THE SAN DIEGO PARTICIPANT OBSERVER Participant Observation is the Process of Learning by Observing and Participating in Cultural Life
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Filipino Folk Dance

(English • Spanish)

Folk dances of the Philippines reflect the various influences that formed the long history of the island nation, and folk dances vary according to the island’s various regions. The Philippines consist of more than 7,000 islands that are divided into three main areas: Luzon in the north, Visayas in the middle, and Sulu and Mindanao in the south.

Several tribes live in the northern mountainous region. Each tribe goes by its own name; however, collectively the tribes are called Igorot. Mountainous or Igorot dances preserve world views and philosophies from the pre-Christian era, while showcasing instances of everyday life, such as family life or courtship. Igorot dances also celebrate battle victories and pay homage to ancestors or gods in order to bring good luck and fair weather to the villages. In Sulu and Mindanao, some of the dances were influenced by Islam and Christianity. For example, the Muslim dance Singkil is the local interpretation of the Indian epic, Ramayana, and is probably the most popular form of Filipino dance. Between Luzon and Mindanao lies Visayas, the middle part of today's Philippines. Dances from this region demonstrate Spanish influence and are called Maria Clara dances after the female protagonist in the novel by Jose Rizal. The choreography in Maria Clara dances is an amalgamation of Spanish and other European dances such as the waltz.

While Maria Clara dances were popular among the urban Filipinos, the rural areas had their own dances called Barrio dances. These dances celebrate life with elan and joy. To reflect their happiness and love of life, women and men show off their skills by balancing lamps on their heads or dancing on narrow benches. In the dance called Maglalatik, which is a mock war dance, dancers beat on coconut shells tied to their bodies, creating a furious rhythm while reenacting battle. Women wear either traditional dresses adorned with butterfly sleeves, or long skirts and lace blouses. Men traditionally wear Chamisa de Chino and colored trousers.

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