Top Adsense

Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival and the Celebration of Guling-Guling [Ilocano Dance Heritage and Performing Arts]

Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival and the celebration of Guling-Guling 2021 [Ilocos Norte Tourism]



#INDances #IMove

We continue to celebrate our “Tan-ok” month with a showcase of Ilocano folk dances! Using researches by foremost Filipino dance scholars and experts as references, our choreographers, dancers, and costume designers have interpreted 10 extraordinary examples of dances in Ilocos Norte for a modern audience. This online show coincides with the celebration of Guling-Guling, an ancient tradition in the historic town of Paoay.


The Ilocano Dance Heritage Guling-Guling 2021

(A program under Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival)

Let us celebrate Ilocano Dance Heritage in this special virtual staging of Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival and the celebration of Guling-Guling 2021. Tune in on this page for a delightful showcase of folk dances of the Ilocano people directed by Randy Leano and filmed in the most scenic and historic sites in Ilocos Norte. 


by EJ Deus

Living Movements, Moving Lives

Our forms of dances are stylistic interpretations of our cultural knowledge. As repositories of ritual symbols, these represent the dynamism of the meaning

conception by our people which strengthens the dances’ socially integrative function. Distinctively, Ilocos Norte’s folk dances are fuselage of infinite cultural elements that constitute the vast and dynamic social, political, economic, artistic, and religious landscapes of Ilocandia. Iti agliplipias a tallaong iti daytoy naisangsangayan a parambak, mangted panangipateg iti kinaasinnotayo nga Ilokano – nasiglat, nasudi, natan-ok!


The ability of movements to stand as dominant ritual symbols is the result of interspersed social processes involving ideological, sensory factors, and cultural events. The discursive formations of kinetic impact, visual images, local narratives, and the ability of movements to mark and communicate identity and capture the nature of the cognitive and concrete phenomenon, are all within the experience of the dancer-the carrier of culture.


Based on Philippine Folk Dances and Songs by Bureau of Public Schools

Filmed at Margaay, Vintar

Ilocana A Nasudi means “The Lovely Ilocana.” This dance is a favorite of the people of Dingras. Originally, this dance was accompanied by a kutibeng, a five-stringed instrument, and as was practiced by the settlers of Barrio Naglayaan, Dingras. The dance is a depiction of the beauty, modesty, and grace of the Ilokana. Moreover, it projects our women as chaste and virtuous. Before, many younger dancers performed this to the Italian folk tune,

Marianina. However, an inquiry from the old people brought out the Ling- lingay, a simple folk tune that could be used to accompany this dance instead of the foreign folk melody. In the course of time, the dance has brought out the qualities of a modern Ilokana known for industry, resilience, and love of work. These are qualities further highlighted by the endless network of “nurturing” communities, ready to help and build up one another and be our strength in aiming for progress and redefining the province.


Based on Philippine Folk Dances Volume VI by Francisca Reyes Aquino

Filmed at Malacanang of the North

Ti Surtido Banna ket maysa a sala a naputar para iti ili ti Banna. Idi un-unana nga aldaw, ti Banna ket indauluan ti maingel ken natured a pangulo nga agnagan ti Chief Bana. Agdindinamag idi ti kinaprogreso daytoy a lugar kadagiti kabangibang nga ili. Maigapo kadaytoy, immay dagiti kaasideg nga umili iti Banna ket isuda ti nangpapintas pay ti kababalin a nadanonda bayat ti intugotda a kannawidan ken kanta. Surtido: kayat na a saw-en, naduma- duma a garaw iti sala, tukar ken kumpas.

Surtido Banna is a dance, which is usually performed during fiestas, manifesting thrift as a trait of our people. It originated in Espiritu, the old name of Banna. It is a variation of the waltz, characterized by variations in tempo. It was first performed in 1970 at the Malacanang Palace during the birthday of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. The beauty of the dance lies in the range of steps and cadence. As time goes by, the dance has been performed by our people who dream and work together for a common goal—to bring peace and progress in our province through constant cooperation and unconditional sharing of skills and resources.

Surtido Folk Dance

Surtido means “assortment” and refers to dances which are an assembly of steps generic to a region or from the different regions of the Philippines. The surtido becomes interesting because of the unpredictable shift of steps and rhythms. One of these steps is the haplik, a lively 16-measure combination of hops and three-step turns. The combination of typical melodic airs also heightens the attraction of the dance.

The documented surtido dances are from the Ilocos, Bicol, and the Visayas, and combines steps from these and the Tagalog regions. The 10-figure surtido from Bicol has a corresponding 10-part musical accompaniment, and features a unique kiss-throwing sequence. The surtido banna is a festival dance from Espiritu, Ilocos Norte; Banna was Espiritu’s old name. The surtido cebuano from Bantayan, Cebu was originally danced in quadrille formation by a number of pairs referred to as cabeceras (head pairs) and costados (side pairs or “flanks”), and uses a fan as a hand prop. The surtido norte combines the distinct steps and music of the Ilocos region and emphasizes the Ilocano kumintang gesture. The surtido samareño combines eight figures from the well-loved pandanguido, kuratsa, lubi-lubi, lawiswis kawayan, an marol, tinikling, inkoy-inkoy, and dos amigos.

