Traditional Filipino Folk Dance

by Bronwyn White
Folk dances are an important part of a people's cultural identity.

Folk dances are an important part of a people's cultural identity.

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Traditional dances preserve the rich cultural history of a people and provide them with a connection to their roots. Filipino folk dances are still performed at all types of gatherings and celebrations. They originated from different islands at different points in Filipino history, but are now used to unify all Filipino people.


According to Filipino folklore, the Itik-Itik dance was invented by a young woman named Kanang from the Surigao del Norte province. She was performing a dance at a christening and became so inspired that she began to add in her own steps. The audience loved it and began to join her. The result was the Itik-Itik dance, so named because the dancers imitate the walk of a duck, or "itik" in Tagalog. The dance involves six sequences of duck-like steps.

Pandanggo sa Ilaw

Originating on the island of Lubang, Pandanggo sa Ilaw emphasizes grace and balance. The dancers place three oil lamps, or "tinggoy," on the back of their hands and the top of their head. They must keep the lamps in place for the duration of the dance. The dance is performed to a fast waltz beat.


Tinikling is known as the national dance of the Philippines, and is the most popular and most-often performed. Dancers perform while jumping between two moving bamboo poles, imitating the speed and skill of the tikling bird that would often evade the bamboo traps set by farmers. Tinikling, or bamboo dance, was created on Leyte Island, which is in the Visayan Island Chain. According to legend, the Spaniards who colonized the Philippines would punish slow workers by clapping bamboo poles against their feet. The workers would try to escape the punishment by jumping, which led to the development of Tinikling.


Binasuan, meaning with the use of drinking glasses, requires great balance and skill to perform. Glasses full of rice wine are placed on the palm of each hand and on top of the head. The dancers slowly and gracefully perform this vibrant dance by spinning, twirling and rolling on the floor.


Sublian is a ritual worship dance performed in reverence to the Holy Cross. The dance derives its name from two Tagalog words, "subsub," meaning crouched or stooped, and "bali," meaning broken. It is performed in a slightly bent position so that the dancers look crooked or broken. Sublian was created 300 years ago in Dingin, Alitagtag, Batangas.


Derived from real conflict between groups, Maglalatik simulates a fight between the Moros and the Christians over coconut milk. Both groups wear coconut shells on their backs, legs, chests and hips, but the Christians wear blue pants, while the Moros wear red. The dancers are exclusively men. The dance is composed of four parts, the "palipasan" and "baligtaran," which depicts a battle, and the "paseo" and "escaramusa," the peaceful ending and compromise.


Dancers performing Kuratsa simulate the courtship of young lovers. They take turns trying to attract the attention of the object of their affection. The dancers are accompanied by a moderate tempo waltz. This dance is frequently seen at celebrations and festivals in the Visayan Island Chain.

About the Author

Bronwyn White resides in New York and has been writing since 2006. She holds a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is currently pursuing a Master of Music in vocal performance and opera studies from the State University of New York-Purchase.

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