabasa

At saka meron pang

Labanos, mustasa

Sibuyas, kamatis

Bawang at luya

Sa paligid nito puno ng linga.

Paruparong Bukid

Paruparong bukid na lilipad-lipad

Sa gitna ng daan papagapagaspas

Isang bara ang tapis

Isang dangkal ang manggas

Ang sayang de kola

Isang piyesa ang sayad

May payneta pa siya — uy!

May suklay pa mandin — uy!

Nagwas de-ohetes ang palalabasin

Haharap sa altar at mananalamin

At saka lalakad na pakendeng-kendeng.

Magtanim ay Di Biro

Magtanim ay di biro

Maghapong nakayuko

Di naman makatayo

Di naman makaupo

Halina, halina mga kaliyag

Tayo’y magsipag-unat-unat

Magpanibago tayo ng lakas

Para sa araw ng bukas


Salampating Guminaro

Salampating guminaro

Guminaro dahil saco

Ano daw an kinamundo

Ta naglayog nin harayo.

Luminayog paibaba

Napaturo si sacong luha

Naging salog, naging sapa

Naging danao na dacula.

Hala cang salampati ca

Madacop ca nin iba

Ilalaog ca sa hawla

Sa hawlang may seradura

Salampating liyaliya

Tuminogdon sa kristia

Pag-abot ni señor cura

Kuminantang alleluya.

Sarong Banggi

Sarong Bangui, sa higdaan

Nacadangog aco nin huni nin sarong gamgam

A luba co, caturugan

Baco cundi simong boses iyo palan


Dagos aco bangon, si sacuyang mata iminuklat

Catong kadicluman ako nangalagcalag

Si sacuyang mata paghiling pasiring sa ita-as

Simong Naong nahiling co maliwanag

Sarong bangui, sa higdaan

Nacadangog ako nin huni nin sarong gamgam

Sa luba co, caturugan

Baco cundi simong boses iyo palan


Dandansuy, bayaan ta icaw

Pauli aco sa payaw

Ugaling cun icaw hidlawon

An payaw imo nang tan-awon

Si Nanay si Tatay

Si Nanay si Tatay di co babayaan.

Balaquid na boot an sacuyang utang

Si pagdara saco nin siyam na bulan

Gatas cong dinodo di co mabayadan.

Ay Nanay ay Tatay con ako humale,

Hihidawon mo man sa gabos mong aki

Macacoa ca man nin macacasangli

Dai macaarog kan sacong ugali

Ay Nanay ay Tatay kun ako maraot

Pogotan nin payo ibontog sa lawod

Con mahiling nindo na naganod-anod

Ay Nanay ay Tatay sapuda man tolos.




Pusok imdengam man

‘Toy umas-asug

Agrayo ‘ita sadiam

Panunotem man

Dika pagintultulngan

‘Toy agayat, agruknoy ‘ita emmam.

Essem a diak kalipatan

‘Ta nasudi unay a nagan

Ta uray sadin’ ti ayan

Disso sadino man

(Aw-awagak a di agsarday
‘Ta naganmo nga kasam-itan)

No alagip ka, usok ti mabang-aran

(Adu a sabsabong, adu a rosrosas

Ti adda ditoy, Nena, a mabuybuyak,

Ngem awan man laeng ti sabali a liwliwak

No di la dayta sudim ken imnas)

Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing

Ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing

Nasamsam-it ngem hasmin

Kasla sabong nga apag-ukrad

Iti bulan ti Abril

Ti ayat ti maysa a lakay

Aglalo no agkabaw

Napait, napait, napait a makasugkar

Anansata, o, Lelong

Agsapulka iti balo

A kapadpad ‘ta ubanmo

Ken dayta tuppolmo

Manang Biday

Manang Biday, ilukat mo man

‘Ta bintana ikalumbabam

Ta kitaem ‘toy kinayawan

Ay, matayakon no dinak kaasian

Siasinnoka nga aglabaslabas

Ditoy hardinko pagay-ayamak

Ammom ngarud a balasangak

Sabong ni lirio, di pay nagukrad

Denggem, ading, ta bilinenka

Ta inkanto ‘diay sadi daya

Agalakanto’t bunga’t mangga

Ken lansones pay, adu a kita

No nababa, imo gaw-aten

No nangato, dika sukdalen

No naregreg, dika piduten

Ngem labaslabasamto met laeng

Daytoy paniok no maregregko

Ti makapidut isublinanto

Ta nagmarka iti naganko

Nabordaan pay ti sinanpuso

Alaem dayta kutsilio

Ta abriem ‘toy barukongko

Tapno maipapasmo ti guram

Kaniak ken sentimiento

O Naraniag a Bulan

O, naraniag a bulan

Un-unnoyko’t imdengam

Dayta naslag a silawmo

Dika kad’ ipaidam

O, naraniag a bulan

Sangsangitko imdengam

‘Toy nasipnget a lubongko

Inka kad’ silawan

Tapno diak mayaw-awan

No inka nanglipaten

Karim kaniak naumagen

Samsam-itek ni patay

O, bulan ket klonem

Nanglaylay ‘toy ayatkon

Inka kadi palasbangen

Un-nnoyko darasem nga ikeddeng


May Kabaw

May kabaw kong gialimahan

Gipasilong sa landong sa kahoy

Pag-abot sa kahaponon,

ibalhin ko intawon

Ang baba`, a wangi-wangi-on

Ang dalunggan ikapay-kapay

Ang ikog ilamba-lamba

Ibugaw sa daghang langaw

Ang Bol-anon

Kon ikaw Inday, mangitag pamanhonon

siguro-a baya Inday ang Bol-anon.

