The Philippine Culture

Monday, September 11, 2006


A country's past history dictates its culture and tradition. This tradition is presented in its arts through music, dance, literature, architecture, fine arts, print, weaving, dress, cuisine, beliefs, folktales, stories, etc.. What is called traditional is that which is passed down from generation to generation through practice, word of mouth, written text, rituals and performances.The Philippine culture is distinct from its other neighbors in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Not only has it been accessed through migrations and trade from the neighboring countries, but countries from the opposite side of the world have come into the country, leaving their cultural mark on its inhabitants which in turn have passed them on to the present generation.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Filipino cooking reflects the history of the islands. On a Malayan base, Chinese, Hindu, Spanish and American ingredients have been added through centuries of foreign influence and surprisingly, a blend with an identity of its own has emerged. In the cosmopolitan city of Manila, this mixture is most in evidence. Far from the capital city, however, one can still sample the simple dishes that native Filipinos eat Many of these dishes are remarkably close to native fares still found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other Asian countries.

Native Filipino cooking is not too spicy despite the fact that spices are plentiful and readily available in the islands. (Europeans, after all, stumbled upon the Philippines in their search for the fabled Spice Islands). The basic staple is rice of which hundreds of varieties are cultivated. Main source of protein is fish which abound in oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and ponds. Meat, especially pork and poultry, is also commonly eaten. Beef is readily available but is more expensive; the cattle industry not being well developed in the country. Veal and lamb are not too popular but goat meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the country as are frogs, rabbits and deer.

It is often when sampling native Filipino dishes that one appreciates the regional variations in the country. For while it is true that Filipino culture is homogeneous, there are specific differences in cooking and food preferences that readily identify the regional origin of many dishes. Although these differences are not as pronounced as in the regional variations of Chinese cooking, for instance, they are widely recognized in the country where regionalism plays an important role because of its geographical division into many island-groups.

It is generally observed that from a culinary viewpoint, the Philippine archipelago may be ethnically divided into six regions. Based on the people's cooking styles and eating habits, the regions from north to south are:

NORTHERN LUZON — the region around the northern tip of Luzon Island peopled mainly by llocanos, Pangasinans and several minority groups like Ifugaos, Bontocs, Ibanags and Kalingas. Cooking in this region is very simple relying mainly on native vegetables, fish, poultry and meat. A preference for native vegetables particularly saluyot (a leafy green that looks like spinach but turns slippery like okra when cooked) and the widespread use of bagoong (shrimp paste) give Northern Luzon cooking a definite identity. The llocanos usually like their vegetables steamed or plain boiled and dipped in bagoong. For additional flavor, they may boil their vegetables with pork or broiled fish as \npinakbet, dinengdeng or inabraw. The Pangasinans are justifiably famous for the quality of their bangus (milkfish) which are artificially reared in ponds through an ancient system of aqua-culture. Generally, Northern Luzon cooking uses locally grown ingredients, involves simple procedures and may even be called sparse fare. Life in this coastal and mountainous region is hard and the people tend to be thrifty and live simply. These traits are well reflected in their dishes.

CENTRAL PLAINS — inhabited in large numbers by Tagalogs and Pam-pangos and occupying the rice growing central part of Luzon Island and the area around the capital region of Manila. Central Plains cooking is the most sophisticated in the country. This is most evident in Manila and surrounding areas where foreign cuisines have left the people with a taste for rich sauces and fancy desserts. The people have a passion for meat especially pork and poultry. Their cooking is marked by clever combinations of many different ingredients in a single dish, long and elaborate preparations and festive looks. They are fond of stuffed main dishes and are well admired for their^llenong manok or bangus (stuffed, boned whole chicken or fish), morcon (stuffed rolled beef) and embutido (stuffed pork sausage) — all wtth rich, spicy sauces.They usually like their vegetables sauteed in garlic, onions and tomatoes with pork and shrimps.

SOUTHERN TAGALOG — homogeneously Tagalog speaking area south of Manila and the country's major source of coconuts as well as rice and fruits. Their cooking and eating habits are strongly influenced by their products and the availability of certain foodstuffs in the region. For instance, they have a strong preference for fresh water fish which abound in streams and rivers and which are usually sold swimming in buckets of water in the market. Their cooking tends to be sour with their constant use of vinegar and sour fruits like kamias,tamarind and over-ripe guavas.Vinegar seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper, is used as a marinade for fish before frying or as a dip. Tamarind and other sour fruits are used to sour the broth of sinigang, a favorite way of cooking fresh water fish. But the southern Tagalogs are well known for their native cakes and delicacies such as espasol, suman, hinalo, sinukmani and bibingka, the main ingredients of which are glutinous rice and coconuts.

BICOL — another ethnically homogeneous region on the southern tip of Luzon Island where inhabitants speak the Bicol dialect. Its cooking is notable for the general use of coconut and hot chilies. The combination results in many rich, spicy dishes the most nationally known of which is laing, a chili hot mixture of meat or shrimps and vegetables seasoned with bagoong, wrapped in gabi (taro) leaves and boiled in cdconut milk until the milk is reduced to a thick sauce.

