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15 Most Popular Philippine Folk Dances

What are the 10 popular folk dance in the Philippines?

Sayaw Sa Bangko by Audioboss via Wikimedia cc

List of Philippine Folk Dances

Folk dances are performed by locals using traditional music and wearing traditional clothes during cultural gatherings and festivals. In the Philippines, folk dances are performed during intimate events, such as weddings, and celebratory gatherings, like festivals. The Philippines is rich in cultural heritage, and each of these traditional dances has its origin stories. They reflect the culture, tradition, and history of the regions they come from. After centuries, popular folk dances in the Philippines have developed and evolved, yet they remain true to their roots.

Regarding Philippine folk dances, it’s important to know Francisca Reyes-Aquino, the Mother of Philippine Dancing and the first National Artist for Dance. If it weren’t for her and her research in 1926, there would not be any records of religious and ritualistic dances in the country.

Philippine folk dance is a rich and vibrant part of the country’s cultural heritage. These dances are performed to celebrate events and express cultural traditions, often accompanied by traditional music and songs. They vary in style and include both indigenous and Spanish-influenced forms. Some of the most popular Philippine folk dances include the tinikling, a rhythmic dance performed with bamboo poles, and the cariñosa, a romantic dance that showcases the grace and fluidity of traditional Philippine movements. Other popular folk dances include the maglalatik, a Philippine folk dance performed with coconut shells, and the singkil, a dance that tells the story of the Maranao people.

Philippine folk dance is an important aspect of the country’s cultural identity and is still performed and celebrated today. Here are the 15 of the most popular folk dances in the Philippines;

1. Tinikling

Tinikling photo by . U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz via Wikimedia cc
Tinikling photo By U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz – Public Domain, cc

Tinikling is perhaps the most popular folk dance in the Philippines, where its roots originate from the province of Leyte. Officially the National Dance of the Philippines, Tinikling, is inspired by the movement of the tikling birds, which the dance is aptly named after. The dancers, traditionally two male and female dancers, perform using bamboo poles 9 feet long parallel to each other. The native dance is composed of combinations of singles, doubles, and hops that are determined by the beat of the bamboo poles.

2. Cariñosa

Carinosa folk dance photo via SM City Consolacion
Carinosa folk dance photo via SM City Consolacion

Another popular traditional dance in the Philippines, Cariñosa is a Philippine folk dance representing the Maria Clara-like mannerisms and personality of the Filipina women during the Spanish Colonial Period. The folk dance originated from Panay Island and was introduced by the Spaniards during their colonization. The courtship dance consists mainly of flirtatious movements using a fan and a handkerchief where the male and female pairs peek out at one another behind the fans and handkerchiefs.

3. Pandanggo sa Ilaw

Pandanggo sa Ilaw photo via Likha Filipina Dance Company FB Page
Pandanggo sa Ilaw photo via Likha Filipina Dance Company FB Page

Originally from Lubang Island, Occidental Mindoro, Pandanggo sa Ilaw is a Filipino cultural dance of balancing oil lamps or glasses with candles inside. One of the lamps or glasses is perched on the head, and the other two on the palms of each hand. This native Filipino folk dance is performed in 3/4 time and accompanied by castanets.

4. Pandanggo Oasiwas

Similar to Pandanggo sa Ilaw, Pandanggo Oasiwas is performed by fishermen to celebrate when they catch a lot of fish. Instead of balancing oil lamps or glasses with candles inside on the palms of each hand, they are placed inside nets and swung around during the dance.

5. Sayaw sa Bangko

Sayaw Sa Bangko by Audioboss via Wikimedia cc
Sayaw Sa Bangko By Audioboss – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, cc

Sayaw sa Bangko, or “dancing on a chair,” is performed by experienced dancers on top of a six-inch-wide wooden bench. The popular folk dance is native to Pangasinan and was traditionally performed by newlyweds during their wedding feasts.

6. Kuratsa

Kuratsa Fok Dance photo by Eva Cular via FB
Kuratsa Fok Dance photo by Eva Cular via FB

Often performed at weddings, Kuratsa is another courtship folk dance from Samar Island that imitates a rooster’s mating movements with a hen. Kuratsa has three parts: the first part is a waltz between a male and female dancer, the second part is when the male dancer pursues the female dancer in a chase, and the last part is when the male dancer finally wins over the female dancer with his dance.

7. Subli

Subli Folk Dance by Aiza Aguillon Seda via FB
Subli Folk Dance by Aiza Aguillon Seda via FB

Subli is a folk dance from Bauan, Batangas, performed for the Holy Cross of Alitagtag, the patron of the Municipality of Alitagtag. The religious folk dance is performed by experienced male and female dancers who hop and slide, where the male dancers beat their castanets, and the female dancers sway in a circle while holding their brimmed hats.

