Philippine Folk Dance History | LoveToKnow (2022)

The history of Philippine folk dancing incorporates influences from immigrants and conquerors while at the same time maintaining distinctly Filipino roots. Philippine folk dancing is a true reflection of daily life in past centuries while enchanting modern audiences at the same time.

Folk Dance History in the Philippines

Folkloric dance is the history of the people in movement. In some cultures, pale fragments of it survive centuries of invasions and diasporas. In the Philippines, folk dance is a strong and enduring indigenous expression.


Before the recorded history of the Philippines, before the Spanish conquistadors conquered and Christianized the populace, from the earliest occupation of this volcanic archipelago, the people danced. They danced to appease the gods, to curry favor from powerful spirits, to celebrate a hunt or harvest, to mimic the exotic life forms around them. They danced their stories and their shamanic rituals, their rites of passage and their remembered legends and history.

Rural dances include such favorites as the high-stepping Tinikling, which mimics a bird, and the Gaway-Gaway, which features the movements of children pulling the stalks of the gaway roots during a bountiful harvest. The pagan tribes, the Higaonon, Subanon, Bagogo, and others who have inhabited the Philippines for thousands of years, preserved their customs and symbolic dances. Partly through isolation, they kept their culture free from the influence of the waves of immigrants who settled the archipelago over the centuries. Today, tribal dances like Dugso (a dance of gratitude for a good harvest or a male heir, danced with ankle bells), Sohten(an all-male war dance) and Lawin-Lawin(another male dance which mimics a swooping, soaring eagle) are carefully documented and kept alive in performance by Filipino folk dance troupes and cultural institutions, such as the Parangal Dance Company.

The Pagdiwata is a trance dance, featuring women dancers who enact a thanksgiving ritual at the time of the harvest moon. The shamanic figures mime the spirits who possess them and enact a drama that can last for hours.


Muslim Merchants

Muslim traders from the Malay Archipelago reached the Philippines in the 14th century, well ahead of the Europeans. Thier conversion of the populace was a modest affair; they were more interested in commerce than colonization, although they did establish strongholds and convert the local populace to Islam. They also created their own folk dances in the areas where they settled. Singkil is one of the most famous. It depicts the plight of a princess caught in a magical earthquake in a forest. Her faithful servant tries to shield her with a parasol as the princess gracefully dodges falling trees, and is eventually saved by a prince.

Spanish Colonization

Folk dances survived the European invasion, and the dancers adapted imposed Christian belief and culture to their own dances, borrowing court choreography but imbuing it with Philippine spirit. The Maria Clara dances merged Spanish court style (and its stylized courtship conventions) with Philippine exuberance. Maria Clara is the pure and noble heroine of a novel who represents the finest qualities of Filipino womanhood. The dancers wear European 16th-century dress but move to the sounds of bamboo castanets.

(Video) Philippine Folk Dances (History & Classifications) | PE 7 | Quarter 4 - Lessons 1-8 | MAPEH 7

Folkloric Fusion

The revered folk dances from the lowlands and the hill tribes persist in their traditional form and in contemporary choreography for Philippine ballet companies. Dance is still the theater of identity for the Filipino people, a vibrant and cherished way to tell their story forward with all the rich history of their past.

The Beat Goes On

Traditional dance is still performed at celebrations of births and weddings. Modern folk dance festivals still feature ancient dances performed in costumes of the tribal period of the Philippines. If you are fortunate enough to attend a performance, you will hear percussion instruments such as the gangsa (a small copper gong), a tobtob (brass gong) or a hibat (a gong played with a soft wooden stick), accompanying dances such as the Palok and the Lumagen. Many tribal dances use no external musicians; the dancers generate their own accompaniment with stomping and hand clapping.

Idudu: A Snapshot of Ancient Culture

From the area of Abra, Cordillera comes the Idudu, which is a celebration of the family as the fundamental building block of Philippine culture. Depicting a typical day in the life of a family, the father is shown working in the fields while the mother cares for the children. As soon as the father is done, the mother goes into the fields to continue the work while the father goes back to the house to put the baby to sleep.

A singer usually provides a well-known lullaby during this part of the dance, and it emphasizes the necessity of cooperation and mutual support in the Tingulan family structure.


