Music and Dance


The balitaw is an extemporaneous exchange of love verses between a man and a woman. Danced and mimed, it is accompanied by a song, or the dancers themselves sing, improvising the steps and verses. It may last for hours, ending with the woman accepting or rejecting the man's suit. The balitaw is found mainly in the Tagalog and Visayan regions. The dancers may be costumed in balintawak or patadyong or in contemporary everyday clothes. Its accompaniments could be provided by the subing (bamboo flute), castanets, coconut guitar, harp, the five-stringed guitar, or a combination of the three. The Visayan balitaw is usually in the minor key, while the Tagalog is in the major. Both are related to the kumintang and kundiman in their styles of accenting.

As sung in quatrain or ballad stanza in the Visayas, it is "expansive and erotic in character" with accompaniment similar to the bolero, a Spanish dance also in triple time, accompanied by the dancer's singing and castanet playing (Molina in Filipino Heritage VIII, 2029). In words which may be humorous and full of energy, the typical Visayan balitaw speaks of all domestic phases of life, from love and courtship, marriage and separation, gambling and employment, child rearing, envious neighbors, to the dignity of labor. The Cebuano couple Pedro Alfarara and Nicolasa Caniban were titled the "king and queen" of the balitaw at the turn of the century.

1994. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Volume 5, ed. Nicanor Tiongson, Manila, Philippines: Cultural Center of the Philippines.


Danza is a folk dance of Cuban origin which became popular in the late 19th century, also known as habanera or danza habanera. The habanera is a social dance in duple time and performed in a ballroom or on a stage.

The Argentine writer Carlos Vega (1898-1966) traced its origin to the English contradance or square dance, which was then assimilated into Spain as contradanza or danza. Around 1825, it was brought to Cuba in this form where it was combined with Afro-Cuban rhythms; and around 1850, it was transformed into the habanera. It might have been popularized in the Philippines in the latter part of the 19th century through the sarswela which came in 1878. Used as intermissions or as integral parts of the drama, the vocal section of the habanera must have been discarded as Filipino playwrights started producing sarswela in their own languages.

An example of the Filipinized version is the habanera from Magsingal, Ilocos Sur. Characterized by hand movements called kumintang, this dance depicts the modest and retiring traits of the Ilocano woman. The dance can be performed by any number of pairs. Dancers are dressed in Ilocano peasant costume. The music is in 2/4 time, and is divided into four sections(A-B-C-D), each composed of eight bars. Section A is repeated immediately before going to Section B which is likewise repeated. Sections C and D are played three times in pairs resulting to the form: A-A-B-B-C-D-C-D-C-D. All four sections are in a major key but the music modulates to the dominant in section C. The rhythms explored are very similar to those typically used in the Western habanera. The habanera botoleña from Botolan, Zambales, was originally a dance for a departing parish priest. It later became a festival dance marking such occasions as weddings, baptismal parties, and barrio fiestas. Other versions are the habanera capizeña from Capiz, habanera jovencita from Pampanga, and habasinan from Pangasinan. Folk songs like the Visayan "Walay Angay ang Kamingaw" ("Uncomparable Sadness"), the Tagalog "May Isang Bulaklak na Ibig Lumitaw" ("There's a Flower Wanting to Come Out"), and the Ilocano "Ti Ayat ti Maysa nga Ubing" ("The Love of a Young Maiden"), have employed the tempo of habanera. The same tempo was used by Dolores Paterno's "La Flor de Manila" ("The Flower of Manila"), Julio Nakpil's "Recuerdos de Capiz" ("Memories of Capiz"), Nicanor Abelardo's "Ikaw Rin" ("It's Up to You"), Francisco Santiago's "Anong Ligaya Ko" ("How Happy I Am"), Antonio Molina's "Hatinggabi" ("Midnight"), and Juan Hernandez's "Ulila sa Pag-ibig" ("Lonely in Love"). * J. B. Malabuyoc.

1994. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Volume 6, ed. Nicanor Tiongson, Manila, Philippines: Cultural Center of the Philippines.


Harana, also known as Habanera Filipina, is a Philippine serenade which derives its rhythmic element from the Spanish Tango or Habanera. While the Spanish version has a lively, seductive tempo, the Filipino version is romantic, lyrical, and slow. Examples of the harana are "Walay Angay", "Ay Kalisud", "No Duaduaem Pay", "Silayan", "Alaala Kita", Bituing Marikit", "O ILaw". Felipe Padilla de Leon's "Sapagka't Mahal Kita" is a beautiful love song in the harana form. Originally composed as a vocal/piano piece, and it has been transcribed into different instrumental combinations including the rondalla. (Cynthia Guerrero de Leon)


The kumintang is the name given to several distinct styles, techniques, and forms in music and dance probably originating in the areas used by early Spanish cartographers and chronicles to denote a large province centering around what is known as Batangas. Early 19th-century travelers' accounts often mention the kumintang as a Tagalog "chant national", describing them as dance-songs performed by pairs of men and women, with texts concerning love and courtship. All accounts mention a glass of coconut wine passed from hand to hand by the dancers as they sing. Jean Baptiste Mallat describes it as a pantomimic dance where the man runs around, gestures to a woman (not always decently), and finally pretends illness to get the woman's full attention. In the 20th century, Francisca Reyes-Aquino dubbed as kumintang the circular hand and wrist movement also known as the kunday. Among present-day afficionados of musical and dance events called awitan and pandangguhan in and around the city of Batangas, kumintang also refers to a guitar-plucking style, considered the most melodious and beautiful of all guitar styles accompanying the old kinanluran style of pandangguhan dance songs.
E. R. Mirano.

