Dance Around the World: The Philippines

by Sarah Friswell

This month, we travel to the Philippines, a grouping of islands off the southeast coast of China.

In the 16th century, the Philippines were ruled by the Spanish, so many of their dances have a Spanish influence. Filippinos today still perform their western influenced dances, but they also perform their own cultural dances to show respect for their cultural roots. Each district in the islands has its own cultural folk dance that can be performed at festivals and local shows.

These examples are only a few from the extensive list of cultural dances of the Philippines.

Binasuan is a dance from the Pangasinan Province. The name means "with the use of drinking glasses". This dance shows how well the performers can balance as they dance with glasses on top of their heads and held in their hands. The glasses are filled with rice wine. This graceful dance is often performed at parties, weddings, and special occasions.

Sublian comes from two different words in the tagalog language. "Subsub", which means falling on the head, and "bali", which means broken. The dancers performing this dance appear to be broken and crooked during the dance. It was originally a ritual dance of the Batangas and it is shown as ceremonial worship to the holy cross.

Tinikling is the national folkdance of the Philippines. It is performed by a pair of dancers that jump between two bamboo poles that are held up just above the ground. The poles are also hit together in time to the music. This is an imitation dance that orginiated in the Leyte Province. The dancers are mimicking the tikling birds that hop over trees, grass, and traps set by farmers.

Idudu is a tribal dance from Abra, Cordillera. It is a dance that shows a common family from the Itneg society. This demonstration shows that family is the most important foundation in this tribe's community. Many traits of the family are shown including the father plowing the field, the mother caring for the children and how they switch these roles. Then, during the dance, a local singer will start to sing a lullaby (Idudu) to put the baby to sleep.

Burung-Talo is a martial arts dance done by the Tausug tribe. The performers show a battle between a hawk and a cat. They use acrobatic movements and tough facial expressions. This high energy dance is accompanied by the beating of drums and gongs.

Malakas at maganda is a dance that tells the story of the birth of the first man and woman. The man, malakas (strong), and the woman, maganda (beautiful), were born from a bamboo tree and were said to be the parents of the whole island community. The dances shows how a bird discovered the two after hearing a noise inside the bamboo and it waited until the bamboo opened, allowing the first man and woman out of the tree.

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