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June 28, 2012

The Philippine Occupational Dance By Larry Gabao

Philippine Occupational Dance
Dr. Larry Gabao

        Characteristically a hardworking group of people, the Filipinos exhibit work and occupation even in their dances. Occupational dances depict the lifestyle and daily work of the people living in various topographies. The fishing villages from north to south of the archipelago developed folk dances depicting their customs in the workplace.

 The Visayans created a dance called the Panulo, which literally means fishing at sea in the night with only the petroleum gas as light This dance offers wholesome enjoyment to the barrio folks of Cadiz, Negros Occidental after an abundant catch during fine weather. Similarly, the An Labasero (fresh fish-vendor) of Catbalogan, Samar depicts the simple fisher folk who, after vending fish, merrily dances on his way home together with his friends and neighbors. 

Like the dance An Labasero, the Rigatones (fish vendor) shows a livelihood dance where a fisherman celebrates his  good sales by dancing and drinking. Salat ti Alat (fish container) also shows a dance after a successful fishing expedition. The people from Zambales also perform this dance. The Mananagat on the other hand, mimics fish catching and gathering. Performed by the Cebuano, this dance pictures men holding their paddles while women scoop water out of the banca. Apart from catching fish, there are also dances while drying fish. Pamulad Isda is the fish-drying dance of Negros done during summer when fish abound.

        Far north of the Philippine is Kin-naras a dance from Cabugao, Ilocos Sur depicting the various ways of catching fish. It is a graceful dance, allowing the dancers to display their skills in trapping and catching fish with their bare hands. In Tawi-tawi, the southern part of the Philippines, is an occupational dance called Tauti (catfish) which vividly portrays the difficulty of catching the tauti.

        In an agricultural country like the Philippines, the ricefield is practically the everyday-life space for many Filipinos. The occupational dance called Buhay sa Bukid (Life on the Farm) features working in the ricefield. Pagtatanim (rice planting) displays the tedious work of bending the body and stooping forward for almost the entire day while planting rice. To ease the burden of work they sing, play and jest to the accompaniment of a guitar. Paggapas (harvesting) is danced when the palay (rice) is ready for harvest. Paggi-ik (threshing) is also a dance done by treading the harvested palay to separate the grain from the stalks, or sometimes by striking them against bamboo poles. Paghuhugas in the province of Laguna is a similar dance activity portraying the swinging and striking of rice stalks with musical accompaniment. Pahangin (winnowing) is the women's role of separating the unhusked grain from the chaff by tossing them atop an elevated construction to be blown by the wind. The most exciting of all these planting activities is the Bayuhan (pounding rice) where all barrio folks gather to celebrate and taste the fresh grain. The occasion is usually done during full moon when the moonlight can witness the pounding, dancing, singing, eating and merrymaking. This merriment  is customarily done specifically in the central plain of Bulacan province.  From these festivities, other dance types also evolved the Katlob, that pictures men courting ladies while harvesting. Balangbang from Pangasinan portrays a dance after a series of planting and harvesting activities for relaxation and fun.

        The Tiruray of Cotabato highlight their hard work in a dance named Mag-asik (sowing seeds). The B'laans meanwhile have the Maral which is a series of dances depicting the stages in upland rice planting. It starts from the mabah, the farmer's search for the kaingin (swidden) area; the almigo or clearing of the forest; the amla or the planting stage which ends with the kamto, the harvest by women. Upland rice planting is also the subject of a Manobo dance named Talapak. The talapak is a unique planting stick used to dig a hole where the grain or seeds are placed.

        Other economic-based activities of the people is performed by a dance called Mananguete (coconut wine maker). Here, the dancer starts with sharpening the sangot (scythe) followed by cleaning the Kawit (bamboo container) and then climbing the coconut tree. Afterwards, there is the extraction of the sap, squeezing and straining the sap and finally tasting the tuba or toddy.

        The Pinuhag is an occupational dance of Bicol province demonstrating the gathering of honey from hives, closely akin to the Aeta dance called Pulot Panilan performed by a honey collector. Pabirik is a dance activity of the Bicolano imitating the movement of gold panners.
        The Ilocano of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, noted for wearing fine cotton cloth called Abel perform a dance called Binatbatan. This depicts the beating of cotton pods to separate the seeds from the fibers with the use of two sticks called batbat. The dancers jump and hop outside and between parallel sticks on the floor in time with the song and music. The stick beaters interchangeably perform with the dancers and vice-versa. The musical accompaniment follows the fast or slow beating of the stick beaters.

        In the coconut-rich province of Laguna in the Southern Luzon region abounds the latik (coconut residue). This inspired the barrio folks to dance the Maglalatik. After the huskers finish their work, they drink and have fun by using the coconut shells attached to the various parts of their body as percussive instruments. The Tanobong named after a kind of long coarse grass in Pangasinan, depicts the different steps in making brooms.
        From among the tribal groups of the Cordillera mountains working is fun and happiness is reflected in the dance called Ragragsakan literally means happy, is a work-dance of the Kalinga women as they carry baskets on their heads skillfully balancing them while traversing the narrow trail to the river. In the same light, the Ibaloi performs their dance Bendian or Bendean where baskets are carried on the back of women dancers filled with working stuff and sometimes food for the family after the day's work in the mountains.

        The Filipinos by nature love to dance and work at the same time, and these are truly reflected in their occupational dances.

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About the Author:
Larry Gabao earned his doctorate in Educational Management at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He is the president of the Philippine Folk Dance Society, Cultural Center of the Philippines and chairs the Physical Education Department of the Philippine Normal University.


  1. hello po madam/sir pwede po ba ako maka hingi ng music ng pamulad isda? i need it po kasi salamat po God bless po and More Power


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