Philippine dance

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Style and Use

The form of presentation is designed for the student. The language is simple and the style straightforward. Technical terms are explained either in synonyms and equivalents or in the context in which they appear. Subheadings help to clarify the organization of ideas and ease the search for particular data. Pictures and captions illustrate the principal ideas or forms being discussed. Sources of data or quotations are placed in parentheses right after the sentence which uses them and provide the surname of the author, the year of publication of the work, and the page numbers, which can be checked against the general references at the end of the volume. The shorter references at the end of some essays not only serve as an acknowledg- ment but also lead the student to more sources of information in the general references at the end of the volume.



Dance-related terms, such as pangalay, subli, balse, rock and roll, are set in boldface the first time they appear in an essay; Filipino and foreign terms not related to dance, such as mambunong and convento, are set in italics the first time they are mentioned. Translations or equivalents of terms, whether dance-related or not, are usually enclosed in parentheses: thus, teniente (lieutenant). Titles of books are italicized and set in boldface each time they are mentioned; they are followed by English translations (if the title is non-English), enclosed in parentheses, and the year of publication, separated by commas. All diacritical marks on native terms are removed until such time as they are consistently and systematically recorded by scholars, especially among the smaller ethnic groups.

Titles of popular songs, marches, waltzes, hymns, and one part of a larger dance work, are set in normal type and enclosed in quotation marks. Titles of complete ballets, movies, televi- sion and radio programs, sarswela, and plays, are set in boldface italics. Acronyms of schools and institutions are written after each name has been spelled out, and are used in succeeding references to the school or institution.

For the researcher, the Index in Volume X is the most helpful first stop. It lists all the major music terms, forms, names, concepts, and books in the dance volume as well as in the other volumes of the encyclopedia. Variant spellings (e.g. pandanggo, fandango) are listed to facilitate search.


RITUAL DANCE. The Bukidnon women gather In a circle to commune with their deities, as they celebrate birth, harvest, or victory In war In the ritual dance called dugso, 1990. (Emesto R. Caballero, Cultural center of the Philippines Ubrary Collection)



MIMETIC DANCES. Dances performed by the indigenous peoples may dramatize courtship, as in the lfugao dance, opposite page, top, and the Bagobo dance, below right; an episode from the epic, as in the Maranao singkil, opposite page bottom; and the movements of birds, as in the Tboli kadal blilah, below left. (Cultural Center of the Philippines Library Collection, Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company)


I ~


SPANISH INFLUENCE. Dances, songs, and prayers come together In religious festivities like the turumba of Pakil, Laguna, opposite page top, and the sinulog of Cebu City, opposite page bottom. Objects characterize some Spanish-influenced social dances, clockwise from below: castanets in jota Manilena; glasses with lighted candles in pandanggo sa ilaw; the kerchief in balse; and hats and fan in paso doble. (Carlifo L. Seneres, Cultural Center of the Philippines Ubrary Collection, Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company Collection}


BALLET AND MODERN DANCE. Philippine ballet companies continue to showcase the artistry and versatility of the Filipino dance artists, as they' perform, counterclockwise from top, classical ballets such as La Sy/phide and Firebird, and original Filipino ballets, like Basilio's Testament. Edna Vida's Ensalada, Gener Caringal's Ang Sultan, and Alice Reyes' Ramo, Hari. (Ballet Philippines Collection, Philippine Ballet Theater Collection, Steve Villaruz Collection, 14 Salvador F. Bernal Collection)




The diversity of dances from the peoples of the Philippines, which are manifested in different dynamics and forms, grew out of the various contexts and experi- ences of the people. Many of the dances of the people from the mountains recall the sculptured heights and the brave birds of the air. Such are the festival, courtship, and war dances of the Cordillera groups. The dances of the people who live by the sea undulate like the waters and fishes, seemingly unbound by time and space. An example is the pangalay of the Samal which is danced languidly on the ground, or precariously on bamboo poles. The dances from the lowlands spring directly from solid ground and are often gamesome and in- dulge in much embellishment or ornamentation-with hand movements in the kumintang, with lighted glas- ses in the pandanggo sa ilaw, and with bamboo cas- tanets in many a regional variety of the jota.


