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Li Mary Lactuan


Philippine Folk Dance

Most Philippine dances were originally patterned after European dances during the
Spanish regime. Pandanggo 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.

Choreographer Francisca Reyes-Aquino is recognized for pioneering research in the

documentation of Philippine folk dances and founding the Philippine Folk Dance Society. She
codified the folk dances into steps, directions, and musical arrangements that are taught in
physical education classes in most schools. Among other folk dance troupes, the Bayanihan
Philippine Dance Company (formerly the Bayanihan Folk Arts Center) and the Far Eastern
University Folk Dance Group perform stylized adaptations of folk dances in local and
international tours. Informal folk dancing is performed for a variety of occasions, such as
harvests, weddings, and religious celebrations.

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.
• 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.
• 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.
• La Jota Manileña - 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.
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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.
• Alcamfor - Leyte comes this couples dance in which the girl holds a handkerchief laced with
camphor oil, a substance which supposedly induces romance.
• Andaluz - Also known as Paseo de Iloilo, for its province of origin, this is one of the most
sophisticated courtship and flirtation dances of the Spanish era. The gentlemen compete
among each other to win the heart of the dalaga, or young lady, by exemplifying chivalry,
grace, and confidence.
• Aray - A dance whose words are sung in "Chabacano-ermitense," a hybrid of Spanish that
was only spoken in the Ermita district before the turn of the century and today is extinct. The
dance itself is a flirtatious one that involves graceful use of the pañuelo, or shawl, and
tambourines. Aray means "ouch" in Tagalog.
• Balse - Derived from the Spanish "valse" (waltz), this dance was popular in Marikina, Rizal
province, during the Spanish times. Balse was performed after the lutrina (a religious
procession), and the music that accompanied the dancers was played by the musikong
bungbong (musicians using instruments made of bamboo).
• Cariñosa - This flirtatious dance is known throughout the Philippines. Cariñosa means
affectionate, lovable, or amiable. With a fan or handkerchief, the dancers go through hide-
and-seek movements and other flirting acts expressing tender feelings for one another. There
are many versions of this dance, but the hide-and-seek movements are common in all.
• Chotis - The Chotis (or "Shotis") was one of the ballroom dances learned by the Filipinos
from the early European settlers. This dance, from Camarines Sur, has been adapted by the
Bicolano people and is characterized by a brush-step-hop movement.
• Escopiton Malandog - According to legend, two boys named Esco and Piton introduced this
dance during the inauguration of the founding of San Jose de Buenavista. Eventually the
dance was called Escopiton. This beautiful dance originated from Malandog, a barrio of
Hamtic in Antique.
• Estudiantina - A very lively and gay dance. During the old days, this dance was a favorite
in social gatherings and was performed by the estudiantinas, women who were students of
private schools and colleges in Manila. They are seen holding a book in one hand throughout
the dance.
• Habanera - A wedding party dance which originated in the town of Botolan in the Zambales
Province. Typical sequences include the procession of the bride and groom's parents, lineup
of the bridesmaids and groomsmen upstage, and a solo featuring the wedding couple.
• Imunan - A courtship dance of Ilokano origin. A beauty enters for an afternoon promenade
with her suitors. At the end of the dance, the lovable and charming lady cannot select from
any of her suitors.
• La Jota - The jota encompasses a variety of Spanish-influenced dances accompanied by the
use of bamboo castanets, held loosely and unstrung. There are many forms of jota in the
Philippines whose names are derived from their regions of origin. A common progression in
the jota is a quick & lively verse, followed by a slow bridge, and ending with a verse in the
same lively tempo as in the beginning.
• Jota Española - Highlighted by castanets, abanicos, and tambourines.
• Jota Gumaqueña - Once very popular among the well-heeled families of Gumaca, Tayabas
(now Quezon). A well-known local musician at the time, Señor Herminigildo Omana,
introduced this dance. It became popular with the young people and was handed down
between generations.
• Jota Manileña (Manila) - It originated in the capital city around the 19th century.
• Jota Moncadeña (Moncada, Tarlac) - A combination of Spanish and Ilocano dance steps
and music.