VISAYAS — the region that includes islands that occupy the middle part of the Philippine archipelago and parts of Mindanao island inhabited by Christian Filipinos: The two main dialects spoken in the region are Hiligaynon and Cebuano. The people thrive on salt water fish abundant in the Sibuyan, Visayan, Sulu and Mindanao seas surrounding them, not to mention the China Sea and Pacific Ocean. Fish and seafoods not immediately consumed are preserved in salt and dried in the sun. The region is noted for these various types of dried salted seafoods such as daing, tuyo, pus it, hipon and kalkag. Visayan cooking tends to be salty not only because of its dried salted foods but also because of its liberal use of guinamos, a type of bagoong that is different from that used in Northern Luzon. Bagoong in Northern Luzon is made of shrimp or fish fermented in a salty sauce. Guinamos is made of fermented shrimp or fish and salt pounded to a paste and has no sauce.It has a much stronger flavor and odor than the other type. Visayan cooking is simple. The people like their fish broiled over live coals or boiled in well seasoned vinegar as in pinamarhan which is similar to the Tagalog's paksiw na isda but cooked until it is almost dry. Some even eat their fish raw as in kinilaw, a dish of sliced raw fish marinated in seasoned vinegar with onion, tomatoes and slices of unripe mango. Like the Northern Luzon people, they also like their vegetables simply boiled or steamed but dipped in guinamos with a squeeze of lemon. Being the country's main producer of sugar, the region is well known for its native snacks such aspinasugbu, turrones, banana chips, utap, and the traditional cookies and biscuits of Panaderia de Molo (Bakery of Molo, a town in llorlo). Native sweets such as biko and baybaye are made of coconut and glutinous rice.

MINDANAO — that part of Mindanao Island inhabited by ethnic groups having Islam as a common religious bond. There are several groups in this region: the Maranao that inhabit the shores of Lake Lanao, the Maguindanao which occupy the province of Cotabato, the Tausugs, Badjaos and other maritime groups that live in the Sulu Sea area, etc. Ethnically, however, because of the strong religious affinity among them, these groups can be seen as one. Mindanao cooking is marked by simplicity and the, non-use of pork which is universally used in the rest of the country. It is closely similar to Indonesian and Malaysian native fares in the use of hot chilies and strongly flavored spices such as curry. The more popular dishes are tiola sapi (spicy boiled beef)/piarun (fish with chilies), and lapua (blanched vegetables seasoned with salt and vinegar or guinamos).


Any simple attempt at describing the belief systems native to the Filipino is likely to be inadequate. The religious beliefs were as varied as the languages of the country. However, there were certain areas of common ground that existed among many of the peoples throughout the islands. In this webpage, we will try to organize some of these core beliefs an present as much as possible a Philippine system, or systems, of belief and cosmology. The problem is somewhat complicated by the fact that the native savants, like those found among other Malayo-Polynesian peoples, were highly secretive. Specialists in the field often complained after lifetimes of research that they had not uncovered much of the native knowledge. Their reasons for these beliefs usually stemmed from the fact that they often would hear the names of new deities, concepts, beliefs, etc., or of chants, sometimes epic in nature, even after their informants had assured them of divulging all their knowledge. Also, generally the most respected hierophants were often uncooperative with non-initiates.

While many early Western works focused on "juicy" anthropological items like human sacrifice, etc., these often lead to stereotyped views of Philippine beliefs. For example, among the Kankanai Igorots, the dog was almost worshipped, in a manner similar to other tribes throughout the Malay archipelago; some of whom even gave their dogs amulets to wear against sickness and danger. However, among some neighboring Igorot tribes, the dog, while considered sacred, is killed and eaten during sacrifices. This has been a source of some hostility even among these Igorot peoples who live close to one another. Throughout the Philippines, there was a great diversity of belief. Just as one cannot say that the torturing of heretics by the Grand Inquisitioner, the practice of conversion by sword, the slaughter of infidel women and children during the Crusades, and the robbing of Jews during the pogroms are characteristic of Christianity, one cannot casually stereotype Philippine beliefs.

Besides, it is unwise, in most cases, to judge others except by the their own standards. For example, the slaughter and eating of cows would be considered a great evil by many orthodox Hindus. It would quite literally be the mark of savages. Yet, Hindus generally do not use this standard when judging non-Hindus. So, with this, let us proceed.

Belief in Supreme God

While there somewhat of a trend going on in the ethnological circles claiming that widespread monotheistic beliefs found among many tribal peoples were due to the influence of diffusion, or by forced interpretation by missionaries, the belief in a Supreme God seems to be one of the most natural and simplest of beliefs. Indeed, very little evidence has been mustered in support of this theory and it remains simple conjecture.

In the Philippines, the record of the Spanish, and the surviving indigenous traditions leave little doubt that the Filipinos had a belief in a Supreme Creator God. The name of this god varied depending on what region is discussed. Among some of the names are: Bathala, Diwata, Kabunian, Mansilatan, Makaptan, Laon, Lumauig, Mamarsua, Tuhan, etc.
Here is a graph showing the hierarchy of creation generally held in Philippine belief systems:
The Creator God was almost always said to be invisible, or without form, and as such, images of the deity were not generally made. The name was considered sacred, and very rarely uttered, usually only in sacred rituals by special initiates. This same phenomenon occurs widely throughout the Malay Archipelago. Generally, the Supreme God was seen as distant and too involved in higher matters for direct worship. Instead, a lower class of deities, who, like humans, were also created, were the principle objects of prayer, supplication and ritual. However, sacrifices, offerings and rituals aimed at the Supreme God were no unknown, and they were usually reserved for emergency-type situations as among the Bagobo, or in very special annual rites.

The lower gods were known by names like diwa, diwata, tuhan and anito. As in many shamanistic cultures, these deities were divided into benefic and malefic categories. A sort of cosmic dualism was ever present in which humans and other earthly beings were also involved. However, the malefic deities were not generally seen as enemies and were often supplicated themselves. Their role in bringing harm to earthly beings was seen as having a special significance in the cosmic scheme of things. While a sort of battle between good and evil did exist, this was primarily between the beings of earth and the lower realms. In this conflict, the shaman/priest acted as the primary defender in native society. He/she sought the aid of the benefic deities against the malevolent lower spirits, or the appeasement of the malefic deities. In special cases, the shaman/priest even appealed to the Supreme Deity.