Kun matuman mo, suwerte ka

Ang Bol-anon buotan gayod

Magmahal kanimo hangtod sa kahangtoran

Apan ayaw baya, Inday ug hikalimte

bisag dakog gusto, magdili-dili

Ilabina gayod sa palikerong ulitawo

Kay siya Inday Mohangyo kanimo.


Atin Cu Pung Singsing

Atin cu pung singsing

Metung yang timpucan

Amana que iti

Queng indung ibatan

Sancan queng sininup

Queng metung a caban

Mewala ya iti

E cu camalayan!

Ing sucal ning lub cu

Susucdul queng banua

Mecurus queng gamat

Babo ning lamesa

Ninu mang manaquit

Queng singsing cung mana

Calulung pusu cu

Manginu ya queca!

O caca O caca

O caca, o caca

Cabalat papaya,

Sabian mu nang patas

Nung e na ca bisa


Queta man quecami

Dacal lang baluga

Mangayap la queca

Biasa lang mamana!

Philippine Literature

The variety and abundance of Philippine literature evolved even before the colonial periods. Folk tales, epics, poems and marathon chants existed in most ethnolinguistic groups that were passed on from generations to generations through word of mouth. Tales associated with the Spanish conquest also took part in the country’s rich cultural heritage. Some of these pre-colonial literary pieces showcased in traditional narratives, speeches and songs are Tigmo in Cebuano, bugtong in Tagalog, patototdon is Bicol and paktakon in Ilongo. Philippine epics and folk tales are varied and filled with magical characters. They are either narratives of mostly mythical objects, persons or certain places, or epics telling supernatural events and bravery of heroes, customs and ideologies of a community.

Below are examples of ethno-epics popularized by different ethnic groups in the country:

Biag ni Lam-ang (Life of Lam-ang) of the Ilocanos narrates the adventures of the prodigious epic hero, Lam-ang who exhibits extraordinary powers at an early age. At nine months he is able to go to war to look for his father’s killers. Then while in search of lady love, Ines Kannoyan, he is swallowed by a big fish, but his rooster and his friends bring him back to life.

The Agyu or Olahing of the Manobos is a three part epic that starts with the pahmara (invocation) then the kepu’unpuun ( a narration of the past) and the sengedurog (an episode complete in itself). All three parts narrate the exploits of the hero as he leads his people who have been driven out of their land to Nalandangan, a land of utopia where there are no landgrabbers and oppressors.

Sandayo, of the Subanon tells of the story of the hero with the same name, who is born through extraordinary circumstances as he fell out of the hair of his mother while she was combing it on the ninth stroke. Thence he leads his people in the fight against invaders of their land and waterways.

Aliguyon or the Hudhud of the Ifugaos tells of the adventures of Aliguyon as he battles his arch enemy, Pambukhayon among rice fields and terraces and instructs his people to be steadfast and learn the wisdom of warfare and of peacemaking during harvest seasons.

Labaw Donggon is about the passionate exploits of the son of a goddess Alunsina, by a mortal, Datu Paubari. The polygamous hero battles the huge monster Manaluntad for the hand of Abyang Ginbitinan; then he fights Sikay Padalogdog, the giant with a hundred arms to win Abyang Doronoon and confronts the lord of darkness, Saragnayan, to win Nagmalitong Yawa Sinagmaling Diwata. Reference-NCCA

Other epics known to most Filipinos are the Ibalon of Bikol, Darangan which is a Muslim epic, the Kudaman of Palawan, the Alim of the Ifugao, Bantugan of the Maranao, the Hinilawod of Panay, the and the Tuwaang of Manobos. The Tagalogs pride their Myth of Bernardo Carpio, a folk hero said to hold the mountains of San Mateo apart with his powerful arms to prevent them from colliding.

There are shorter narratives that tell the origins of the people, the stars, the sky and the seas. A famous story that tells of the origin of man and woman is that of Sicalac (man) and Sicavay (woman) who came out of a bamboo after being pecked by a bird. This, and other stories of equal birthing of man and woman throughout the archipelago assert a woman’s equal position with a man within the tribal systems. Reference-NCCA

During the Spanish colonial period, the country has encountered transformations in their daily customs. It affected not only the country’s whole system but as well tainted the purity of their folklore traditions. And because of the western’s strong influence and forceful implication of their civilization, the locals’ forms of expression on national issues and self-consciousness were replaced through political essays, novels, poems and religious prose- a form of learning, however, that led to ultimate awakening of Filipinos regarding the unreasonable colonial rule in the country. Famous examples of these Spanish-adapted writings are the novels of Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere.

Nowadays, Filipino writers have continued to patronize the intellectual influence started by Rizal but to further aim at reviving the richness of the country’s very own folk traditions and introducing it to new generations as a significant form of art.