• Jota Pangasinana (Pangasinan province) - Demonstrates the flair of stomping feet
culminating with the cry of "Olé!"
• Jota de Paragua (Cuyo, Palawan) - Displays a Castillan influence with Zapateados
(footwork), Lobrados (arms), and Sevillana style of dress. The ladies wave their mantón, or
decorative shawl, while the gentlemen keep brisk pace with bamboo castanets.
• Jovencita - A dance typical of a woman's debut or even her wedding. The accompanying
love ballad was written by Maestro Nitoy Gonzales when he was courting Jovita Friese, who
then choreographed the graceful and beautiful habanera dance that accompanies it. Jovencita
means "young lady" in Spanish.
• Lanceros de Negros - During the Spanish time, this dance was one of the popular quadrille
dances in the Philippines. It is similar to the stately Rigodon de Honor and is danced in
important social affairs to formally open a big ball. One version from Silay, Negros
Occidental, is performed in a lengthwise formation.
• Mazurka Boholana - This dance is a traditional ballroom dance popular in Bohol and in
other provinces during the Spanish times.
• Panderetas - This dance, named after the jingle-less tambourines carried by the females,
originates from Tanza, Iloilo. From December 16 to January 6, a group of people in the
Visayan regions go from house to house to sing Christmas called "Daigon." In some regions
the song is usually followed by some dances, and "Las Panderetas" is one of those dances.
• Paso Doble - Meaning "two-step," the name is actually a misnomer, as it is an ordinary
walking or marching step called the "one-step." The term refers to the stirring marching
music played as background music at bullfights and fiestas throughout Spain.
• Polkabal - A dance influenced by two distinct European styles: polka and valse.
• Putritos - A festival dance from Atimonan, Tayabas (now Quezon province), featuring a
couple's flirtatious and playful interaction. It is danced in alternating slow and fast waltz
tempos and culminates in a vivid twirling sequence by the girl.
• Rigodon de Honor - This elegant dance was brought to the Philippines by the Filipinos who
returned from their travels abroad during the Spanish era. This dance takes its name from its
opening performances at formal affairs such as the President's Inaugural Ball. Members of
government, including the President and First Lady, diplomatic corps, and other state
officials usually participate in the Rigodon. Traditionally, a ballroom waltz dance would
follow the Rigodon.
• Sabalan Lulay - The dance "Lulay," like the kuratsa, jota, pandango, and polka, is
performed in many parts of the Philippines. This dance originated from Malamig barrio of
the town Gloria, Oriental Mindoro. It is part of a wedding ritual which has four phases:
sabalan, pamalaye, sabog and dapit. The dance begins with the gentleman dancing around
his partner as she eventually gives in to dancing with him.
• Saguin-Saguin - From the Bicol region comes this courtship dance which tells the story of a
lumberyard owner, who threw a dance for his workers. A girl who was related to one of the
workers was offered to the owner as a dance partner. He took to her very kindly, and
eventually serenaded her.
• Timawa - Meaning "forsaken lover," Timawa is a courtship dance, usually performed by
women, and is originated in Lamot, a barrio in Capiz. The story recounts of a man and a
woman, both timawas, who met at a social gathering and became acquainted with each other.
In the course of their conversation, they discovered that they both had the same misfortune;
therefore, turning to each other for sympathy and comfort.
Basic Dance Steps of Philippine Folk Dance

Hopping - Springing into the air from one foot and landing on the same foot

Jumping - Movement without a point of support or Spring into the air off both feet and
land on both feet

Leaping - A transfer of weight from one foot to the other. Push off with a spring and land
on the ball of the other foot, letting the heel come down Bend knee to absorb the shock

Pivoting - A traveling turn executed with thighs locked and feet apart in extended fifth

Shuffling - A triple step similar to a Polka step with no lilt for example step forward left
and bring the right foot up yo the heel of the left foot.

Brushing -To brush, sweep or scuff the foot against the floor

Kumintang - a simple, classic gesture of rotating the hand and wrist and movement of
arms which was believed to have been inspired by arnis.

Sarok or salok - is an elaborate bow which must have been inspired by the woman
acitivity of fetching water from a well.

Sway - A tilt of the chest to the side, without lowering the torso Stretching from the side

Waltz steps - A ballroom dance in 3/4 time which first developed in Vienna as a fast
paced dance to the Strauss music of the time, and eventually evolved into the slower
version we now know as Waltz (or Slow Waltz).