Philippine Trinity

Among some of the Filipinos, a belief existed that paralleled many ways the idea of the Trinity in Christianity, the Trimukha in Hinduism and the Trikaya in Buddhism. Filipino historian, Pedro Paterno, discusses these beliefs in his work, El Cristianismo en la antigua civilization tagalog; contestacion al M.R.P. Fr. R. Martinez Virgil de la Orden de predicadores, obispo de Oviedo. In another book entitled, Our Islands, and their People, Paterno states: "When Christianity was being introduced into the islands, it was found that there were words in the language of the Filipinos capable of expressing all the higher spiritual phases and doctrines of the Christian religion." In such systems, Bathala, Diwata, Kabunian, etc., were not seen as the Supreme Creator, but as the son of that God. Usually, the Supreme God was associated with langit or the heavens and sky, while Bathala, Diwata, Kabunian et al, were connected with the Sun, the heir of the sky. The third component in this trinity was a type of pantheistic spirit or body that was sometimes known as Laon. Many Filipino peoples had a concept of different bodies or souls for each individual. The highest of these souls was sometimes made part of a collective universal body that pervaded all things.
While one may be tempted to connect this with Indian influence, which certainly is possible, similar beliefs exist in Oceania, the system in Hawai'i being particularly well-known.
The interesting thing concerning the ideas of the Supreme God and the son of this God is that neither is given any form, nor or images usually made of them, and neither are given any heavenly spouses. The Supreme God is not usually given any sex, and this may be one reason that investigators often received confusion answers when inquiring on this matter. Bathala, Diwata, Kabunian et al are generally seen as male, but without spouses. Thus, there was very little corporal conception of these deities, unlike the lower created gods.


Many of the Philippine peoples viewed the cosmos as consisting of multiple heavens or universes each without form or boundary. In a way these were similar to modern concepts of dimensions. These heavens were not stacked one upon the other, although a different stacked heaven concept also existed. The other heavens or universes existed in different realities and thus there was no thought of them occupying the same space. Though infinite they did not come into contact with one another.

Among the Igorots there existed the concept of Skyland, of the upstream and downstream regions. Travel from one region to another by gods and men was a common occurence in Igorot epics. Among many of the southern tribes, the horizon, particularly the ascendant or descendant, marked the portals of heaven. Creation myths exist in the Philippines, one of the better known being the Iloko Demiurge discussed by Calip. Mamarsua, or Namarsua, is the creator who by thought and action produces Parsua which can refer to humankind, or to the created universe as a whole. Man, is found to be a microcosm of the universe in the Iloko Demiurge.

Often in the interaction between heaven and earth, there is a ladder, or bridge, or sea that one uses to pass from one region to another. A common motif found throughout the Philippines is that of a mixed union between persons from both the skyworld and earth in which the child of the union is eventually divided creating various heavenly phenomena. Hell in the Philippines went under a variety of names including Kasanaan. It was the abode of demons and those who had done evil on earth. Like heaven, it also was the destination of journeys in the native mythology.


The ancient Filipinos believed, like many animistic peoples, that all objects had spirits or were inhabited by such. Even seemingly inanimate objects like rocks, mountains, lakes, etc., and natural phenomena like wind, thunder and fire were said to be inhabited by particular spirits, or to be governed by certain gods. Indeed, even in "organized" religions like Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism and Buddhism such concepts also exist. In India, mountains, rivers and even oceans are said to be gods like Himavat (Himalayas), Ganga (Ganges River), and Saraswati (Saraswati River). The concept of spirits like the devas and yakshas inhabiting trees, which is found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, is also widely attested to in the Philippines. In ancient times, Filipinos made offerings to particular trees that were thought to be the habitation of benevolent deities, or even certain ancestral spirits. Other trees were thought to house malevolent spirits, and care was taken to avoid sleeping under these trees.

Not surprisingly, the Filipino belief in animism also supported widespread concept of totemism, in which humans had certain kindred animal spirits. The snake was an important totem being used frequently as a symbol, as among the Igorots, as also as a guardian for certain types of priest like the tauak of the Tagalogs. The crocodile and a variety of omen birds like the balatiti (Tagalog), batala (Kapampangan), haya (Bikol), salaksak (Ilokano, Sambal), etc., were also considered sacred in certain regions.

The forces of nature were often addressed respectfully using the term, Apo. . For example, the Ilokanos addresed the rain as Apo Tudo 'Lord Rain," Apo Init, "Lord Sun," and even Apo Pagay "Lord Palay (the rice plant)." Of course, Apo was also used to address the Supreme God, as among the Kapampangan who use Apo Guino "Lord God," or the Ilokano, Apo Langit "Lord Heaven." As stated early, the Supreme God was often associated with the heavens, while the Son of Heaven was symbolized by the Sun. In this sense, the Son of Heaven does have a wife, as the Sun is usually said to be the husband of the wife in Philippine religious belief. This cosmic pair was apparently very important in the faith of Filipinos throughout the archipelago. The union of the two celestial bodies at the New Moon, and their opposition at the Full Moon had great spiritual significance, and it was from this that the Filipinos derived their concepts of cosmic balance.