Maglalatik: The Dance of War

A dance from before the conversion of the Philippines to Christianity is called the Maglalatik. It represents a fierce battle between the Moro tribesmen (wearing red trousers) and the Christian soldiers from Spain (wearing blue). Both groups wear harnesses with coconut shells attached tightly to their bodies which are struck repeatedly with other shells held in the hands.

Originally from the Binan, Laguna province, it is now one of the most common dances in Philippine folk dance performances.

Pandanggo sa Ilaw: Grace and Balance

Derived from the Spanish word fandango, this dance is one of several designed to show off the grace, balance, and dexterity of the performers. Three glasses of wine (or, in modern times, water) are held in hands and on top of the dancers' heads as they move, never spilling a drop.

This is similar to the Binasuan dance from the Pangasinan Province which is done with drinking glasses.

Tinikling: Birds Dancing Over Bamboo

Perhaps the best-known dance in Philippine folk dance history, the Tinikling mimics the high-stepping strut of birds in the Philippine jungles over the bamboo traps the hunters would set for them. Two dancers, usually male and female, gracefully step in and out of crossed sets of bamboo poles being moved together and apart to the music.

(Video) The Story of the Filipino: Philippine Music and Dance

The dance gets faster and faster as it goes on, and it has been an audience favorite for Philippine dance companies touring the world. Tinikling illustrates the complexity and rhythmic challenge of expressive and intricate Filipino folk dance forms.

More on Cultural Dances

A recent rebirth in interest for all folk and cultural dances has spurred many resources to appear online. You can watch these folk dances on YouTube, read about the cultural history on informational sites, and even learn some of the dances through instructional videos. Check out some of these resources to further develop your knowledge of Philippine folk dancing:

  • Sayam Pilipinas: Plenty of information is available through this informational website, where the dances are divided into categories and then explained with the help of pictures.
  • Cultural Center of the Philippines: This government-run site showcases Philippine arts and features folk dance companies such as Bayanihan, the National Dance Company of the Philippines, with performance dates and ticket prices.
  • Parangal: A Filipino dance company based out of San Francisco which brings the art of the Philippines to American audiences.
  • ArtsBridge America: The way that dance and culture intertwine all around the world is explored in this performance curriculum designed to teach about cultural dances of the world.
  • Ritwal: A DVD featuring several different types of Philippine folk dancing, this is a visual feast for anyone interested in the genre.

Ancient to Modern Dance History

The history of dancing in the Philippines is a long and rich story that shows how intertwined the dances are with daily life and important events. Learn a few of the dances in order to really increase your understanding and appreciation of this dance genre; while the choreography may seem difficult at first, a little focused study can go a long way.

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(Video) Philippine Folk Dances | Lesson 3


What is the brief history of folk dance? ›

Many folk dances trace their origins back during times when dance was distinguished between the different classes of society: common and country folk versus the high society, royalty and elitists. The term “folk dance” was originally meant as a derogative term by high society elitists to demean the common people.

Where does the Philippine folk dance originated? ›

The dance originated in Leyte, Island in Visayas. It imitates the movement of the tikling birds as they walk between grass stems, run over tree branches, or dodge bamboo traps set by rice farmers." Dancers imitate the tikling bird's legendary grace and speed by skillfully maneuvering between large bamboo poles.

What is Philippine folk dances? ›

A: There are five types of folk dances in the Philippines namely: Maria Clara Dance, Cordillera Dance, Muslim Dance, Rural Dance, and Tribal Dance. These Philippine folk dances illustrate the fiesta spirit and love of life; the best-known type of Filipino dance.

Who invented folk dance in the Philippines? ›

Francisca Reyes-Aquino

What is the importance of our folk dance in our history? ›

People think folk dances are important because they help keep a culture alive. People have been doing folk dances for hundreds of years, and there is value keeping that tradition alive. Folk dances are important because they preserve the Philippine culture and pass it on to the next generation.

What is the importance of Philippine folk dance? ›

preserving history and tradition. traditions. Folk dance helps to preserve the cultural unity of the people.

