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Best Pandangggo sa Ilaw Folk Dance - in Choral Music Version [Oasiwas Dance]

Pandanggo Sa Ilaw – A Traditional Philippine Folk Dance / PANDANGO SA ILAW – is a Philippine Folk Dance that was derived from the “Fandango”, a Spanish Folk Dance.

There is no one version of the Pandanggo sa Ilaw. Each locality has its own version of the dance. The dance is performed with three oil lamps that a dancer has to balance. One on the head and one on the back of each hand. Two of the most popular versions of the dance would be from Mindoro and Oasioas. Also, the Philippine Folk dance, “Cariñosa”, has Pandangga as its base dance.

Pandanggo is a Philippine folk dance which has become popular in the rural areas of the Philippines. The dance evolved from Fandango, a Spanish folk dance, which arrived in the Philippines during the Hispanic period. The dance is accompanied by castanets. This dance, together with the Jota, became popular among the illustrados or the upper class and later adapted among the local communities. In the early 18th century, any dance that is considered jovial and lively was called Pandanggo.

Pandanggo sa Ilaw is a waltz-style, playful folk dance that exhibits a distinctive fusion of local and western indigenous dance types. Pandanggo sa Ilaw simulates fireflies at dusk or dawn light and flight. It portrays a young man’s courtship to a maiden who caught his interest. In Oriental Mindoro, this festival is called the’ Pandang Gitab’ or the’ Festival of Lights’ with the dance at the middle of everything. After the now renowned folk dance called the’ pandanggo sa ilaw’ and the’ dagitab’ or the flicker of light, this festival was invented and created.

Pandanggo sa Ilaw lyrics (Filipino Folk Songs)

Nang pista sa nayon

Nagsayaw ka hirang

Napakagandang pagmasdan

Ang maliliit mong hakbang

At ang tatlong basong

May taglay na ilaw

Ay tinimbang mong lahat

Sa ulo't sa mga kamay

Ngunit 'di mo alam

Na minamasdan kita

At nabihag mo ako

Sa iyong pandanggong kay sigla

Magbuhat na noon

Ay inaalala ka

Dahil sa walang lakas

Ang puso kong limutin ka

Sa pandanggo mo'y

Hanga ang lahat

Tangan mong mga ilawan

Ni isa'y walang lumagpak

Puso kong ito

Nais ko liyag

Ay ingatan mo na rin

Pagka't ikaw ang may hawak.

What is Pandanggo Folk Dance?

Pandanggo sa ilaw, Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company
Pandanggo sa ilaw, Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company (Photo from Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

Descended from the Spanish fandango, the pandanggo is a dance in 3/4 or 6/8 time. It supposedly means “go and dance,” and is considered the base of all Spanish dances. It is one of the most traditional of the Zapotec dances which reached Europe in the 17th century as the Reinos de las Indias of the American Indians. 

It has turned up in many variations as the malagueña, rondina, grandina, and muricana. It could also have come from the Arab and Egyptian ghawazees (dancing girls) and could have been used later both for religious devotion and sexual flirtation. The Spanish fandango is danced to castanets, guitars, tambourines, and alternately, to verses of love or coplas.

Brought to the islands during the Spanish colonial period, the fandango was indigenized into the local pandanggo, which is variously called pandangyado, pandanguedo, pangdangiodo, pandanguiado, pandangguhan, and pandang-pandang. It has been danced with various properties: sa ilaw (with light) in Mindoro, sa sambalilo (with hat) in Bulacan, sa plato (on a plate) in Laguna, sa tapis (with overskirt) in Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan, and sa bulig (with mudfish) in Bulacan again, involving skill as much as grace.

There are several regional or local variations: pandanguido buraweño in Samar, pandangiodo sorsogueño in Bicol, dumagueteño in Negros Oriental, laoaggueña and vintarina in Ilocos, ivatan in Batanes, pandanggo in Camiling and Moncada, Tarlac, sarrateño in Ilocos Norte, San Narciso in Quezon, Leyte, and Davao.