Practically all the early Filipinos had a belief in the afterlife. Generally, it was believed the good went to heaven, or its Philippine equivalent, while the evil went to hell. The very widespread belief that heaven and hell were divided into different levels was also found in the Philippines. Which region one goes to depends on different factors. Among the Bagobo, for example, those who die accidental deaths all go to a particular heaven, or hell. Usually, whether ones goes to heaven or hell, the individual is able to work up to higher levels and is not condemned for eternity to stay in one place. Merit, or self-improvement is the usual way of rising to the next level, although in some cases something like purgatory exists.
However, in many cases, there was a belief that each individual had more than one soul. Among the Bagobo, each person had a right-hand soul and a left-hand soul. The right-hand soul was the good side of the individual and went to heaven after death. The left-hand soul was the evil in each person and at death it went either to the underworld, or stayed on earth to vex the living. The Ilokanos believed in three sould in the body. The eternal soul that continued after death was known as Kararwa according to Calip, while Alingaas the soul that is found at places one has been previously; and Karma the soul that inhabits the living body. Sometimes, Karma is seen as a vapor that leaves the body either as an invisible vapor or in the form of an insect travelling to far places. Sometimes, the karma even left the body while the individual was awake. For example, those returning from the forest would make recitation Intayon, Intayon, or Intayon kaddua, while striking the chest with the palm, invoking the Karma to return from the forest to the body.
Sometimes, the good soul, rather than ascending to heaven, would take residence in a local tree or similar spot to watch over their loved ones, or take care of unfinished business. There also existed an idea of dying persons leaving a "portion" of themselves with other family members, followers or students. For example, if a person is born near the time of the death of relative, and that person happens to have some characteristics of the deceased relative, then the child is said to have received a portion of the deceased's spirit. Likewise, if a child is so sick that appears that it will not survive, but then it happens that someone in the family, or close to the family, dies while the baby survives, the child is said to have been saved by part of the deceased's spirit. The Filipinos, or some of the Igorot peoples, at least, seem to have had some belief in a type of resurrection. The Benguet Igorots, for example, have long practiced a form of mummification. These ancient mummies with tatoos still visible were placed in wooden coffins after a process of smoking on a papag and treatment with special herbs. The common theme in Philippine belief systems is that not only are God and the diwa immortal, but all souls are also immortal. They all eventually work their way up to the highest heaven, which usually is the one right below that inhabited by the Supreme God.


The history and culture of the Philippines are reflected in its architectural heritage, in the dwellings of its various peoples, in churches and mosques, and in the buildings that have risen in response to the demands of progress and the aspirations of the people.
Architecture in the Philippines today is the result of a natural growth enriched with the absorption of varied influences. It developed from the pre-colonial influences of our neighboring Malay brothers, continuing on to the Spanish colonial period, the American Commonwealth period, and the modern contemporary times. As a result, the Philippines has become an architectural melting pot-- uniquely Filipino with a tinge of the occidental.

The late national hero for architecture, Leandro Locsin once said, that Philippine Architecture is an elusive thing, because while it makes full use of modern technology, it is a residue of the different overlays of foreign influences left in the Philippines over the centuries: the early Malay culture and vestiges of earlier Hindu influences, the more than 300 years of Spanish domination, the almost 50 years of American rule, the Arab and Chinese influences through commerce and trade over the centuries. What resulted may have been a hybrid, a totally new configuration which may include a remembrance of the past, but transformed or framed in terms of its significance today.

The Philippine's architectural landscape is a contrast among small traditional huts built of wood, bamboo, nipa, grass, and other native materials; the massive Spanish colonial churches, convents and fortifications, with their heavy "earthquake baroque" style; the American mission style architecture as well as the buildings of commerce with their modern 20th century styles; and today's contemporary, albeit "modern mundane" concrete structures of the cities.
Construction of rural native huts has changed little in the centuries. Design vary by region, but common features include steep roof over a one-or-two room living area raised on posts or stilts one to two meters above the ground or over shallow water. Some huts have balconies. Floors may be of split bamboo to allow dirt and food scraps to fall through to pigs and poultry. The space beneath the hut may be used for storage or as a workshop; it also allows air to circulate and safeguards against flooding, snakes, and insects. As families become more affluent, they frequently replace the thatch roof with galvanized iron which lasts longer but makes the house hotter and aesthetically more mundane. The bahay-kubo (nipa hut) is a typical traditional house found in most lowlands all over the Philippines. Originally built as a one-room dwelling, the nipa hut changed as family needs become more diverse.Modern urban dwellings, on the other hand, are typically two-story structures with a concrete ground floor, sides of brick, concrete blocks, or wooden slats, and an iron roof. During the 19th century, wealthy Filipinos built some fine houses, usually with solid stone foundations or brick lower walls, and overhanging, wooden upper story with balustrades and kapis shell sliding windows, and a tiled roof.