The variety further reflects the cultural differences that obtain in the various parts of the country, from north to south, in islands and islets, from ancestral places to new towns and cities. Even among the major- ity of the Christianized citizens, there are distinct strains that reflect regional customs, traditions, and languages. Add to that the Muslim population of Min- danao and the Sulu archipelago, and to that, some 50 other ethnolinguistic groups or tribes, who comprise a good percentage of the total population. All these peoples of the Philippines have had various influences-Indian, Chinese, Indochinese,

£"CHN!C 01\MCE. 'to ~ aeeO!TopQTl\mem o1 'ltle gongs and kulintang, a Tausug woman dances for a noble personage In this 19th-century print from La 1/ustrocion del Oriente. (Lopez Museum Collection)


Indonesian, Malay, Spanish, and American. These are reflected in the purposes and forms, the music and the movements, the props and the costumes of their dances. All these dances, however, may be considered Filipino, not only in looks, but more importantly, be- cause of the process in and by which the people ~ance or acquire a dance. For a dance is not simply adopted; it absorbs and showcases the traits of the people, even as it serves to express their own experiences and aspirations. As a Chinese saying goes, a nation is typi- fied by its dances.

The Ethnic Tradition

Many of the ethnic tribes have been in the Philip- pines for many millenia. Their survival through years of colonial invasions has been due to their hardy in- dustry, as witnessed by the rice terraces of the Cordil- leras, or to their indomitable spirit, as exemplified by the desire for political independence of the Muslims in the south. Their spirit for survival has also been in- spired and strengthened by animistic beliefs and sha- manistic leadership. Close and familiar as the people were with their environment which to them possessed mysteries and potencies that had to be courted or propitiated, the people created rituals and incantations to the divine Bathala or Laon, to the diwata or spirits of the mountains, rivers or trees, or to the anito or spirits of ancestors who may either curse or bless their de- scendants. In the north, the mambunong or katalonan, and in the south, the balyan or babaylan, took on priestly duties offering rituals to assure a good harvest, to cure the sick or to ensure success in war. Many a rite was meant to get in touch with the spiritual world that is related to the psychic resources and needs of the people-like the pagdiwata of Palawan which involves offerings during a festival to solicit a good harvest; the lapal among the Subanon which is meant to communi- cate with the diwata of the forest; the dugso among the Higaonon which is a thanksgiving for a bountiful har- vest, the birth of a male child or for victory in war; the caitao in the Cordilleras where a chicken, pig, or cara- bao may be sacrificed; and the sanghiyang, the ritual dance over fire in Alfonso, Cavite. With zestful spontaneity and resourcefulness, the ethnic Filipinos continue to express themselves direct- ly, and with unrestrained humor and easy joyfulness at game or at work. As a consequence, many a task is turned into dances of communal fun. The rice culture is replete with dances of seeding, planting, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, and pounding. The Isneg of the north mime the same process with a bamboo pole


as prop and add an enacted lullaby. The Bagobo of the south also imitate rice or corn planting. Fetching water among the Kalinga maidens becomes a stylized display of skill in balancing pots on their heads, a singular feat for a people living in the varied terrain of the moun- tains. Those close to the sea enact fishing-with a net in pasigin in Aklan, and in mangingisda, or with hand- held fish traps in pandanggo sa bulig, the last two from Bocaue, Bulacan; with a spear in agpanikop among the Manobo, and in tawti among the Samal and Tausug; and with bare hands in kin-naras in Ilocos. To signal the shore to the fisherfolk at night, the dance oasioas is dexterous in flinging to and fro lighted glasses wrap- ped in large kerchiefs, which create a twinkling constellation of grace. There are many more occupa- tional dances on cotton beating, spinning, weaving, basket making, pot making, broom making, and even gold panning as in the pabirik from Bicol. For spiritual blessings, in defending themselves and their territories, for revenge or victory, the people created even more dances. In the dance sagayan, elaborate headdresses, the kris (a Muslim sword), and a shield underscore the bravery of the Maranao. If work or war is imaginatively turned into dance, the surrounding animal life also easily lends itself to imitative dances that are both graphic and symbolic. After all, men, women, animals, plants, and the sur- roundings are one in nature. A sense of playful communion is inherent in the dances imitating the squirrels among the Bilaan in the kinugsik-nugsik, the fish among the Yakan in tahing baila, the crab in inalimango, the snake in culebra, and the fireflies in alitaptap. As the Philippines is a bird country, it has a great number of dances depicting birds, including poultry. The pabo is an imitation of the turkey, the itik-itik of the duck, the kalapati or sinalampati of doves, and, the most famous of them all, the tinikling of the tikling birds which farmers try to trap because they prey on the ricefields. There are also a number of hawk dances--the kina- bua among the Mandaya, the man-manaok among the Manobo, the banog-banog among the Bilaan, and the binaylan among the Higaonon. Dancers of the Kalinga courtship dance salip or the Bontoc pinanyowan look like swooping birds of the highlands. Among certain groups, dance could also drama- tize popular narratives. To the Maranao, for instance, a choreographed elaboration on the epic Darangen has the hero Bantugan pursuing a princess, Gandingan, during a supposed earthquake. Today, the singkil reenacts this scene in a climactic crescendo of clashing crisscrossed bamboos.



