Maria Clara Suite

updated 01-Jul-2002


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 are the formal Maria Clara dress and barong tagalog, an embroidered long-sleeve shirt made of pineapple fiber.


From Leyte comes this couples dance in which the girl holds a handkerchief laced with camphor oil, a substance which supposedly induces romance.


Also known as Paseo de Iloilo, for its province of origin, this is one of the most sophisticated courtship and flirtation dances of the Spanish era. The gentlemen compete among each other to win the heart of the dalaga, or young lady, by exemplifying chivalry, grace, and confidence.


MIDI File (aray.mid)
A dance whose words are sung in "Chabacano-ermitense," a hybrid of Spanish that was only spoken in the Ermita district before the turn of the century and today is extinct. The dance itself is a flirtatious one that involves graceful use of the pañuelo, or shawl, and tambourines. Aray means "ouch" in Tagalog.


Derived from the Spanish "valse" (waltz), this dance was popular in Marikina, Rizal province, during the Spanish times.   Balse was performed after the lutrina (a religious procession), and the music that accompanied the dancers was played by the musikong bungbong (musicians using instruments made of bamboo).


MIDI File (carinosa.mid)
This flirtatious dance is known throughout the Philippines. Cariñosa means affectionate, lovable, or amiable. With a fan or handkerchief, the dancers go through hide-and-seek movements and other flirting acts expressing tender feelings for one another. There are many versions of this dance, but the hide-and-seek movements are common in all.


The Chotis (or "Shotis") was one of the ballroom dances learned by the Filipinos from the early European settlers.  This dance, from Camarines Sur, has been adapted by the Bicolano people and is characterized by a brush-step-hop movement.

Escopiton Malandog

According to legend, two boys named Esco and Piton introduced this dance during the inauguration of the founding of San Jose de Buenavista. Eventually the dance was called Escopiton. This beautiful dance originated from Malandog, a barrio of Hamtic in Antique.


MIDI File (estudia.mid)

A very lively and gay dance.  During the old days, this dance was a favorite in social gatherings and was performed by the estudiantinas, women who were students of private schools and colleges in Manila.  They are seen holding a book in one hand throughout the dance.


Audio sample (habanera.wav)
A wedding party dance which originated in the town of Botolan in the Zambales Province. Typical sequences include the procession of the bride and groom's parents, lineup of the bridesmaids and groomsmen upstage, and a solo featuring the wedding couple.


A courtship dance of Ilokano origin.  A beauty enters for an afternoon promenade with her suitors.  At the end of the dance, the lovable and charming lady cannot select from any of her suitors.

La Jota

The jota encompasses a variety of Spanish-influenced dances accompanied by the use of bamboo castanets, held loosely and unstrung. There are many forms of jota in the Philippines whose names are derived from their regions of origin. A common progression in the jota is a quick & lively verse, followed by a slow bridge, and ending with a verse in the same lively tempo as in the beginning.

Jota Española

Highlighted by castanets, abanicos, and tambourines.

Jota Gumaqueña

Once very popular among the well-heeled families of Gumaca, Tayabas (now Quezon). A well-known local musician at the time, Señor Herminigildo Omana, introduced this dance. It became popular with the young people and was handed down between generations.

Jota Manileña (Manila)

It originated in the capital city around the 19th century.

Jota Moncadeña (Moncada, Tarlac)

Audio sample (moncaden.wav)
A combination of Spanish and Ilocano dance steps and music.

Jota Pangasinana (Pangasinan province)

Demonstrates the flair of stomping feet culminating with the cry of "Olé!"

Jota de Paragua (Cuyo, Palawan)

Displays a Castillan influence with Zapateados (footwork), Lobrados (arms), and Sevillana style of dress. The ladies wave their mantón, or decorative shawl, while the gentlemen keep brisk pace with bamboo castanets.


A dance typical of a woman's debut or even her wedding. The accompanying love ballad was written by Maestro Nitoy Gonzales when he was courting Jovita Friese, who then choreographed the graceful and beautiful habanera dance that accompanies it. Jovencita means "young lady" in Spanish.

Lanceros de Negros

During the Spanish time, this dance was one of the popular quadrille dances in the Philippines. It is similar to the stately Rigodon de Honor and is danced in important social affairs to formally open a big ball. One version from Silay, Negros Occidental, is performed in a lengthwise formation.

Mazurka Boholana

This dance is a traditional ballroom dance popular in Bohol and in other provinces during the Spanish times.


This dance, named after the jingle-less tambourines carried by the females, originates from Tanza, Iloilo.  From December 16 to January 6, a group of people in the Visayan regions go from house to house to sing Christmas called "Daigon."  In some regions the song is usually followed by some dances, and "Las Panderetas" is one of those dances.

Paseo de Iloilo

see Andaluz

Paso Doble

Meaning "two-step," the name is actually a misnomer, as it is an ordinary walking or marching step called the "one-step."  The term refers to the stirring marching music played as background music at bullfights and fiestas throughout Spain.


MIDI file (polkabal.mid)
A dance influenced by two distinct European styles: polka and valse.


A festival dance from Atimonan, Tayabas (now Quezon province), featuring a couple's flirtatious and playful interaction.  It is danced in alternating slow and fast waltz tempos and culminates in a vivid twirling sequence by the girl.

Rigodon de Honor

This elegant dance was brought to the Philippines by the Filipinos who returned from their travels abroad during the Spanish era. This dance takes its name from its opening performances at formal affairs such as the President's Inaugural Ball. Members of government, including the President and First Lady, diplomatic corps, and other state officials usually participate in the Rigodon. Traditionally, a ballroom waltz dance would follow the Rigodon.

Sabalan Lulay

The dance "Lulay," like the kuratsa, jota, pandango, and polka, is performed in many parts of the Philippines.  This dance originated from Malamig barrio of the town Gloria, Oriental Mindoro.  It is part of a wedding ritual which has four phases: sabalan, pamalaye, sabog and dapit.  The dance begins with the gentleman dancing around his partner as she eventually gives in to dancing with him.


From the Bicol region comes this courtship dance which tells the story of a lumberyard owner, who threw a dance for his workers. A girl who was related to one of the workers was offered to the owner as a dance partner. He took to her very kindly, and eventually serenaded her.


Meaning "forsaken lover," Timawa is a courtship dance, usually performed by women, and is originated in Lamot, a barrio in Capiz. The story recounts of a man and a woman, both timawas, who met at a social gathering and became acquainted with each other. In the course of their conversation, they discovered that they both had the same misfortune; therefore, turning to each other for sympathy and comfort.

Top of the page