The Rizal house in Calamba, Laguna and the Luna house in Badoc, Ilocos Norte are good examples. Vigan, Ilocos Sur as well as Taal in Batangas have the best surviving Spanish quarters. The city of Manila, Ilo-ilo and Cebu also have some notable old houses. Other areas of the country present different forms of tribal architecture as compared to the low-land bahay kubo which is influenced greatly by culture, and in some cases, climate and the environment. In the upland regions of the Cordillera Mountains, the houses, though still using native materials, is a bit more secured. Where the low-land bahay kubo is ventilated on all sides, the mountain huts, Bontoc, fayu; Ifugao, bale; Kalinga, binayon; Kankanay, binangiyan, and others typify a more insulated dwelling. The Maranao torogan, on the other hand, is designed for royalty and thus built with much ornamentation and elaborate details. Being an isolated and wind-frequented area, the Batanes Islands, exhibit the most different of all traditional architecture in the Philippines. The Ivatan`s rakuh is built solidly on all sides, made of a meter thick rubble work covered by thick thatch roofing to withstand gales which frequent the area.
The arrival of the Spaniards in 1571 brought in Antillian architecture. Though not specifically suited for the hot tropics, European architecture was transposed via Acapulco, Mexico into a uniquely Filipino style. The style traces its roots from the Antilles, in Central America rather than from mother Spain. The Christianization of the islands created the need to establish religious structures to support the growing number of religious organizations. Though they don't compare with those seen in Europe or in Latin America, Philippine colonial churches are unique in their own sense. Some of the best preserved colonial churches in the country are found in the Ilocos Regions, as well as those in the provinces of Laguna and Batangas, as well as the Visayan islands of Panay, Cebu and Bohol. These colonial churches were typically designed by anonymous friar-architects and built between 1600 and 1750. Most were initially constructed with bamboo and nipa, but the friars realized that to instill a sense of awe, as well as to caution against the terrible menace of fire and earthquake, more grandiose buildings had to be erected. In spite of technical and material limitations, they managed to erect massive structures that often took years, even decades to complete, that have survived to the present.
In time, the friars' task was taken over by Filipino and Chinese master-builders. These craftsmen have sometimes left their native stamp in the decorative motifs: tropical vegetation by Filipinos, lions and dragons by Chinese. The churches were built with an adjacent convento (priest house and office: also served as school, tribunal, prison and evacuation house during calamities), attached or detached belfry (as seen in the Ilocos Region where the belfry was built a couple of meters away from the church structure, this to anticipate a collapse of the belfry in times of earthquake) and walled forecourt. The large three-story belfry, affording a good view of the surrounding land and sea, were used as watchtowers for approaching enemies. Individual churches vary in the amount and style of their interior and exterior decoration. Many have an ornately carved facade and reredos, backdrop of the altar). Today, some churches are in their original form, while others have been spoiled by tasteless renovation. Many churches are the result of successive restoration and renovation projects which superimposes on earlier foundations. The Spanish colonial period also brought with it military architecture as seen in the fortifications they built all over the archipelago. Foremost of which is Intramuros in Manila. Intramuros which literally means within the walls, is a defensive network composed of raveling and bulwarks to protect the Spanish city from attack. It also contains the foremost military outpost during the Spanish reign, Fort Santiago named after Spain's patron saint.

Commercial structures which developed only during the latter part of the Spanish period evolved primarily from the typical Filipino noble house or the Bahay na Bato. The Bahay na Bato is a derivation of the traditional Bahay Kubo with more sturdier materials as the main form of construction. Using the same spatial arrangements of the Bahay kubo, the Bahay na Bato continued the principle of open ventilation and elevated apartments as that of its predecessor. The only difference being that the Bahay na Bato, which translates as Stone House, is made in most cases of stone instead of the more traditional bamboo. Other versions of the Bahay na Bato would be constructed of a stone- or brick-supported lower level and a hard wooden upper level covered by tiles or in later cases galvanized iron. The window of the house is unique in architecture for it opens not just from mid-level but from floor to ceiling. This enables tropical wind to circulate freely into the structure enabling the house to be ventilated tropically. The upper level, or the piano noble of the house contains the most luxuriously furnished apartments, this level overhangs the ground level which contains mostly storage and carriage depots.

Other structures developed during the Spanish Period were schools and hospitals (Ateneo Municipal, University of Santo Tomas, Colegio de Letran, Hospital de San Juan de Dios). Though most often attached to the church, these structures eventually developed into their own following the tropical baroque style of architecture popular at the time.

The Philippine Revolution of 1887 led to the declaration of independence from Spain. This, on the other hand, was superceded by the transfer of power from Spain to the United States as part of the settlement entered by the Kingdom of Spain with the United States after the Spanish-American war. The Americans came to the islands in 1898. With the arrival of the Americans came a new breed of architectural structures. Foremost of the American contributions to the country was the establishment of civil government. This led to the erection of government buildings from the city all the way to the municipal level. Government houses dotted every community. Designed in the most respectable manner, these government houses resembled Greek or roman temples complete with porticoes and pediments.

The revival period, popular at the turn of the century, became the foremost architectural parlance of the era as seen in such buildings as the Government Post Office Building as well as the Legislative House. Education of the masses also became the thrust of the American regime, as such, public education was established, foremost of which is the University of the Philippines. With American rule firmly established in the islands, the military government at the time invited the noted Chicago architect and town planner Daniel Burnham to develop the city of Manila and found a summer capital in the area of Baguio. Burnham's arrival led to the formation of the Burnham Plan which identifies the city of Manila as a uniquely European city in the tropics and as such opposed to develop its architecture in line with the existing style. The style of architecture, as suggested, varies little from existing architecture at the time as typified by The Manila Hotel. New structures continued the use of conventional motifs but were made of more durable materials such as concrete. This style of architecture prevailed even after the turn of the century.

The eclectic style, a mixture of historic styles, also found its way in some of the commercial establishments rising in the business district such as the Regina Building along historic Escolta. The emergence of Art Nouveau also gave some samples in the central business districts (Uy-Chaco Building along Calle Rosario and Plaza Cervantes) as well as in stately homes of the well to do (Casa de Ariston Bautista in Calle Barbosa, Quiapo). By the mid 20`s to the eve of the second world war, Art Deco became the bi-word for Philippine Architecture with works such as the Metropolitan Theatre along Plaza Aroceros, Perez-Samanillo Building, Crystal Arcade and Capitol theatre along Escolta, State and Avenue Theatre along Avenida Rizal, Lide and Times Theatre along Quezon Boulevard and others.

