The history of Philippine Music prior to
1898 encompasses two main streams of music: the indigenous and the Spanish
Indigenous music is
that practiced by the ethnic groups found mostly in the highlands of Luzon
and Mindanao as well as in scattered areas in Mindoro, Palawan, Sulu, and
the Visayan islands. These include various vocal and instrumental genres. No
written documents about this prior to 1521 are available. However, some
mention of music was included in subsequent reports found in church and
government archives. These sporadic descriptions tally with those made in
succeeding travelogues and anthropological studies which appeared in the 18th
and 19th centuries. Much of this music is still practiced today
among indigenous groups of people.
those made of bamboo/wood and metal (iron,bronze). The former antedates the
gongs. They consist of bamboo flutes, zithers, clappers, buzzers, stamping
tubes, xylophones and stopped pipes; lutes, drums, and jew's harps.
End blown bamboo
flutes are widespread throughout the Philippines. Most numerous are the lip
valley notch flutes so called because of the mouthpiece which is obliquely
cut and curved at a slant to follow the contour of the player's lips. The
nose flute is found mostly among the Cordillera highlanders. It is found
sporadically in some areas in the south among the Hanunuo, Batak, and
Bukidnon. The Cuyunin of Palawan have large nose flutes with tubes much
bigger in diameter than those found in Luzon. Less common flutes are the
ring type and the reed type found in the southern Philippines.
tube zithers are found in the Cordilleras, in Mindanao, and Palawan. The
strings, etched out of the bamboo body run around the entire tube and number
anywhere from 5 to 11. Another type of tube zither found in northern Luzon,
Mindoro, Mindanao, and Palawan has two strings etched from the tube and set
about 5 cm. apart.
hangar is a bamboo clapper used in ritual ceremonies.
Buzzers are found among the Kalinga, Ifugao, Ibaloi, and Tingguian. The
stamping tube consisting of a bamboo tube closed on one end with a node, is
found only in northern Philippines.
Bamboo xylophones with
blades ranging in number from 3 to 22 are found among the Yakan, Sama,
Tausug, and Palawan. Single xylophone blades called patatag are found among
the Kalinga. Stopped pipes consisting bamboo pipes closed on one end with a
node with the open end held against the lower lip are played by the Kalinga
and Bontok either singly or in sets of graduated pipes numbering from 3 to 6
Fretted lutes of the
long neck variety with two strings, one acting as the drone and the other as
the melody, are found only in the south- in Mindanao and Palawan.
Single and double
headed drums are found throughout the archipelago. They are usually combined
with other instruments to form different types ensembles. Indigenous vocal
genres include epic singing; songs connected with life cycle events- birth,
lullabies, courtship, marriage, and death; occupational songs; and ritual
songs. Writing in 1604, Chirino described songs handed down through
generations and sung from memory while sailing or tilling the fields, while
rejoicing and feasting, and for mourning the dead. They also sung their
fabulous genealogies and recounted the deeds of their gods. Subsequent
documents and studies mention lullabies with specific names such as the
Leann pandayroy, the Bilaan yadadang,
the Bukidnon paglibay sa bata, the Dumagat
bendolin, the Ibaloi tami,
the Ilonggot emaga, the Kalinga owiwi,
the Maguindanao sangel, the Manobo
panlibay, and the Maranao bomboman. Most numerous are various
life cycle songs related to courtship, marriage, and death. Occupational
songs sung in connection with farming, fishing, or doing simple chores
include harvest songs, planting songs, thanksgiving songs, hunting songs,
and fishing songs. There are no generic terms for these songs which are
given specific names by the different tribes.
Spanish Influenced Music
The Spaniards came in
1521 and for the next three centuries infused a new musical thinking which
was reflected in the para-liturgical and secular genres of music which
The arrival of the
different religious orders dispersed throughout the islands resulted in the
establishment of schools in convents and churches where young boys were
taught the liturgy and its accompanying music- canto Ilano
(Gregorian Chant) and canto d'organo (polyphony). One such school
was that under Fray Juan de Santa Maria in Lumbang, Laguna established in
1606 where 400 young boys from adjoining towns were taught solfege,
Gregorian chant ,and polyphony. After their training, they returned to their
respective towns and taught others what they had learned. It is not
surprising therefore that documents written barely 50 years later speak of
the abundance of skillful singers in towns comparable to choirs in Spain.
Writing in 1676, Fray Sta. Ines commented: "Already all Dane, play
instruments and sing in our manner, and use all the instruments of the
Spaniards, and they sing in a way that we do not have any advantage over
them.....musical compositions here can compete with that in some of the
cathedrals in Spain."
Before long, native
rituals showed a syncretization of indigenous and Christian practices. Old
mystical rites seeking favors, asking for cures, or expressing thanksgiving
for good fortune invoke God, Mary, the saints, as well as pagan gods, the
good and evil spirits. In Cavite such a ritual is the sanghiyang,
while in Bataan a similar ritual is the kagong.
The welding of folk
traditions and practices into Catholic rituals and celebrations continued.
This gave rise to many extra-liturgical music genres, many of which were
connected to the church calendar year. Some of these include the Christmas
carols and the more elaborate outdoor-re-enactment of the Holy Couple's
search for lodging called the pananawagan, panunuluyan, or
In Lent, the custom of
chanting the passion of Jesus is widespread among the lowland Christians.
The narrative on the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ, called the
pasyon, appears in almost all major Philippine
languages. It is sung in homes, village, chapels, or even in outdoor
makeshift sheds erected for the purpose. A more extensive and complicated
rendition of the life and passion of Christ takes place outdoors. The
passion plays are called senaculo. Versions of
this passion play exist in all major Philippine languages. A special Holy
Week outdoor spectacle takes place in Marinduque called the
moriones, the street drama portrays Roman centurions centered
around the legendary one-eyed Longinus whose eyesight was restored at the
crucifixion when a drop of Jesus blood fell on his eye. At Easter, the
salubong takes place in the church plazas re-enacting
the Virgin Mary's meeting with her newly risen Son at which all church bells
ring, announcing the end of the Lenten season.
The months of April
and May feature celebrations to honor Mary and also to honor various patron
saints of villages and towns. Processions of saints are accompanied by the
town bands. Devotion to Mary include the outdoor santacruzan
and the flores de mayo. Other similar type of
celebrations are the pamukaw and the
A European type of
secular music became more pronounced by the 1800's among the ilustrados or
urban elite class who became admirers of European music performed by
Filipinos and visiting artists, organized art societies, patronized operas,
or played host to private evening get-together where poetry and music were
Aside from the
numerous bands that performed at the Luneta, the Plaza Mayor, and the
Calzada, there arose other instrumental ensembles. The rondalla,
a plucked string band, was patterned after the Spanish and Mexican
estudiantinas and murzas. They were used to accompany dances adapted from
western forms called pandanggo, jota,
habanera, danza, polka,
mazurka, valse, and rigodon.
In the last five
decades of Spanish rule, a splendid Europeanized life was mirrored in major
towns and cities of Luzon and the Visayas, particularly in Manila.