1994. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Volume 5, ed. Nicanor Tiongson, Manila, Philippines: Cultural Center of the Philippines.


Often billed as the typical love song of the Tagalog region, the kundiman is an erotic and sentimental study. The sad and haunting melody accompanying the sentimental lyrics often serves to soften a stubborn heart and to give consolation to a heart in anguish. The word kundiman is thought to be the contraction of the most often used first words of the song - "Kung hindi man...". This phrase which translates as "Though I am not worthy" is the young man's expression of his humility and unworthiness.

To a young man in love, letter writing on linen paper is too slow, hence he often resorts to the guitar and serenades his beloved with his kundiman. If he can afford it, he may even hire the town band to play the corresponding accompaniment to his serenade. The early kundimans often told of an enamored swain who must cross towns, villages and bridges on foot to reach the feudal castle tower window of his beloved. Later versions of the kundiman are sung on various occasions, with the lyrics often changed to suit the occasion.

The kundiman is always written in 3/4 time, often in minor key. It is characterized by the accent on the second beat of every second bar of the melodic phrase.

The years 1880 to 1930 are considered as the kundiman era. Masters in the style of writing the kundiman included Francisco Baltazar (Balagtas) and Deogracias H. Rosario in Tagalog and Manuel Bernabe and Jesus Balmori in Spanish. Francisco Santiago, Juan de S. Hernandez, Francisco Buencamino, and Crispin Reyes are among the contemporary composers of the kundiman. "Nasaan Ka Irog" by Nicanor Abelardo is considered the best example of the kundiman.

Molina, Antonio J. 1978. "The Sentiments of Kundiman." In Filipino heritage: The Making of a Nation, ed. Alfred Roces, Manila: Lahing Pilipino Publishing.
Article contributed and edited by Amy Lottmann.

Paso doble

The paso doble is a dance that is also called the Spanish one-step in 2/4 time; it is danced with a single step to a beat, and with a lot of spontaneity and free movements; the male leads the female moving forward and backward, turning together or singly in a circle using a variety of hand movements and holds. It became a very popular and stylish ballroom dance in the Philippines, and is at present being revived in dancing clubs and social gatherings. The paso doble accompanies the quick entrances and exits of prince and princess in the traditional komedya (comedy), a verse play usually set in European kingdoms; and the hudyo (Jew) in the traditional sinakulo, the verse play on the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ. Usually played by a band or an orchestra, the paso doble may use old or current melodies, such as "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Roll out the Barrel."

Originating from Spain, this dance is a regular part of the social dance repertoire in Spanish-speaking countries and in Europe since 1918. Paso doble simulates the atmosphere of the corrida (bullfighting), with the woman as the cape and the man as the toreador taunting the bull. The body is distinctly upright with a taut haughtiness of bearing; the steps taken are short, and the feet always directly beneath the body. R. G. Alejandro and N. G. Tiongson

1994. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Volume 5, ed. Nicanor Tiongson, Manila, Philippines: Cultural Center of the Philippines.


The polka, considered as the national dance of Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), was among the first dances introduced by the early European immigrants to the Philippines and by Filipinos who had been to Europe. It was popularized in the Islands no later than 1859. It was usually performed as a ballroom dance during fiestas or grand social affairs. The basic dance step of the polka is executed to a duple meter with a step-close-step pattern following the one-and-two rhythm. Other polka steps used in the dance are the heel-and-toe polka, the hop polka, the gallop, chasing steps, and the hop step. Every locality would have its own version, but the basic steps, the plain polka and the heel-and-toe polka, were always included.

The Quezon polka is performed in sets of four pairs in square formation. In Bataan the dance is called polka tagala. In one figure of the dance, the ladies kick their voluminous skirts forward and backward to show off their beautiful lace petticoats. In Batangas, the dance was called polka sa nayon, while in Mindoro it was known as polka sala. Among the Visayans, the dance was called polka antigo, and in Negros Occidental polka italiana.

In Ilocos Norte, there is a courtship dance called sileledaang, which means laden with sorrow. Interestingly, the dancers here show their fondness for each other using the basic polka step to a tempo.

The maliket-a-polka is another version of this dance form. Maliket in Pangasinan means happy therefore, happy polka. This is danced during fiestas in honor of the Santo Niño, patron saint of a barrio of Pangasinan. When the dance is performed today for the stage, the balintawak with tapis and soft pañuelo draped over the left shoulder is used by the girls while the camisa de chino and any pair of colored trousers are used by the males.

1994. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Volume 5, ed. Nicanor Tiongson, Manila, Philippines: Cultural Center of the Philippines.

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