The aftermath of the second world war left nothing but destruction in its wake, and a time of rebuilding ensued. The modern era dawned on Philippine architecture using the simple straight lines of the International Modern Style as a chief mode of expression. By the 70`s a new form of Philippine architecture emerged with the filipinization of architecture. The Filipino style found its way in the re-emergence of traditional motifs, the bahay-kubo and the bahay na bato became popular forms to be copied and modernized (Batasan Pambansa, BLISS Housing projects). By the 80`s the country's architectural idiom was swept by the tide of Post Modernism, a hearkening back of some sort to the romance of classical architecture. Today, architecture in the Philippines continue to be vibrant and with the country opening up to the world, more first rate architecture is pouring in.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Most Philippine dances were originally patterned after European dances during the Spanish regime. Pandango Sa Ilaw, Cariñosa, Rigodon and Balitao are examples of these dances Filipinos are known for. Aside from these western-influenced dances, ethnic-created dances such as Tinikling made its way to nationwide recognition. Despite its apparent adaptation to western dances, still Filipinos pay tribute to their cultural roots. Every district in the islands has its own folk dance, interpreted attractively in festivals and local shows, which have added to the country’s reputed contribution to world’s illustration of traditional arts.

The following are examples of popular Philippine folk dances:

Binasuan - Originated in Pangasinan Province “meaning with the use of drinking glasses”, this vibrant dance basically shows off balancing skill of the performers. Glasses filled with rice wine are placed on the head and on each hand carefully maneuvered with graceful movements. This dance is common in weddings, fiestas and special occasions.

Rigodon - Originated from Spain, this dance is commonly performed at formal affairs like inaugural balls where prominent members of the government participate and enjoy.

Pandanggo sa Ilaw - The word pandanggo comes from the Spanish dance “fandango”characterized with lively steps and clapping while following a varying ¾ beat. Pandanggo requires excellent balancing skill to maintain the stability of three tinggoy, or oil lamps, placed on head and at the back of each hand. This famous dance of grace and balance originated from Lubang Island, Mindoro.

Sublian - The term “subli” is from two tagalog words “subsub” meaning falling on head and “bali”, which means broken. Hence, the dancers appear to be lame and crooked throughout the dance. This version is originally a ritual dance of the natives of Bauan, Batangas, which is shown during fiestas as a ceremonial worship dance to the town’s icon, the holy cross.

Kuratsa- Commonly performed during festivals in Bohol and other Visayan towns, this dance portrays a young playful couple’s attempt to get each other’s attention. It is performed in a moderate waltz style.

Itik-itik - According to history of this dance, a young woman named Kanang (short for Cayetana) happened to be the best performer in the province of Surigao del Norte. At one baptismal reception, she was asked to dance the Sibay, and began improvising her steps in the middle of her performance imitating the movements of an “itik”, a duck, as it walks with choppy steps and splashes water on its back while attracting its mate. Because of its unusual steps and fascinating interpretation, the audience began imitating her.

Tinikling - Tinnikling is considered the national folkdance with a pair of dancers hopping between two bamboo poles held just above the ground and struck together in time to music. Originated from Leyte Province, this dance is in fact a mimic movement of “tikling birds” hopping over trees, grass stems or over bamboo traps set by farmers. Dancers perform this dance with remarkable grace and speed jumping between bamboo poles.

Maglalatik - Originally performed in Binan, Laguna as a mock-war dance that demonstrates a fight between the Moros and the Christians over the prized latik or coconut meat during the Spanish rule, this dance is also shown to pay tribute to the town’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. It has a four-part performance such as the palipasan and the baligtaran showing the intense battle, the paseo and the escaramusa- the reconciliation. Moro dancers wear read trousers while the Christian dancers show up in blue. All dancers are male; with harnesses of coconut shells attached on their chests, backs, thighs and hips.

Maria Clara - Maria Clara is the main female character in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere -a literary piece that features the colonial situation of the Filipinos during the Spanish regime. She was characterized as a Filipina woman of virtue and nobility. This dance is a mix of Spanish gracefulness and customized native props, such as bamboo castanets and Asian fan. Female dancers wear Maria Clara dress that typifies the European style, while men are in barong tagalog, a traditional Filipino embroidered long-sleeve shirt made of pineapple fiber.

Cariñosa - Cariñosa is a word that describes an affectionate, friendly and lovable woman. This dance is performed in flirtatious manner with fans and handkerchiefs to assist the dancers’ hide-and-seek movements.

La Jota Manileña - It is a dance named after the capital city of the Philippines, Manila, where an adaptation of Castilian Jota afloats with the clacking of bamboo castanets played by the dancers themselves. The costume and the graceful movements of the performers noticeably inspired by Spanish Culture.

Sakuting - Originated in Abra, this dance interprets a mock fight between Ilokano Christians and non- Christians with training sticks as props. It is traditionally performed during Christmas at the town plaza or from house-to-house as a caroling show. As a return, the dancers receive presents or money locally known as “aguinaldo”.

Pantomina - Meaning "Dance of the Doves", this dance is the highlight of Sorsogon’s Kasanggayahan Festival every third week of October. Groups of participants, mainly elderly in colourful costumes, dance to the tune of Pantomina song. It is a courtship dance originated from immitating the courtship and lovemaking of doves that then showed during the dance where men attempt to please the women.

Other Philippine Ethnic Dances:

Banog - Cordillera In this dance, performers portray hunters shielding their chickens from the famishing hawk. The hawk ends up entrapped and dies in the hands of hunters.

Salisid - Kalinga, Cordillera This is a courtship dance that symbolizes a rooster trying to attract the attention of a hen. This is performed and portrayed by both male and female dancers as the rooster and hen respectively. The dance starts when each of them are given a piece of cloth known as "ayob" or "allap".

Palok - Kalinga, Cordillera - A tribal dance. The natives of Kalinga perform this dance in most of their social events. Male dancers hold gangsa or gong- a percussion instrument made of copper, and beat it with wooden stick.