There is even a Talaingod pandangguhan which tells of a legendary charismatic leader named Emboyag. After bathing in a river, he danced the pandangguhan. After that, he ceremoniously left, saying that he had given the people the dance as a heritage. The sayaw sa obando has an accompanying song that says the dance is a pandanggo. It is danced for fertility, to find a wife or husband, or to seek a good harvest. It honors three saints—Santa Clara, Nuestra Señora de Salambao, and San Pascual Bailon.

The pandanggo, however, is predominantly a courtship dance as exemplified by the pandang-pandang, an Antique wedding dance where gifts, including money, are showered on the bridal couple. It exhibits the dexterity of the man, who claps beneath his raised knee or strikes his sides with flourish. The pandanggo ivatan from Batanes is held in the groom’s home. Gifts or gala are also given, from the groom to his bride and from the guests to the couple. The guests are offered drinks in return.

North to south, the pandanggo is costumed: from the maria clara (native gown) in the pandangyado that is only danced amenudo or by a couple in Samar, to the balintawak of the Ilocano and Tagalog, and the patadyong of the Bicolano and Visayan. Many versions have sway balances, waltz steps, and turns, and the kumintang in common. Many of the steps involve pursuing (in all directions), changing of places (some in quadrille style), and circling each other.

There is a display of coyness or invitation, applauding each other, and luring—with a hat, in the Tarlac and Leyte pandanggo, and pandanggo sa sambalilo; a kerchief, in the Samar pandangyado; a fan, in the Leyte pandanguiado buraweño; or a glass of wine, in the Quezon abaruray. With its attractive lights called tinghoy, the pandanggo sa ilaw from Mindoro, most possibly symbolical or occupational in origin, is the most theatrical and popular of all the pandanggo today.

The pandanggo has been featured by folk dance companies like the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, whose pandanggo sa ilaw has always been a showstopper. Contemporary choreographers have also used the pandanggo for their works, as Basilio did in Tropical Tapestry in 1978. 

Pandanggo sa Ilaw Music

The Philippine pandanggo is a dance in moderately fast triple time adapted from the Spanish fandango. It was already popular in the Philippines before the 1850s. The people, especially the elite in Manila, were fond of holding bailes (dances) in connection with life-cycle events like birth anniversaries, weddings, and baptisms, and other important occasions, like the arrival of the galleons. Writing in 1844, Lafond, a French writer, mentioned that the Spaniards did very little dancing but paid local dancers to dance the fandango, bolero, and cachucha, which all share a common feature: triple time.

Couple performing the pandanggo sa paño in Tanauan, Leyte
Couple performing the pandanggo sa paño in Tanauan, Leyte, 1963 (Photo from Francisca Reyes-Aquino Collection)

The fandango, along with the other aforementioned dances, was popular in the country from the late 18th to the first half of the 19th century, as suggested by the many versions of the dance found across the country, even in remote areas like the riverine Agusan Valley where the Manobo had already incorporated the dance rhythm pinandanggo into their traditional dance repertoire.

In Mindoro, the pandanggo is called pandanggo sa ilaw (Fandango of Light) because it is said to represent fishermen’s families guiding back fishermen to the shore in candlelight. In this type of pandanggo, dancers have oil lamps or small glasses with candlelight placed on each of their hands, which they later transfer to their heads. Despite the difficulty required in balancing the glass on the dancers’ heads, it has remained a favorite among dance troupes. Antonino Buenaventura composed an original music for this specific dance, which was printed along with the dance patterns in the public school textbook Philippine National Dances, 1946, edited by Francisca Reyes Tolentino.

The subject of fishing that the Mindoro pandanggo represents is similar to the pandanggo oasiwas from Pangasinan, which cultivated the tradition of fishermen drinking wine and dancing after a good catch. The word oasiwas in Pangasinan means swinging, and this refers to the dancers swinging oil lamps, loosely enclosed in scarves knotted at the ends, with their hands. In 1995, the University of the Philippines (UP) Concert Chorus staged a pandanggo oasiwas as part of a choral arrangement of “Hatinggabi” in the group’s restaging of Antonio Molina’s sarsuwela Ana Maria at the UP Abelardo Hall Auditorium.

