Culture Through Dance-2


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… continued from Part 1.


Dwelling amidst the rice terraces that tower over Northern Luzon are a people that belong to several ethno-linguistic tribes who reign over Luzon’s mountain terrain – the Bontoc, Ifugao, Benguet, Apayao, and the Kalinga tribes. Their way of life existed long before any Spaniard or other foreigners stepped foot on the Philippines.


Nearly 400-years of Spanish colonial rule left an indelible mark on the Philip pines. Spain brought with them all aspects of their culture to most parts of the Philippine Archipelago. This includes the Roman Catholic faith, European litera ture and the Spanish language, cuisine, clothing, and dance.


The barong tagalog and the terno are Philippine interpretations of Spanish dress made to fit the humid climate of the Philippines. Aside from creating their own versions of European fashion, Philippine aristocrats created Filipino adaptations of European dance as well. These include the jotas, fandanggos, mazurkas and waltzes that were danced by young socialites to the stringed music of the ron dalla.


FIA-Culture Through Dance-2 Post Image-01Mindanao, the southernmost and second-largest island in the Philippines, is the country’s cultural melting pot. It houses influences from Spain, China, Indonesia, and the Middle East. Although Mindanao carries a strong flavour from other lands, there are people who have long lived there before it became a bustling ground of foreign trade. Indigenous tribes such as the T’boli, Bilaan, Manobo, Bagobo, and other groups also inhabit the vast regions of Mindanao.


Aside from colourful contributions, the regional tribes of Mindanao are home to the largest cultu ral minority in the Philippines – the ‘Moros’ or Muslims. Brought by Javanese and Middle Eastern traders, Islam is the religion of approximately 20-percent of the Philippine population.


Like their Northern Luzon counterparts, these groups honor pagan gods for the fruits and trials of daily life. What distinguishes them from other tribes in the Philippines is their intricate craftsmanship in metal, clothing, and jewelry. These tribes pride themselves in their concept of beauty and are known for creating colourful sets of jewelry and clothing out of dyed pineapple and banana fibers which are showcased in their traditional dances.


La Jota Manileña – It is a dance named after the capital city of the Philippines – Manila, where an adaptation of the Castilian Jota (music and its associated dance known throughout Spain) accompanied with the clacking of bamboo cas tanets played by the dancers themselves. The costumes and the graceful move ments of the performers are noticeably inspired by Spanish culture.


There are also two other variations of the Jota in the Philippines besides the Manileña form. There is the Jota Cagayana and the Jota Isabela. The Cagayana variant of this dance is named after the valley whose tribal inhabitants – the Ibanags of Cagayan Valley, applied a much faster tempo and still displays the fire and fury of its European origin. The Isabela Jota – named after the Province of Isabela, is a fine example of a filipinized spanish jota. Unlike the two other jotas it does not use elongated bamboo castanets. This Ilokano-influenced dance was first performed by settlers of the woodlands of old Isabela in northern Luzon. Together, all these variants are known as “Las Jotas Filipinas‘.


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Maria Clara

An Unending Love

Maria Clara. A name given to a song, a cultural dance and a traditional gown worn by women inspired by the heroine in Noli Me Tangere authored by Jose Rizal who describes her character as ‘Inang Bayan’ or Mother of the Nation. Being religious, the epitome of virtue, “demure and self-effacing” and endowed with beauty, grace, and charm, was promoted by Rizal as the “ideal image” of a Filipino woman who deserves to be placed on the “pedestal of male honour”.


NOTE: In the highly hispanized Tagalog culture, Maria is often used as a generic name for a girl. Rizal – the Filipino nationalist, reformist and national hero born to a wealthy family in the town of Calamba, Province of Laguna, patterned the attributes of ‘Maria Clara’ after his first love Leonor Rivera thought to be the inspiration for the heroine in Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo. Rizal wanted to marry Rivera but was unable to do so. It appears that a connivance between Rivera’s mother and an Englishman named Henry Kipping – a railway engineer who fell in love with Rivera, was favoured by Leonor’s mother. Love’s ember dies ever so slowly and while im prisoned by colonial authorities, Rizal penned one the most beautiful poems written in Spanish ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ the night before his execution leaving instructions to his sisters in English, it has been said, that it was inspired with Leonor (his first love) and Josephine Bracken (who later became his wife) in mind.