Lumagen - Kalinga, Cordillera A tribal dance. This is a traditional thanksgiving dance by the Kalinga tribe performed to celebrate good harvest and events such as birth of first-born child, victory in battles and weddings.

Idudu- Abra, Cordillera A tribal dance. This dance stages a common family life in the Itneg or Tinguian society. It illustrates the family as the main foundation of the tribe’s community. Several traits of an ordinary family are shown. It depicts a father plowing the field while the mother caring for the children. But as soon as the father finishes work, the mother takes over on planting, sowing and all the remaining chores to do in the field. At this time the father is left to take care of the kids. During the dance a Local singer breaks into an Idudu or lullaby to put the baby to sleep. Idudu, a dance taken from Idudu lullaby, obviously portrays the different roles in a Tinguian family

Dinuyya - Cordillera Ifugao dance Famous in the Ifugao region, this dance is regularly staged during festivals in Lagawe. Three kinds of gong instruments such as, ordinary gongs, tobtob- a brass gong played by beating with open palms and, hibat, a kind of gong played by beating the inner surface with a softwood are used in this dance.

Bendayan - Benguet This dance, which is more known as Bendian, is performed to commemorate the arrival of headhunters in their district. Performers dance in a circle and show off their lively traditional steps.

Binaylan - Agusan This is a ritual dance, which originated from the Bagobo tribe living in the central uplands of Mindanao, imitating the movements of a hen, her banog or baby chicks, and a hawk. The hawk is sacred and is believed that it has the power over the well being of the tribe. The hawk tries to capture one of the baby chicks and is killed by the hunters.

Malakas at maganda - Leyte A Tribal dance. This dance depicts the birth of the first man and woman who came out of a bamboo tree. It has been said that the woman named “maganda” (beautiful) and the first man “malakas” (strong) are the parents of the whole community in the island. The dance demonstrates how a bird discovered the noise coming from the inside of the bamboo and perched until it opened. A man and a woman came out of the big bamboo tree and, the birth of this legendary couple is amusingly interpreted in this dance.

Burung-Talo - Sulu The dance is a unique fighting dance in a form of martial arts by the Tausug tribe. Performers demonstrate a battle between hawk and a cat. With their acrobatic movements and tough facial expressions, this dance is highlighted with the accompanying energetic beat of drums and gongs.

Kadal-Blelah- South Cotabato A tribal dance where in the dancers perform simulation of movements of birds.
Kadal Tahaw - Tiboli dance- south cotabato A tribal dance performed by Tiboli tribe, this dance that mimics the hopping and flying behavior of Tahaw bird is performed to celebrate good harvest.

Sayaw sa Cuyo - Palawan Cuyo is a small island and capital of Palawan. There, the feast day of St. Augustin is traditionally celebrated with parades, processions and small performances by groups coming from all over Cuyo Island and the nearby islets. Island dances, blended with strong Old Cuyo ethnicity and Spanish-influenced steps, are all brought out when Cuyo celebrates its festivals. Today, pretty young girls daintily swirl hats to the waltz and other European steps designed to bring out the freshness and glow of the performers.

Karatong - Palawan A Muslim dance. During the festival of San Agustine in the island of Cuyo, the celebration also includes the blossoming of mango trees. The parade starts from the church patio and ends at the town plaza with ladies waving their colorful props “Bunga mangga” that symbolize the flowers of mango tree, while men lively strike their karatong instruments; creating a scene of joy among reveling towns folk.

Dugso - Bukidnon A thanksgiving dance from the talaindig tribe.

Gayong-gayong - Capiz -A Muslim dance. In rural gatherings, this dance offers much fun. Gayong is a pet name for Leodegario. According to the legend and to the words of the song, Gayong and Masiong (pet name for Dalmacio) once attended a feast commemorating the death of a townsman. While eating, Masiong choked on a piece of Adobo so he called, "Gayong! Gayong!" to ask for help to dislodge a bone from the Adobo meal from his throat. In this dance, Masiong’s liking for feasts and the consequence of his gluttony are held up to playful ridicule.

Kapa Malong-Malong - Cotabato A Muslim dance. This Maranao dance is performed with women wearing malong and shawl, mantle or head piece, whereas men wear sash or waist band, shorts or bahag and head gear or turban traditionally worn in the fields.

Pagapir - Lanao del Sur This dance is usually performed to commence an important affair. Dancers of this dance are usually from the royal court or high society group of Lanao Province. They use apir or fan to coordinate with their small steps called kini-kini, which symbolizes their good manners and prominent family background.

Pangalay- Zamboanga Del Sur A muslim dance. Originally performed by wealthy families during a wedding celebration, this fingernail dance is now a popular festival dance in Sulu.


The variety and abundance of Philippine literature evolved even before the colonial periods. Folk tales, epics, poems and marathon chants existed in most ethnolinguistic groups that were passed on from generations to generations through word of mouth. Tales associated with the Spanish conquest also took part in the country’s rich cultural heritage. Some of these pre-colonial literary pieces showcased in traditional narratives, speeches and songs are Tigmo in Cebuano, bugtong in Tagalog, patototdon is Bicol and paktakon in Ilongo. Philippine epics and folk tales are varied and filled with magical characters. They are either narratives of mostly mythical objects, persons or certain places, or epics telling supernatural events and bravery of heroes, customs and ideologies of a community.
Below are examples of ethno-epics popularized by different ethnic groups in the country:

Biag ni Lam-ang (Life of Lam-ang) of the Ilocanos narrates the adventures of the prodigious epic hero, Lam-ang who exhibits extraordinary powers at an early age. At nine months he is able to go to war to look for his father’s killers. Then while in search of lady love, Ines Kannoyan, he is swallowed by a big fish, but his rooster and his friends bring him back to life.

