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Music of the Lowland Folk Villages

The Way of the Fiesta

The music of the so-called Hispanized lowland Christian, and village peoples of Luzon, Visayas, Mindoro, and Palawan.

Their culture is essentially Southeast Asian, fused with a strong animistic core, though with elements of Latin culture (Mexican, Italian or Hispanic).

The lowland folk are composed mostly of farmers, fishermen, artisans, vendors and traders, and common folk. They have a deep faith in God, whom they serve with utmost devotion. Their key celebration is the fiesta, which revolves around the Sto. Niño, Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ or a patron saint.

The devotional orientation of the lowland folk is a valuable resource for creative yet painstaking and repetitive tasks that require great patience like weaving, embroidery, carving, and metalwork. Their music is often referred to as folk music (ex. pasyon, balitaw, daigon).

Some notable examples of Filipino folk music are: Putungan_, a Marinduque traditional ritual for welcoming important guests; _Pamulinawen, a favorite Ilocano song in polka form about a hardhearted woman’s deafness to a lover’s supplications: an Ilonggo-Kiniray-a song medley; and Rosas Pandan, a Cebuano balitaw which celebrates the beauty and charm of a village maiden.

Though belonging to the same subculture, we may observe carefully the intriguing contrasts between the expressive forms of the Ilocano and the Visayan, as manifested in their folk music and dances. Whereas the Ilocanos like their music notes close to each other, Visayan music notes are quite far apart. While Ilocanos love closed, inward movement, the Visayans cherish open, outward movement, as seen in the hand and arm gestures of the dances. Given a dance space, the Ilocanos hardly move away from a center, while the Visayans move around very freely. The Ilocanos’ way of peeling fruits is usually directed towards the body, while the Visayan way is directed away from the body. These opposing styles could be indicative of the contrasting temperament and values of the Ilocanos and the Visayan – the Ilocanos being more reserved while the Visayans more exuberant. Historian Teodoro Agoncillo astutely noted that while Ilocanos are gifted towards survival, Visayans have a penchance for celebrations.