Stories, essays, readings, facts and trivia on Philippine music and the local music industry

Songs for the dead

Every year, Filipinos gather with their families to pay respect to their departed loved ones. As with the other stages of life, death is traditionally commemorated through customs and rituals that usually involve music.

Some Filipino ethnic groups have particular songs for the dead. The Bontoc have didiyaw, a song that conveys grief and prays for the afterlife of a child, and fulayao, which recalls the good deeds of the departed. The Kalinga have dassar, which is sung before the burial of a murdered person and seeks justice for the victim.

In Mindanao, the Manobo have dalinday, tud-um, and diaga as songs of mourning. The tamandag is sung at the funeral in the presence of a baylan to avoid attracting evil spirits. The bahay-bahay of the Subanon is sung on a death anniversary.

In recent times, popular love songs are being sung or played during funerals as people say goodbye to their departed. Perhaps the most popular is Hindi Kita Malilimutan popularized by Basil Valdez and composed by Manoling Francisco, SJ in 1979, with lyrics based on the Book of Isaiah from the Old Testament.


Tiongson, N. (Ed.) (1994). CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, vol. 6: Philippine Music. Manila : Cultural Center of the Philippines.


Tinguian funeral circa 1850
(From the Retrato collection)