The Agyu or Olahing of the Manobos is a three part epic that starts with the pahmara (invocation) then the kepu’unpuun ( a narration of the past) and the sengedurog (an episode complete in itself). All three parts narrate the exploits of the hero as he leads his people who have been driven out of their land to Nalandangan, a land of utopia where there are no landgrabbers and oppressors.

Sandayo, of the Subanon tells of the story of the hero with the same name, who is born through extraordinary circumstances as he fell out of the hair of his mother while she was combing it on the ninth stroke. Thence he leads his people in the fight against invaders of their land and waterways.

Aliguyon or the Hudhud of the Ifugaos tells of the adventures of Aliguyon as he battles his arch enemy, Pambukhayon among rice fields and terraces and instructs his people to be steadfast and learn the wisdom of warfare and of peacemaking during harvest seasons.

Labaw Donggon is about the passionate exploits of the son of a goddess Alunsina, by a mortal, Datu Paubari. The polygamous hero battles the huge monster Manaluntad for the hand of Abyang Ginbitinan; then he fights Sikay Padalogdog, the giant with a hundred arms to win Abyang Doronoon and confronts the lord of darkness, Saragnayan, to win Nagmalitong Yawa Sinagmaling Diwata. Reference-NCCA

Other epics known to most Filipinos are the Ibalon of Bikol, Darangan which is a Muslim epic, the Kudaman of Palawan, the Alim of the Ifugao, Bantugan of the Maranao, the Hinilawod of Panay, the and the Tuwaang of Manobos. The Tagalogs pride their Myth of Bernardo Carpio, a folk hero said to hold the mountains of San Mateo apart with his powerful arms to prevent them from colliding.
There are shorter narratives that tell the origins of the people, the stars, the sky and the seas. A famous story that tells of the origin of man and woman is that of Sicalac (man) and Sicavay (woman) who came out of a bamboo after being pecked by a bird. This, and other stories of equal birthing of man and woman throughout the archipelago assert a woman’s equal position with a man within the tribal systems. Reference-NCCA
During the Spanish colonial period, the country have encountered transformations in their daily customs. It affected not only the country’s whole system but as well tainted the purity of their folklore traditions. And because of the western’s strong influence and forceful implication of their civilization, the locals’ forms of expression on national issues and self-consciousness were replaced through political essays, novels, poems and religious prose- a form of learning, however, that led to ultimate awakening of Filipinos regarding the unreasonable colonial rule in the country. Famous examples of these Spanish-adapted writings are the novels of Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere.
Nowadays, Filipino writers have continued to patronize the intellectual influence started by Rizal but to further aim at reviving the richness of the country’s very own folk traditions and introducing it to new generations as a significant form of art.


Filipinos are known to be great musicians worldwide. This is due to their dedication and intense love for music. Even from its pre-Hispanic life, Filipinos expressed themselves through their ethnic musical instruments. These early settlers in fact played variety of musical instruments including flutes, nose flutes, and guitars to play appropriate songs in celebration of courtship, marriage, harvest and offerings. Many of their songs have been interpreted recently to pay tribute to Filipino traditional music. From ethnic rhythm to contemporary pop of the present times, Filipino musicians are thriving according to their levels of creativity. Danceable tunes delight party goers, melodious folk songs hit the radios of patriotic listeners, and romantic ballads exclusively magnetize poignant hearts.
Far from what everyone knows about music in the Philippines, the country in fact has abundant musical talents that have established themselves in the international scene. Despite the thriving influences of high-tech produced music nowadays, Filipinos kept their music roots in the family and schools. Not necessarily those ethnic ritual compositions but those original compositions formatted through adaptation of Classical music of the west produced by Filipino talents who received their trainings from the clergy during the Spanish colonial period.
The earliest foreign-influenced Filipino entertainment is the Awit and Kurido or Corrido- a musical show of dances and songs replacing the ancient epics during the conversion of early Filipinos to Christianity. Local talents adapted and performed this musical form into several dialects such as Pampango, Ilokano, Ilongo, Tagalog and Bicol.
Another form commonly known for its sophistication is Sarswela (Zarzuela), a pleasing show of combined acting and singing introduced by the Spanish in the late 19th century along with the arrival of American productions. That time, Zarzuelas were performed as a means of political protest and criticism against the colonizing Americans. Today, Zarzuelas are common festival shows taking part in commemorating the country’s rich traditions.
The most romantic of all is Kundiman, a combination of romantic words and mellow tunes interpreted through songs. Its musical structure derived basically from Kumintang or well-adored Tagalog songs composed to express romantic feelings and admiration for someone.

Below are examples of Philippine folksongs popularized according to the country’s ethno-linguistic groups:

Bahay kubo

Bahay kubo, kahit munti
Ang halaman doon ay sari-sari,
Singkamas at talong Sigarilyas at mani
Sitaw, bataw, patani
Kundol, patola, upo’t kalabasa
At saka meron pang
Labanos, mustasa
Sibuyas, kamatis
Bawang at luya
Sa paligid nito puno ng linga.

Paruparong Bukid

Paruparong bukid na lilipad-lipad
Sa gitna ng daan papagapagaspas
Isang bara ang tapis
Isang dangkal ang manggas
Ang sayang de kola
Isang piyesa ang sayad
May payneta pa siya -- uy!
May suklay pa mandin -- uy!
Nagwas de-ohetes ang palalabasin
Haharap sa altar at mananalamin
At saka lalakad na pakendeng-kendeng.

The Philippine Culture

Project in Sociology
Created by:
Liza Marie Resurreccion
Glenda Rodriguez
Yrene Taguiam