Lumagen – Another Kalinga tribal dance. This is a traditional thanksgiving dance performed to celebrate good harvest and events such as birth of first-born child, victory in battles and weddings.


Maglalatik – Originally performed in Biñan (the garden Province of Laguna) as a mock-war dance that demonstrates a skirmish between Moros (Filipino Mus lims) and Christians over the prized latik or coconut meat during the Spanish rule, this dance is also performed to pay tribute to the town’s patron saint – San Isidro Labrador. It consists of a 4-part performance such as the palipasan (or diversion) and the baligtaran (or reversion) representing the intense struggle, the paseo and the escaramusa (or recon ciliation). The Moro dancers wear red 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.


Malakas at Maganda – A tribal dance from island province of Leyte, it depicts the birth of the first man and woman who come out from a bamboo stalk. It has been said that the first woman named ‘maganda’ (beautiful) and the first man ‘malakas’ (strong) are the parents of the whole community of the island. The dance demonstrates how a bird heard noise coming from the inside of the stalk and perched nearby until it opened to reveal them.


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Maria Clara – Maria Clara is the name of the main female character in Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere (or ‘Touch Me Not’), the literary masterpiece written by this national hero of the Philippines. It features the oppressive colo nial situation of Filipinos during the Spanish regime. Maria Clara was charac terised as a beautiful Filipina woman of intelligence, virtue and nobility. The dance is a mix of Spanish gracefulness and customised native props, such as bamboo castanets and Asian fan. Female dancers wear the Filipino ‘Maria Clara’ dress which typifies the European style, while men are clad in barongtagalog, a traditional Filipino embroidered long-sleeve translucent shirt made from the finest pineapple fiber.


Pagapir – This dance from Lanao del Sur Province in Mindanao is usually per formed to commence an important affair. Its dancers 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.


Palok – A Kalinga tribal dance performed by members in most of their social events. Male dancers hold a ‘gangsa’ or gong, a percussion instrument made of copper, and beat it rhythmically with wooden stick.


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Light As A Feather

The Spanish Influence Prevails

This unique and colourful dance of grace and skill originally comes from the ver dant island of Lubang, Mindoro and there are now a number of versions depending on locality. The word ‘pandanggo’ is from the Spanish ‘fandango’, and the phrase ‘sa ilaw’ is Tagalog for “in light”. It is also called the ‘Candle Dance’ because its per formers have to balance small lamps called ‘tinghoy’ – one atop the head and one on the back each hand while keeping in step.


NOTE: If some of the cultural dances of the Philippines derive their names from Spain it is largely because Spanish was the original official language of the country for more than three centuries, and became the lingua franca of the Philippines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Spanish was spoken by a total of 60% of the population in the early 20th century as a first, second or third language. Following the American occupation of the Philippines and the imposition of English, the use of Spanish declined gradually, especially after the 1940s. Today, there are a few towns in the Philippines like Mexico Pampanga where Spanish is still spoken. In the city of Zamboanga in northern Mindanao, a local Spanish-based dialect called Chabacano is still spoken widely.


FIA-Culture Through Dance-2 Post Image-02Pandanggo sa Ilaw – The word ‘pandanggo’ comes from the Spanish dance ‘fandango’ is characterized by lively steps and clapping of its performers while following a varying ¾ beat. The ‘Ivatan’ version is performed during wedding cele brations in Batanes, the northernmost island of the Philippine archipelago.


The ‘Arikenken’ variation is popular in the north ern Province of Ilocos Norte where it is danced in pairs. The ‘Rinconada’ (or ‘corner’ in Spanish) is another version performed mostly during Christ mas by young and old alike in Camarines Sur in the sub-region of Bicolandia where it is a staple of the ‘veladas’ or evening shows (watch video above).


Then there is the Pandanggo sa ‘Sambalilo’ performed with hats instead of lamps and another called the Pandanggo sa ‘Paño’ involving handkerchiefs. Another variation of the dance is the Pandanggo sa ‘Tapis’ performed with overskirts.