The Spanish Colonial Tradition

With the coming of the Spaniards and the spread of Christianity, the people transferred the object of their worship to the saints, though they did not com- pletely abandon their native impulse and style. With many occasions to celebrate, like the feasts of the local patron saints, of theVirgin Mary, and Christ's birth, death and resurrection, Christianity turned native to a certain extent and became a vehicle for the Filipino way of spiritual and communal expression. Folkloric expression adheres in the dance venera- tion of the Nuestra Senora de los Dolores in the turum- ba of Pakil, Laguna; in the pandanggo or fertility dance for the Nuestra Senora de Salambao, Santa Clara and San Pascual in Obando, Bulacan; in the worship of the Santo Nino in the sinulog in Bohol and Cebu; in the rhythmic movements of the ati-ati in Aklan and Cuyo; and in the subli for the Santa Cruz in Batangas. Supposedly from Mexico is the dance called pas- tores de belen which is about the visit of the shepherds to the stable in Bethlehem. As it survives in Bicol and Cebu, the pastores is very secular in color and gaiety. At the salubong which enacts the meeting of the sorrowful Mater Dolorosa and the Risen Christ very early on Easter morning, a child-angel lowered from a scaffold lifts the veil of sorrow from the image of the Holy Mother. Then the dance called bate, meaning "greeting," hails Christ's resurrection with flag waving, dancing, and music making. All these religious celebrations spring from indigenous practices that are now directed to Christian personages, objects, and beliefs. As the Spanish government imposed itself on the people and the latter were proselytized into Christianity, the European way of life filtered down into the people's social and economic activities. In social functions, the French quadrille called rigodon de honor (or its subse- quent American equivalent, virginia) highlighted balls in ordinary towns and cities, as well as in the Malacaftang Palace. These secular events completed the feast days, celebrated the trips of the galleons across the Pacific or welcomed a new governor general or bishop. Another social dance performed during weddings is the masco- ta where plates are set for gifts of money. This dance was adopted by the Ibanag of Cagayan and Isabela. Other dances popular during the Spanish period were European dances like the minuet locally known as minueto; the cachucha called katsutsa locally; fan- dango popularly called pandanggo; the jota; the polka; the mazurka; the valse known as balse; the schottische locally called escotis; and even the zapateado, locally called pateado. All of these underwent regional trans- formation in the colony, as is evident in the variations


FOLK DANCE. A couple demonstrates the basic movements of the pandanggo, a widely popular lowland hlspanlzed dance. llocos Norte, 1960. (Franc/sea Reyes-Aqu/no Collection)

of the jota from northern Cagayan to the southern provinces. As they became localized, these dances gained regional characteristics, adaptating bamboo, coconut or shell castanets, scented handkerchiefs, paypay (native fans), Ilocano kumintang gestures, etc. Musical accompaniment was also indigenized through a variety of native instruments. Dances about love, courtship, and marriage abound in the islands. In these dances many devices used are really ploys-a blanket, a scarf, a handkerchief, a fan, a hat, and even a plate or a drinking glass. Traditionally, the female dancer is meant to be modest and undemon- strative; thus, these ploys help in the subterfuge. The male dancer is expected to be aggressive, resourceful, naughty even. Among the Tagalog, kerchiefs are used for alcamfor (a scent) and in the sayaw sa pag-ibig. Fans are flirtation props in the cariiiosa and the putritos, as