8. Maglalatik

Maglalatik Philippine Folk Dance by Ahmed Younis Sif via Wikimedia cc
Maglalatik Philippine Folk Dance By Ahmed Younis Sif – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, cc

Maglalatik is a folk dance that only includes male dancers with coconut shell halves secured onto the dancers’ vests. Its history and origins vary by region. One of its stories is that it is a mock war dance from Biñan, Laguna, that represents a fight over coconut meat, a highly coveted food, and is danced during a religious procession to San Isidro de Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. The other story is that it tells the fight between the Christian and the Muslim Moro tribespeople where the performers that represent the Christians wear blue trousers. In contrast, the performers that represent the Moro community wear red trousers. Maglalatik has four parts, two dedicated to the battle and the other to reconcile.

9. Itik-Itik

Screen grab from Linuphysio’s World of Amazing Videos
Screengrab from Linuphysio’s World of Amazing Videos

Itik-itik, which translates to “duck,” imitates the movements of the itik species, such as how they walk, fly and splash water. The folk dance comes from Surigao del Sur. According to the tale of its origins, a young woman who was considered the best dancer in the region performed Itik-itik during a baptismal ceremony. The ceremony guests were entertained by her steps; they copied her movements and have since passed them along.

10. Kappa Malong-Malong

Kappa Malong-Malong by BrokenSphere via Wikimedia cc
Kappa Malong-Malong By BrokenSphere – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

Kappa Malong-Malong is a tribal dance from the Maranao tribes in Mindanao. The dance involves a malong, a tubular garment, and the dancers show the versatile ways it can be worn, such as a headdress, shawl, or skirt. Its cultural significance to the Maranao tribes is also depicted, like how a tribesman will use the same malong from birth to death.

11. Singkil

Singkil Dance by Jumphoto2000 via Wikimedia cc
Singkil Dance By Jumphoto2000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, cc

Singkil originates from the Maranao tribes in Mindanao and translates to “getting a leg or foot entangled in an object” or “to entangle the feet with disturbing objects such as vines or anything in your path.” It was originally performed by a solo female dancer accompanied by the beating of bamboo poles.

The lead dancer is typically propped by a fan or scarf as she graciously in and out of the crisscrossed bamboo poles. According to stories, Singkil was based on Darangen, a pre-Islamic Maranao interpretation of the ancient Hindu Indian epic Ramayana, and was traditionally danced by maidens who wish to attract suitors.

12. La Jota Moncadeña

La Jota Moncadena photo by Teatro Bagong Silangan via FB
La Jota Moncadena photo by Teatro Bagong Silangan via FB

La Jota Moncadeña, or Jota Florana to the people from Moncada, Tarlac, is the Filipino adaptation of Jota, a traditional courtship dance from Aragon, Spain. La Jota Moncadeña combines Spanish and Ilocano dance steps accompanied by castanets and traditional Spanish music. It is performed at special celebrations, and a solemn version of the dance is performed at funeral processions.

13. Surtido

Surtido, or Surtido Cebuano, is a square dance from Bantayan, Cebu, with Spanish, Mexican, and French influence. The folk dance means “assortment,” where the costados perform in different quadrille formations led by the cabeceras.

14. Pantomina

Pantomina sa Tinampo photo via DOT
Pantomina sa Tinampo photo via DOT

Pantomina is a traditional courtship dance performed by newlyweds during wedding feasts in Bicol. Wedding guests customarily throw coins or place cash on a plate placed on the ground as the couple dance. The regional folk dance mimics the dance of the doves using courting movements. It was first featured by Francisca Reyes-Aquino, the Mother of Philippine Dancing, in her research in 1926.

15. Binasuan

Binasuan Folk Dance photo via
Binasuan Folk Dance photo via

Binasuan is a folk dance from Pangasinan where the dancers balance drinking glasses on their heads and hands, similar to Pandanggo sa Ilaw. Binasuan is among the most challenging Philippine folk dances because the drinking glasses are filled with rice wine. The dance is typically performed at weddings and festivals, sometimes as a competition between dancers who can balance the rice wine-filled glasses.

Supporting and promoting Philippine folk dances are crucial to keep their relevance for future generations. These forms of entertainment have deep cultural, historical, and religious roots that reflect the traditions of a region or a country. It’s important to appreciate and recognize these folk dances as it gives the current society a way to look back and learn more about their cultural identity.

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Read: How Villa Escudero Promotes Filipino Culture

Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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