Martial dances pertain to war, combat, or duel
movements common to dances for men. In the context of Philippine dance,
these dances symbolize manhood. It can mean community acceptance in the
council of warriors as practiced in the Mangayaw
of the Bontoc - an ethnic group in the Cordillera Region of Northern Luzon. The
Mangayaw is a a pre-headhunting ritual performed
by adult villagers where new warriors are presented to the council.
The combat dances of the Bontoc, Ifugao and the Kalinga in the Cordillera
Region commonly represent the distinct bravery of their people.
Kayaw is a headhunting expedition of the Kalinga performed in
a ritual called Idaw. The ritual shows a bird of
omen in which warriors observe insects entering in an offered plate, that
will later indicate the number of heads to be taken, upon a consultation
with a ritual practitioner called a Mandadawak. The Ifugao
Monhim-ong ritual is a dance-like activity after a violent
death of a member of a community. The men move in a single file rhythmically
beating instruments called bangibang. The Kalinga also celebrate
victory through dancing. They perform the Takiling
after a successful headhunting expedition of the Mingao or the
crowned heroes. Dressed with colorful lawi or rooster feathers on
their head and accompanied by the beating of the ganza (gong), this
dance is performed by the Bodans. Another northern tribal group,
the Bontocs also depict their people's unique character through dancing. The
Bontocs' Pattong exhibits a mock combat dance
where performers brandish head axes and spears together with the clashing of
shields. A bigger crowd dancing the Balangbang also shows a duel or
combat of two warriors who later joins them. In this dance, the hide and
seek movements which follow the rhythm of the ganza (gong) dramatize the
killing. The dancing crowd shields the warriors from clashing with each
other. A closed dance formation represents the shielding and an open dance
formation depicts the duel or fight scene.
The most common among Philippine martial dances exhibit the use of
equipment or hand props with varied weapons such as head ax, spear, bow and
arrow, shields, bolo, kris and knives. In today's dancing, these weapons are
considered already part of the dance as hand or body properties are.
The proximity of Philippine shore to the Malay Peninsula accounts
for Malay influences in the martial dances particularly, those found in the
islands of Jolo, Sulu, the southern most tip of the archipelago.
Langka, the term use to mean dance , has many types:
Lanka-Silat, Langka-Pansak, Langka-Lima and Langka Budyang.
Langka Silat is a dance simulation of a fight in
graceful and flowing arm movement. This is almost the same as the
Burong Talo, which is an imitative dance of the fight
between the cat and the eagle in flight. Also, of the langka tradition is
the Langka-Pansak - a variation of slow-paced
movements punctuated by a momentary pause at the end of every stance
sometimes emphasized by the use of pis (over-sized handkerchief).
Langka-Lima, on the other hand, provides a combat
variation featuring five defense positions. There is also the
Langka-Budyang, the only martial dance variation performed by
women in graceful leaps and kicks characterized by feminine arm thrusts and
the use of a fan. The semblance between and among these martial dances is
closely compared to other Asian martial arts movements related to the
Chinese Taichi and Kung-fu. In fact, the
Langka-Silat is similar to an ancient Sumatran martial art
called bersilat of the Malakan Sultanate.
Down south, the Maguindanao display an intricate gesture and combat movement
in a dance called Sagayan-silat. Performed by a
very fierce warrior carrying a shield and a kris, the dance involves
leaping, turning, jumping, kicking and the rolling movements of a warrior
ready to defend his master in battle. On most occasions, this dance is
performed before any celebration or gathering to drive away evil spirits and
to welcome good fortunes or omen. The Manobo of Agusan del Sur and del Norte
pride themselves in the dance called Binanog.
Here, the warrior mimics a combat movement trying to fight the Banog (big
eagle) in defense of a troubled hen and her chicks ending a heroic display
of killing the Banog. The Mandaya perform the Saot
using kasan (spear) with the beating of gimbal
(drum) and agong (big gong). The Subanon of Zamboanga del Norte
perform a combat-like gesture or movement in a dance called
Sohten, a generic name for all male dances of the Subanon. The
warriors carry on their hands a cut of dried and crisp palm leaves and a
decorative shield with tinkling bells believed to have the best sound to
please their gods. Choreographed fighting also inspired the Filipinos to
develop a dance called Sabong where dancers
imitate the movement of the fighting roosters.
These martial dances show Filipino bravery and a distinct cultural
tradition marked by warriors ready to defend their community or to avenge the
death of their members. As such dancing indeed becomes a form of
expression mirroring clearly the soul of each ethnic group, of the nation.