Regional variations of the pandanggo include the pandanggo Ivatan of Batanes, pandanggo arikenken of Ilocos, sayaw sa Obando of Bulacan, pandanggo rinconada of Camarines Sur, pandanggo sa paño of Leyte, and pandanguiado buraweño of Samar and Leyte.

Despite these differences, most versions have an introduction and the saludo. All versions share melodies that are characterized by conjunct pitch contour and movement. In a dance music version transcribed in Manuel Merino Walls’s La Musica Popular de Filipinas, 1892, Walls’s music accompanied an amorous couple from an unknown place dancing, using a salacot. The music had two sections repeated. Other pandanggo versions could have as much as seven sections. The music is played faster after each repetition, the meter sometimes shifting from 3/4 to 2/4. This hemiola effect is probably what makes the pandanggo rhythm distinctive. One can see this in Diego Perez’s piano medley, Recuerdos de Filipinas (Memories of the Philippines), 1886, in which the primary triple rhythm of the left hand is displaced by the two-beat groupings on the right. The influence of this piano piece can be seen in later arrangements by Jose Estella and Restie Umali.

Diego Perez’s pandangguhan, from Recuerdos de Filipinas, 1886
Diego Perez’s pandangguhan, from Recuerdos de Filipinas, 1886

The pandanggo music is used for songs as well. In the Tagalog region, there is a form of entertainment called pandangguhan, which is performed during Lent. In this sung pandanggo, singers exchange verses among themselves using popular tunes, outdoing each other in their knowledge of the pasyon and the Bible. Clearly, in such mixing one sees the indigenous tradition duplo and karagatan being merged with the already acculturated form of pandanggo.

Pandanggo is also used, again perhaps with different tunes, during weddings when the elders advise the newlyweds. Singers are called pandanggeros and pandanggeras, and they sing and dance in slow sway-balance steps. The term also refers to a type of song used to entertain the workers in the rice field.

The piano instrumental accompaniment for the folk dance “Pandanggo sa Ilaw” from Mindoro Island was composed by Antonino R. Buenaventura. The piece appeared in Francisca Reyes-Tolentino’s publication Philippine National Dances, 1946. It is not certain whether Buenaventura “notated” the melody that he got from a culture bearer of this dance from Mindoro, or if he “composed” this in the style of the folk in collaboration with Reyes-Tolentino. Buenaventura, together with Francisco Santiago, H. Otley Beyer, Cecilio Lopez, Antonio Molina, and Ramon P. Tolentino Jr. They were part of a team commissioned to document Philippine folk dances and songs by then University of the Philippines president Jorge Bocobo from 1934 to 1938 (Salamanca 1985, 214).

The dance is in triple time and is in three parts ABC, each of which is sixteen measures in length and is repeated. In sections A and B, the key is in G minor, but this shifts to parallel major in G in the third.


A three-part ternary work, it grew in popularity, especially after the new lyrics by Celerio and the spirited rendition of Rufina Esperancilla in the 1961 Tawag ng Tanghalan (Call of the Stage) song competition avidly followed by a large audience on television.

In 1969, Restie Umali arranged a choral concert version of this piece for soprano, alto, and bass, which was used in the 1964 Sampaguita film Sa Libis ng Baryo (At the Edge of the Barrio). Its opening lyrics set to balitaw rhythm run:

Manunugtog ay nangagpasimula

at nangagsayaw na ang mga mutya

Sa mga padyak parang magigiba

ang bawat tapakan ng mga bakya.

(The musicians started playing

and the beautiful ladies began to dance

The stamping of their feet could crash

everything their wooden clogs stepped on.)

The second part features a slow harana-like section in triple time. The third section, employing the fandango rhythm, is in a driving triple meter that builds excitement by alternating the tonic and dominant chords to an accelerating tempo. The final section returns to the initial pandanggo melody and a rousing finale.

As folk dance music material, earlier arrangements of the pandangguhan are found in Diego C. Perez’s 1886 piano medley Recuerdos de Filipinas (Memories of the Philippines) and Jose A. Estella’s suite Philippine Panoramas, circa 1920s. The song has also been included in records cut by Sylvia La Torre and Pilita Corrales, among others.


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