Filipino folk dance history is not the history of a single national dance of one or two regions. Dances evolved from different regions which are distinct from one another as they are affected by the religion and culture.
FORMS OF PHILIPPINE FOLK DANCES
- RURAL AND BARRIO DANCES
Perhaps the best known and closest to the Filipino heart are the dances from the rural Christian lowlands: a country blessed with so much beauty. To the Filipinos, these dances illustrates the fiesta spirit and demonstrate a love of life. They express a joy in work, a love for music, and pleasure in the simplicities of life. Typical attire in the Rural Suite includes the colorful balintawak and patadyong skirts for women, and camisa de chino and colored trousers for men.
A good example of rural or barrio dance is Sinulog. It is a ceremonial dance performed by the people of San Joaquin, Iloilo, during the feast of San Martin. It originated in a barrio of San Joaquin called Sinugbahan. It was believed that the image of San Martin was found at the edge of a beach, and that it could not be removed until the people dance the Sinulog.
- MARIA CLARA DANCES
The coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century brought a new influence in Philippine life. A majority of the Filipinos were converted to Roman Catholicism. European cultural ideas spread and the Filipinos adapted and blended to meet the local conditions. These dances reached their zenith in popularity around the turn of the century, particularly among urban Filipinos. They are so named in honor of the legendary Maria Clara, who remains a symbol of the virtues and nobility of the Filipina woman. Maria Clara was the chief female character of Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere. Displaying a very strong Spanish influence, these dances were, nonetheless, "Filipinized" as evidence of the use of bamboo castanets and the abanico, or Asian fan. Typical attire for these dances is the formal Maria Clara dress and barong tagalog, an embroidered long-sleeve shirt made of pineapple fiber.
- MUSLIM AND MORO DANCES
Mindanao and Sulu were never conquered by Spain. Islam was introduced in the Philippines in the 12th century before the discovery of the islands by Magellan in 1521.
The dances in Muslim however predated the Muslim influence. Like Ipat which was a dance to appease ancestral spirits. Before Islam, the Maguindanaons held the view that diseases are caused by tonong (ancestral spirits).Thus; a folk healer performs the pag-ipat while being possessed by the tinunungan (spirit).
Another is the dance baluang which creates the illusion of an angry monkey, and is always performed by male dancers. The popularity of this dance comes naturally, since the baluang, or monkey, enjoys an affectionate place in Asian folklore.
Singkil was introduced after the 14th century. It was based on the epic legend of Darangan of the Maranao people of Mindanao. It tells of the story of a Muslim Princess, Gandingan who was caught in the middle of a forest during an earthquake caused by the diwatas, or fairies of the forest.
- CORDILLERA DANCES
Cordillera, a name given by the Spanish Conquistadors when they first saw the mountain ranges. Meaning "knotted rope", the Spanish term refers to the jumbled rolls and dips of this long-range traversing the northern part of Luzon Island.
Today, if one is to generalize one of the six ethno-linguistic tribes as an "Igorot" is considered degrading. Living amidst the rice terraces that tower over Northern Luzon are a people whose way of life existed long before any Spaniard or other foreigners stepped foot on the Philippines. The Bontoc, Ifugao, Benguet, Apayo, and the Kalinga tribes reign over Luzon's mountain terrain.
- TRIBAL DANCES
The cultural minorities that live in the hills and mountains throughout the Philippine Archipelago considered dances as basic part of their lives. Their Culture and animistic beliefs predated Christianity and Islam. Dances are performed essentially for the gods. As in most ancient cultures, unlike the Muslim tribes in their midst, their dances are nonetheless closely intertwined with ceremonials, rituals and sacrifices.
The only dance that is believed to have evolved during the Spanish colonization is the Talaingod dance which is performed to the beat of four drums by a female, portrays a virgin-mother bathing and cradling her newborn baby, named Liboangan. She supposedly had a dream, or pandanggo, that she was to bear such a child. This concept of a virgin-birth may have been derived from the Catholic faith.