Pangalay – This dance from Zamboanga de Sur, also in Mindanao, was origin ally performed by family members of wealthy Filipino-Muslims during wedding celebrations. This ‘fingernail’ dance is now a popular festival dance in Sulu. Native to the Badjao who are known as the “Sea People”, Pangalay is a dance emphasizing the agility of the upper body. The rhythmic bounce of the shoulder with simultaneous alternating waving of arms are the basic movement of this dance. The Pangalay is commonly performed at weddings and other social gather ings.


Pantomina – Meaning “Dance of the Doves”, is the highlight of Sorsogon Pro vince’s Kasanggayahan Festival occuring every third week of October. Groups of participants – mainly elderly in colourful costumes, dance to the tune of the Pantomina song. It is a dance imitating the courtship of doves that’s expressed when menfolk attempt to please the women.


Rigodon de Honor – Originating from Spain, this dance was commonly per formed at formal affairs like inaugural balls where prominent members of the Spanish colonial government participated and enjoyed themselves.


Sakuting – Originating from Abra province of northern Luzon, this dance interprets a mock fight between Ilokano Christians and non-Christians using training sticks as props. It is traditionally performed during Christmas in town plazas or from house-to-house as a caroling show. In return, dancers receive presents or money locally known as ‘aguinaldo’ or token gift.


Salisid – This is a courtship dance of the Kalinga tribes in the Cordillera that symbolizes a rooster trying to attract the attention of a nearby hen. It is per formed and portrayed by both male and female dancers and starts when each of them are given a piece of cloth known as ‘ayob’ or ‘allap’.


Sayaw sa Cuyo – Cuyo is a small island off Palawan and the name of its main town. 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 nearby islets. Island dances, blended with strong Old Cuyo eth nicity and Spanish-influenced steps, are all brought out when Cuyo celebrates its festivals. Today, pretty young girls from Cuyo daintily swirl hats to a waltz and other European steps designed to bring out the freshness and glow of the per formers.


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Sayaw Sa Kasingkil

Royal, Regal and Resplendent

Spellbound, imagine watching a live per-formance of Sayaw sa Kasingkil, a world-famous dance of the Maranao tribe of Lake Lanao. An awesome experience for ever etched in your mind. While Mara nao people are today Muslims, many be lieve it to be of Arabic or Hindu origin. It’s neither. Rather, it is the Maranao in terpretation of the ancient tale narra ting the story of a princess and her lady-in-waiting running in haste during an earthquake created by jealous fairies.


NOTE: If the word ‘Singkil’ has a jingle-jangle sound to its name it’s probably because it takes its name from the small bells worn on the ankles of the main protagonist, a princess caught in the bowels of a dense forest. The rhythmic clapping of hollow criss-crossed bamboo poles symbolize trees that are falling along her path which she gracefully avoids as the tempo quickens while her attendant loyally accompanies her through the ordeal.


Singkil – Singkil (or Sayaw sa Kasingkil) is an elaborate dance of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao in Mindanao – the second largest island of the Philippine Archipelago and is derived in a story from the Darangen epic of the Maranaw. It is a popular dance performed during celebrations and other festive entertain ment. Performed as a female-only dance, the ‘modernized’ version of Singkil today serves as either a conscious or unconscious advertisement to would-be suitors for prospects of her future marriage.


Sinulog – Distinguished by its unusual two-steps-forward-one-step-backward shuffle, the Sinulog processional dance is a century-old tradition observed in the part of Visayas region. It is Cebu City’s fiesta of fiestas. The prayer-dance is harm onized to the beat of drums and shouts of “Pit Señor! Viva Sto. Niño!”.


Sublian – The term ‘subli’ derives from two Tagalog words ‘subsub’, meaning falling on head and ‘bali’, which means broken. Hence, its performers appear to be lame and crooked throughout the dance. This version is originally from a ritual dance of the natives of Bauan from the province of Batangas, which is shown during fiestas as a ceremonial worship dance to the town’s icon – the Holy Cross.


Tinikling – Considered the national folk dance, it involves a pair of dancers hopping between two bamboo poles held just above the ground and struck together in time to music. Originating from Leyte Province, the Tinikling is in fact a mimic movement of the tikling birds of the field hopping over trees, grass stems or over bamboo traps set by farmers. Dancers perform it with remarkable grace and speed jumping between bamboo poles.


Filipinos in Auckland | Culture Though Dance-2





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