hats are in the pandanggo sa sambalilo. In Bohol, a boy offers a saucer in the pingan-pingan pino. In the Zambales sinambali and the Bicol pantomi- na, coins are showered on a wedding couple. There is even a dance between a male and a female, spurned by their respective beloveds, who luckily find each other in the timawa from Capiz or among the guerilla fight- ers in the voluntario from Iloilo. A classic wedding dance is the habanera botolefta from Zambales, an elegant transformation of a dance from Cuba. Amid all this acculturation, the Filipinos were not always passive and pacific. Throughout the Spanish period, the people especially the Islamized or mountain groups, staged sporadic rebellions against the colonial authorities. This is reflected in the very popular play komedya or moro-moro where the Christians and Moors engage in choreographed fighting called the batalla. Similarly, the dance palo-palo with cane sticks of Ivana, Batanes and the maglalatik with coconut shells (latik is extracted from coconut meat) of Biftan, Laguna are choreographed equivalents of the komedya's batalla (bat-


tle). Today these dances display the men's agility, a contest between two camps costumed in different colors. In the 1930s, there was one woman who was deter- mined to save the Filipino folk dances from the incur- sions of the Americans and the Jazz Age. Francisca Reyes-Aquino (then Tolentino) went out into the field and recorded her researches on Philippine dances. Her efforts were supported by Pres Jorge Bocobo of the Uni- versity of the Philippines, who encouraged and sup- ported her to enlarge and intensify her collection. In this, she was helped by composer Antonino Buenaventura and husband-photographer Ramon Tolentino. The multifarious and far-reaching results of her efforts include: the establishment of folk song and dance troupes that multiplied especially in the 1950s; the pub- lication of her researches in the Philippines and in the US that amounted to several volumes; and the en- couragement of further regional researches that followed in her wake. All these researches also provided materials for the physical education program in the Philippines. Ultimately, Philippine dances won fervent local adhe- rents among public school teachers and gained interna- tional recognition through several troupes that have now reached almost all comers of the world. Among the troupes that continued Reyes- Aquino' s work and that reached out to the world are the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company (that first attracted world attention at the Brussels Universal Ex- position in 1958) and its Folk Arts Center at the Philip- pine Women's University; the Baranggay Folk Dance Troupe, formerly based at the Philippine Normal Col- lege; the Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company; the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Dance Group; and a great number of university- and school-based ensembles. Today the Philippine Folk Dance Society protects and extends Reyes-Aquino's efforts not only through their research but through annual workshops.

The American Colonial and Contemporary Traditions

In the late 19th century, the wave of liberalism from Europe fanned nationalist sentiments among Fili- pinos, and launched the formation of reformist groups like the La Liga Filipina and revolutionary groups like the Katipunan. Unfortunately, as Filipinos were about to claim victory over Spain, the Spanish-American War in Cuba spread to Asia, specifically to the Philippines. The victory that the Filipinos won against the Spa- niards was snatched by the Americans. The superior force of the Americans finally won in 1901, and the American cultural influence commenced in full intensi- ty together with the political takeover.



