Tribal Suite

updated 01-Jul-2002


tribalsuite2.gif (17868 bytes) Pockets of cultural minorities live in the style of their forebearers in the hills and mountains throughout the Philippine Archipelago. The hillside and interior of Mindanao in the southern part of the Philippines are inhabited by non-Christian Filipino tribes whose culture and animistic beliefs predate both Islam and Christianity. Dance for them is a basic part of life, still 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, sacrifice, and life.

Anito Baylan

The Mansaka are a group in Davao for whom music and dancing remain primary sources of entertainment. Their dances are characterized by the rhythmic movement of the knees, feet, arms, and hands. In this dance, from Samal Island, a male spirit healer and a female medium preside over a complex healing ritual, which includes the sacrifice of a chicken. This healing ritual assumes an aura of pageantry, evident in the waving of palm fronds and rhythmic movements of flickering lights.


The Bagobo tribe from the central uplands of Mindanao originated this dance which imitates the movement of a hen, her banog, or baby chicks, and a hawk. The hawk is sacred, and it is believed that the hawk has the power over the well-being of the tribe. The hawk tries to capture one of the chicks and is killed by the hunters.

Blit B'laan

A courtship dance of the Bilaan of Davao del Sur imitating forest birds during the mating season.  Two richly-plumed male birds eye three female birds.  The females scurry to safety, burying their heads under their wings (represented by the malong, a tubular cloth), but the aggressive males follow them wherever they go.


A festival dance performed by the Subanons to celebrate a good harvest.


The Bukidnon from northeastern Mindanao perform this dance as an entertainment for the deities, to make them feel more comfortable during the fiesta that has been organized for them and consequently more open to the requests of the celebrants. It was originally thought that this dance was performed only during harvest time or upon the birth of a male heir. Women would wear colorful feathered head dresses, plaid costumes and anklets. They would step rhythmically around a bamboo arch decorated with newly-gathered palay (rice stalks) and corn, and their movements are emphasized by the tinkling sounds from the anklets.


The Mandaya (from man = "man", daya = "upriver") live in the southeastern uplands of Davao and form the largest ethnic group in southeastern Mindanao.  Sociopolitical organization is headed by a headman belonging to a warrior noble class called bagani, whose power and authority are mitigated by a council of elders called angtutukay.  In one dance, the Mandaya, swooping to a drum beat, imitate the movements of eagles.

Kadal Tabaw

A bird dance performed by the T'boli during planting and harvesting which simulates the flights and hops of the tabaw bird.


The Talaingods are a group near Davao del Sur believed to stem from the Manobo tribe. They are animists, and dancing and music-making characterize weddings and other religious festivals. This Talaingod dance, 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 pandamggo, that she was to bear such a child. This concept of a virgin-birth may have been derived from the Catholic faith. The dance progresses through different stages of the child's growth, from birth to maidenhood. As a young woman, she must deal with competing suitors, one of whom is favored by the mother. A heated encounter between the suitors ultimately results in their death.


From the Subanon tribe of Zamboanga del Sur in Mindanao comes this courtship dance, typically performed during harvest time and other social gatherings. The female holds shredded banana leaves in each hand, while the male wields a kalasay, a type of shield.


The Tagbanuas of Palawan perform this dance to show gratitude for a good harvest and to implore continued protection and favor from the deities.


A mock-duel dance of the Baluga tribe in Zambales and Pampanga, Sekuting may well have been the precursor to the rural Sakuting dance.   Two pairs of men with sticks start out this dance from their kneeling position, advancing from knee to knee. Then, standing up and hitting each other's sticks, each member of the paired dancers encircle each other, as they clash in a very lively melee-dance sequence.

Slaong Kinibang

The T'boli's headgear with unique and original ways of wearing for travel and farm work protect the T'bolis from the glare of the sun.

Sugod Uno

From Davao del Norte, the Bagobo tribe prepares the cleansing of the spirit and planting of their next crop.


The Tagabili (also called T'boli) are a minority national group from South Cotabato, in southwestern Mindanao, who is comparatively sophisticated in language, dress, and mythology.  One performance of this tribe narrates a story about a datu, or prince, who is cursed for killing his brother in jealously over one of his wives.  The datu's daughter is to be wed by a likely suitor, but dies as a result of the curse.  In rage, the datu sets his village in flames.


The Manobo tribe of the headwaters of the Pulangi Rive in southern Bukidnon have dances which are closely influenced by the neighboring Matig Salug.  They have dances which portray daily activities such as nocturnal hunting for edible frogs and snakes, hunting of birds and wild boar, and activities connected with the rice cycle.  The Manobo use a tool called a  talapak, which consists of a long stick with its lower end pointed and its upper end attached to a bamboo clapper about a foot in length.  Every time the pointed end of this stick strikes the ground to make a hole, the bamboo clapper makes a sound which has a double purpose - to scare off crows a sparrows that might steal the newly-sown seeds and to call the attention of the field spirits which are believed to become attracted by the sound produced.  The occupational dance of the same name is performed during the actual sowing of the rice seeds in order to make this back-breaking task fun and lively.


A dance performed by the Baluga (Negrito) of Nabuklod Settlement in Florida Blanca. Each dancer mimes and mimics familiar animals like the woodpecker, monkey, fly, etc. Exceptional are the gleeful attitudes they take towards life's gifts. A guitarist is accompanied by striking wood, bamboo, or stone. They play and dance as well.


The Bilaan (also called B'laan) tribe of Southen Cotabato and Davao belong to the same ethnic group as the Manobos, Tagabilis, and Kalayans, but differ in language, theory of creation, and ceremony. They perform this courtship dance, a prototype of the Tinikling. As two bamboo poles open and clash in the rhythm of the Singkil, the male dances in every possible stance, weaving in and out of the clapping bamboo poles; while upright on his feet; on all fours facing the sky, and so forth. All of these acrobatics are performed to impress the maiden he is courting.


In this Tagbanua martial dance, the taming (shield) is held in front to cover and protect the upper portion of the body, while the feet make lively travelling steps, and the sword makes quick forward thrusts at the unseen enemy.


Males of the Yakan tribe, indigenous to Basilan island, practice their fighting skills in this mock war dance which employs movements borrowed from Southeast Asian martial arts. Typical maneuvers include traveling on the knees, quick tumbling, and high kicking.


From the Tagakaulo tribe of southern Davao comes this ceremonial dance which portrays death and revenge. It opens with three women walking in with votive candles, mourning the loss of a relative. They are followed by men playing the udol, a long wooden musical instrument. The woman make eloquent gestures of tenderness and despair such as wielding a spear and pounding the udol in anger, countering the steady rhythms of the musicians. A male priest then dances, begging the spirits to guide the soul of the deceased. Finally, two warriors enter, spears in hand, performing a frenzied dance in a circle, then disappearing off stage "to the woods," apparently to secure the heads of their enemies.

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