Dance Suites of the Philippines


Philippine folk dances consist of five major suites, namely Cordillera, Maria Clara, Muslim, Lumad, and Rural. Each of the suites involves a repertoire of folk dances that hail from different locations in the country.

Igorot Suite (from Cordillera)

Inhabiting the rugged terrain of the mountainous Central Cordillera region of Northern Luzon are six ethno-linguistic tribes known as the Ibaloy, Kankanay, Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao, and Bontoc. Among these people of the Cordillera, dance continues to be an expression of community life that animates the various rituals and ceremonies. The dances from the mountain provinces of Northern Luzon are evocative of strength and grace such in a dance with men striking a bamboo instrument and the women bearing pots on their heads.

Maria Clara Suite

Maria Clara

Maria Clara

The coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century brought Roman Catholicism and European cultural ideas that spread, was adapted and blended to meet the local conditions.

The dances in this suite are so named in honor of the legendary Maria Clara, the chief female character of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, and who remains a symbol of the virtues and nobility of the Filipina woman.

These dances were, nonetheless, “Filipinized” as evidence of the use of bamboo castanets and the abanico, or Asian fan.

The suite opens with the Sampaguita song, the Philippine National flower that is symbolic of the Filipina. This will be followed by a dance with sampaguita leis by young children.

Then a vivacious number of chabacano song and dance with the use of paypay or fans during the turn of the 20th century and immediately followed by Princesa ng Kumintang, a dance of a young beautiful woman who demurely flirts with four suitors who are trying to outdo each other for her attention.

The suite will close with Culture Philippines of Ontario’s maiden performance of a Castillian dance called La Jota.

Muslim Suite

Muslim Suite

Muslim Suite

Almost one million Filipinos 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 were able to resist Spanish conquest. Thus, they preserved the Islamic lifestyle that markedly differs from the majority of the Philippine population.

The dances are characterized by vivid colors and rhythmic movements which reflect the influence of Arabian and Indo-Malaysian cultures.

Culture Philippines of Ontario is proud to present the Yakans, a group of sea-faring people from the island of Basilan in the Sulu Archipelago, as well as offshore islands of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Because the sea is an integral part of their daily lives, the dances personifies the ocean through sweeping, languid movements of the women and men travelling on their knees in interpreting the movement of the sea.

Paunjalay, is a pre-nuptial dance performed by the bride and groom with their faces dotted with white paint to hide their identity from evil spirits.  Then an all male dance of Clashing of the Shields will follow.

The suite ends with Singkil, a classic dance based on the Darangan epic, with the Prince, the Princess and her entourage dancing in and out of the fast paced clapping criss-crossed bamboos.

Rural Suite

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 illustrate 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.

Pasigin, a frolic dance of catching fish starts this lively suite followed by Binasuan, meaning “with the use of a drinking glass” in Pangasinan, which is often performed as entertainment at weddings, birthdays, and fiestas.

Then a dance of dexterity atop several wooden benches called Sayaw sa Bangko, a number that delights audience of all ages. Today, Culture Philippines is proud to give the maiden performance of a Mexican inspired Christmas dance called Pastores.

Finally, the most famous Philippine national Dance, the Tinikling or often referred as the bamboo dance which drew its inspiration from the farmers as they set trap to catch the Tikling birds on the rice paddies.

Lumad Suite

This dance called Lumad is a traditional dance performed by the indigenous tribes of southern Philippines’ Mindanao islands. … The lone male dancer seems to be teasing the females in a ritual of sorts. This ritual is fast-paced and captivating in every move.