There was no question about the fervor of Filipino resistance to America in the first decades of this cen- tury, but the material and cultural enticements of America, with their allure and comfort, had a persua- sive beat and insidious rhythm. The need for entertainment of the American sol- diers and civil servants was served by the influx of performers from the West. Ironically, this included the Minstrels in which whites masqueraded as blacks. The Afro-Cuban culture that had not spared the white Americans (despite their racial prejudice) was brought to the colony. The tango, rhumba, samba, paso doble, mambo, cha-cha and later the limbo were among the dances from the Caribbean America performed by Fili- pinos from the 1930s to the 1970s. In the pre-WWII era, American rhythm came with the upbeat, swing, and frenzy of the new dances, among them the cakewalk, foxtrot, charleston, big apple, one-step, and slow drag. One monumental cen- ter for these dances was the Santa Ana Cabaret, a huge ballroom that showcased these importations. Other cabarets were spawned in other towns and cities. The 1950s increased the speed and heightened the dyna- mics of dance. The boogie woogie swung coolly on with complicated configurations and gyrations. Inhibi- tion was abandoned in the rock 'n' roll which featured somersaults and other ballroom acrobatics. Dances came and went in the 1960s and the 1970s, like the mashed potato, twist, boogaloo, bossa nova, frug, pachanga, watusi, and hustle. In the 1960s, Dance Time with Chito (Feliciano) was a popular television show which taught many of these dances. In the 1980s free expression dominated the disco scene. As these social dances swept the scene at the turn of the century, they were featured in a new theater form which had songs and dances, the sarswela or musical comedy, which was shown at the Teatro Zorrilla, Teatro Filipino, Teatro Paz or Teatro Libertad. Among the sar- swela' s leading ladies were Eulalia "Lalyang" Hernandez, Praxedes ''Yeyeng" Fernandez, Patrocinio Tagaroma, famous for her tango and can-can, and her daughter Patrocinio Carvajal, who was described by the poet Flavio Zaragosa Cano as "Diosa de Baile" (Goddess of the Dance). After the sarswela, the vaudeville, known locally as bodabil or stage show, brought in the fast-paced slick- ness of Broadway or the French or English music hall. Singing stars from Atang de la Rama to Katy de la Cruz stood beside dancers and comedians at the Manila Grand Opera House on Rizal Av enue or Gover Theater in Santa Cruz. A famous tap dancer was Bayani Casimiro, called the Fred Astaire of the Philippines. Along with the buck-and-wing, clog and tap dancing in the bodabil came the phenomenal skirt


dance. A famous exponent of the last was the visiting Ada Delroy, who was billed as "the world's greatest dancer" at the Zorrilla. Skirt dancing was in fact the style of Louie Fuller, now considered the American modem dance pioneer, who was the toast of Europe and a contemporary of Isadora Duncan. In the second decade of the century, American popular dances were followed by European classical bal- let. A number of juvenile groups like the Lilliputians, a Japanese group, and Imperial Russian Circus presented the first ''ballet" performances in Manila at the turn of the century. A Paul Nijinsky (no relation to Vaslav and Bro- nislava), who claimed descent from the Imperial Russian Ballet in St Petersburg, came to perform at the Manila Hotel for the Belgian Red Cross in 1915 and 1916. A more inspiring and sustained influence, however, was the visit of the most famous dancer of all time, Anna Pavlova, in 1922 at the Manila Grand Opera House. Pavlova toured the world extensively, including all of Asia and Australia. She was later followed by Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin immediately after WWII, and subsequently by Mia Slavenska, Alexandra Danilova, and Frederic Franklin. Danilova returned in 1955 (when ballet was banned by the Catholic Church) with Mocelyn Larkin, Roman Jasinsky, and Michael Maule. From the 1960s onwards, more troupes visited, like the Royal Ballets from London and Copenhagen, dancers from the Paris Opera and the rest of France, American companies like the San Francisco Balet, the New York City Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, and others. Soviet dancers from Kirov, Bolshoi, Perm, and the folkloric ensembles-the German (ballet and modem dance), Spanish (Antonio, Luisillo), Israeli, Cuban, Vene- zuelan, Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, Indonesian, and Malaysian. Pavlova' s own visit was followed by classes con- ducted by more Russian and English ballet instructors. Among these were Kay Williams, Katrina Makarova, Olga Dontsov, and Vladimir Bolsky. The most notable was Luva Adameit who claimed membership in the Pavlova company. She taught the first batch of signifi- cant ballet dancers who later turned to serious teaching and choreography. Among Adameit' s students are Remedios de Oteyza, who is famous for her abstract (storyless) bal- lets choreographed to the concertos and rhapsodies of Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Rachmaninoff, and Gershwin; Rosalia Merino (later Santos) who, as a child prodigy, did the first fouettes (multiplied whip-turns) locally and later turned to modem dance; and Leonor Orosa (later Goquingco), noted for her folkloric ballets like Filipinescas and others with Filipino themes. These dancer-choreographers and their contemporaries


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