Southern Mindanao Suite

updated 25-Feb-2008


Almost one million Pilipinos are Muslims who reside primarily in the southern island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. By the end of the 12th century, traders and settlers from the Malay Peninsula and Borneo introduced Islamic faith to the islands. The Muslims in the Philippines, also known as Moros, were able to resist Spanish conquest. Thus, they preserved the Islamic lifestyle that markedly differs from the majority of the Philippine population. The ethno-linguistic groups who are primarily considered Muslim are the Maranao, Maguindanao, Samal, and Tausug. The dances are characterized by vivid colors and rhythmic movements which reflect the influence of Arabian and Indo-Malaysian cultures.


A solo slave dance performed by the umbrella-bearing attendant to win the favor of her sultan master. Asik usually precedes a performance of Singkil.


The pag-ipat (deliverance) is believed to be a pre-Islamic ritual which survives to this day because of the compulsion of the Asal (traditional ancestry) which binds particular families to hold it during illness of a family member.  The   Maguindanao traditional worldview holds that diseases are caused by tonong (ancestral spirits) who need to be appeased.  Thus, a folk healer performs the pag-ipat while being possessed by the tinunungan (spirit).  The ritual may be performed for a day, seven days, or a fortnight, depending on the patient's illness and economic status.  It is an activity where the entire community participates.


Also called Sambi sa Malong, this Maranao dance shows the many ways of donning the malong, a tubular circle of cloth used as a skirt, shawl, or mantle.

Kapit Tendong

A Yakan ribbon dance, featuring a tendong (ribbon) attached to a stick.   Dancers manipulate these into various shapes that represent the motion of waves, birds, and snakes.


Katsudoratan depicts a royal manner of "walking" among the Maranao people who live mainly around Lake Lanao. Ladies of the royal court perform this stately dance in preparation for an important event. The bright colors and flowing handkerchiefs add to the drama of the dance.


This dance 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.


A pre-nuptial dance of the Yakan tribe of Basilan performed by the bride and groom prior to their wedding ceremony in the langal or church. Both of their faces are dotted with white paint, to hide their identity from evil spirits.


A popular festival dance in Sulu, it is performed in wedding celebrations among the affluent families. They may last for several days or even weeks depending on the financial status and agreement of both families. Dancers perform this dance to the music of the kulintangan, gabbang, and agongs during the wedding feast.

Pangalay ha Agong

Two Tausug warriors vie for the attention of a fair maiden using their agong (large, deep, brass gongs) to show their prowess and skill.

Pangalay ha Pattong

see Vinta.


Also called Pangalay Pangantin, this is a wedding dance from Sisangat, Siasi. Its name refers to the bridal curtain which shields the dancing d'nda pangantin (bride) from her l'lla pangantin (groom). The dance is highlighted by the bride flicking the janggay (metal claws) attached to her fingers, one at a time. As soon a claw falls to the floor, the attentive groom retrieves it until the whole set can be returned to the bride for safekeeping.


MIDI File (singkil.mid)
This dance takes its name from the bells worn on the ankles of the Muslim princess. Perhaps one of the oldest of truly Filipino dances, the Singkil recounts the epic legend of the "Darangan" of the Maranao people of Mindanao. This epic, written sometime in the 14th century, tells the fateful story of Princess Gandingan, who was caught in the middle of a forest during an earthquake caused by the diwatas, or fairies of the forest. The criscrossed bamboo poles represent the trees that were falling, which she gracefully avoids. Her slave loyally accompanies her throughout her ordeal. Finally, she is saved by the prince. Dancers skillfully manipulate apir, or fans which represent the winds that prove to be auspicious. Royal princesses to this day in the Sulu Archipelago are required to learn this most difficult and noble dance. 

There are other versions of Singkil.  Perhaps the version more widely performed by dance companies is the "Garden Singkil."  The story goes that the princess goes into her garden, accompanied by her slave, and plays with the butterflies, which are represented by the fan dancers.  The movements of the fans supposedly represent those of the butterflies, as opposed to the diwatas.  In another popular version, the prince uses a scarf instead of a sword.

Tahing Baila

This dance of the Yakan people depicts the sea-faring people imitating the movements of fish.


From Tawi-tawi comes this occupational dance, which vividly portrays the labors of catching tauti, or catfish. The first version is performed solo and depicts the trials of a lone fisherman attempting to catch the tauti. The second version has a principal dancer with two accompanying performers who assist in paddling the canoe and baiting. In both cases, the fishermen wrestle with the tauti en masse and ultimately get pricked by their poisonous spines. They ultimately catch a few fish, but not without suffering major pain.


Also called Pangalay ha Pattong, this dance is named for the picturesque boat with colorful sails which glide across the Sulu Sea. Central to this dance are the Royal Couple who each balance atop a pair of swaying bamboo poles, simulating their ride aboard a vinta.


The Yakan are a group of sea-faring people from the island of Basilan in the Sulu Archipelago, as well as offshore islands of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Although they are considered Muslims, some of their beliefs and practices are nonetheless animistic in nature. Because the sea is an integral part of their daily lives, this dance personifies the ocean through sweeping, languid movements. In one version of this dance, the men travel on their knees alongside the women's sweeping arm sequences, in interpreting the movement of the sea.


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