What is the first folk dance in the Philippines? ›

From one of the oldest dated dances called the Tinikling, to other folkloric dances such as the Pandanggo, Cariñosa, and Subli, and even to more modern-day dances like the ballet, it is no doubt that dance in the Philippine setting has integrated itself in society over the course of many years and is significantly ...

What is the history or origin of dance? ›

Origins and Early History

The earliest findings have pinpointed the origins of ancient dances in 9000-year-old India or 5300-year-old Egypt, but the records more common infusion of dance into a modern culture can be found from Ancient Greece, China, and India.

What is folk dance short answer? ›

folk dance, generally, a type of dance that is a vernacular, usually recreational, expression of a past or present culture. The term folk dance was accepted until the mid-20th century.

What is folk music history? ›

Its name is derived from the German volk, which means 'people. ' Folk music began as a traditional genre, associated with the folklore of the region. By the 1930s, the genre had changed, and of early contemporary folk musicians, Woody Guthrie is widely seen as the first significant contributor to the genre.

What is folk songs in history? ›


Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, music that is played on traditional instruments, music about cultural or national identity, music that changes between generations (folk process), music associated with a people's folklore, or music ... › wiki › Folk_music
music, type of traditional and generally rural music that originally was passed down through families and other small social groups. Typically, folk music, like folk literature, lives in oral tradition; it is learned through hearing rather than reading.

What does Philippine folk dance reflect? ›

The history of Philippine folk dancing incorporates influences from immigrants and conquerors while at the same time maintaining distinctly Filipino roots. Philippine folk dancing is a true reflection of daily life in past centuries while enchanting modern audiences at the same time.

Why is it called the folk dance? ›

A folk dance is a dance developed by people that reflect the life of the people of a certain country or region. Not all ethnic dances are folk dances. For example, ritual dances or dances of ritual origin are not considered to be folk dances. Ritual dances are usually called "Religious dances" because of their purpose.

Who is the mother of Philippine folk dance? ›

Francisca Reyes Aquino is acknowledged as the Folk Dance Pioneer. This Bulakeña began her research on folk dances in the 1920s making trips to remote barrios in Central and Northern Luzon.

Where does folk come from? ›

Folk is a term used to describe all sorts of musical, oral and cultural traditions from specific regions and societies around the world. Folk comes from the German word 'volk' meaning 'the people' and folk music is often thought of as being the music belonging to 'the people'.

When was folk invented? ›

The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that. Starting in the mid-20th century, a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music

traditional folk music
It's also known as narodna muzika (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian Cyrillic: народна музика), also folk muzika (фолк музика) means folk music in the South Slavic languages (Bosnian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian). › wiki › Balkan_folk_music
. This process and period is called the (second) folk revival and reached a zenith in the 1960s.

When did folk first become popular? ›

Folk music gained popularity in the 1950s, mostly due to the constant outpouring of new songs, including those by Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and more. By the 1960s, the genre became a phenomenon.

What is the real meaning of folk? ›

Definition of folk (Entry 2 of 2) 1 : originating or traditional with the common people of a country or region and typically reflecting their lifestyle folk hero folk music. 2 : of or relating to the common people or to the study of the common people folk sociology.

What is a folk culture? ›

Explanation: "Folk culture" describes cultural traditions that are done at a local level and which are derived from longstanding cultural practices. Folk culture is separated from popular and high culture by its traditional and localized nature.

What is the oldest known folk song? ›

To find the oldest known complete song, you need look back just 3,400 years. Composed of lyrics, musical notation and tuning instructions for a Babylonian lyre carved into a clay tablet, it is called Hymn to Nikkal, or Hurrian Hymn No 6.


1. Episode 1: History of Philippine Folk Dance
(Fitness 4 Juan)
2. The history and characteristics of Philippine Folk dance
(Glazy Mae Remulta)
3. Traditional Dance of Leyte Tinikling, Philippines | Ride N' Seek Philippines S4
4. Philippine Folk Dance 2019 & Short History | Republika De Beronio
(Joseph Paulo)
5. The history and meaning of philippine folk dance and its characteristics.
(Saranza Julie Mae L.\ F)
6. Carinosa - Philippine Traditional Cultural/Folk Dance/Carassauga 2018,Toronto,Canada

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