The other documented surtido dances are performed in quadrille formation and are danced in the manner of rigodon de honor. 


Naisalsalumina a puli ni Ilokano. Pagdidinnamagan ti kinagaget, kinasaririt, ken kinasaldetna. Idi un-unana, dagiti dadduma nga appotayo, napanunotda ti mapan agubra diay ballasiw-taaw tapnu agsarak ti gasat, uray kasano’t iliw iti pamilya. Ket kadaytoy a pasamak, intugotda ti kulturatayo iti sabali a pagilian. Uray man pay kasta, ti latta daga a nakaiyanakan ti balitok kadakuada. This has remained true through ages past, with generations of overseas workers and migrants exiting the country and establishing new roots while also supporting and loving their families, their histories, back home. Our people have pioneered success and greatness across the globe. Our forefathers’ cultural resilience has lived on to inspire the modern Ilokano diaspora and to weave an extraordinary legacy for the next generations.


Based on Ilocano Folk Dances by Teresita Pascua Ines and accounts from the Isnag Community of the Carasi

Filmed in Carasi, Ilocos Norte

Talip is a dance from Carasi. It is usually performed by natives during fiestas, weddings, a mourning of the dead, and ceremony after burial. It has been a powerful symbol of harmony and admiration within diverse populations, likewise depicting the devout faith and spiritual values of the people of Carasi, shared to the rest of the Ilokano community. As part of the province’s Indigenous Cultural Community, the townspeople of Carasi place a great value on the preservation and continuous practice of our rich tradition and culture, showcasing tribal rituals that signify our sense of unity, our belief in the spirit protector, and the cosmic connectedness which the people, the wilds, the and galaxies all share. With the men and women in their intricate traditional attire, the dancers shall showcase the old, unspoiled tradition highlighting indigenous songs, games and movements.


Based on Philippine Folk Dances Volume VI by Francisca Reyes Aquino

Filmed at cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Dances are indicative of our traditions and vital agents in the formation of future ideals. Indeed, dances transcend the concept of time. As our historical timeline progresses, these artistic bodily performances, also evolve and show their reflexive characteristics. The Innalisan is a lively festival dance from Laoag. The term innalis means to transfer from one place to another. This dance underscores the concepts of creating relations between the people, the physical environment, the social

landscape, the divine realm, and the artistic perspective. The people of Ilocos Norte take much pride in our togetherness, working for common goals, and strengthening and fortitude of our social network: we are a people who, despite geographical distance, continue to gather in mind and heart to build better lives with and for one another.


Based on Philippine Dances Volume I by Carmen Tabije Andin

Filmed at Piddig Church

The Jota Aragonesa is a complex folk-dance exhibiting numerous individualistic characteristics that result from combining the traditional dance with its appropriate costumes, steps, and accompaniment. It is one of the dances introduced by the Spaniards in the old town of Paoay. The title suggests that it originated in Aragon, Spain. According to old folks, dancers used to perform with castanets on each hand. However, a substitute can be made by the snapping of the thumb and forefinger to produce the sound.

The Jota Aragonesa is in essence a particular form of social interaction. It has been an integral part of a network of local events, our knowledge and belief, and behavior, norms, and values. Among the elderly elite folks of the town, it has always been a pride to be able to perform this dance especially during big social gatherings such as the Two- Year Ball on the eve of January 1st, the Tambora of Christmas Eve, and the Guling-Guling on the eve of the Ash Wednesday.


Dancing is a rhythmic process and is performed at the finest levels of virtuosity; the dancer practices the art of grace, harmony, and precision. Particularly, heritage dances require extensive knowledge and exceptional skills for the bodily movements, through constant study, to become memory- saturated. Thus, dancers serve as repositories of cultural knowledge and formal stylistic interpretation. Their experiences and histories that manifest while performing embody a fragment or totality of an identity.


Philippine Folk Dances Volume III by Francisca Reyes Aquino

Filmed at Solsona-Apayao Road

Kinoton was derived from the Ilocano word koton which means ants. This comic dance from the Ilocos region depicts the movements of a person bitten by ants. In social gatherings where close friends and intimates are in attendance, this dance is performed to make people merry. Usually, a male requested to perform this dance.


Based on Ilocano Folk Dances by Teresita Pascua Ines

Filmed at Dingras Church

Chotis Dingreña is a lively performance from Dingras, Ilocos Norte. It is usually performed during big social gatherings. The dance is very popular among the elite group and used as an intermission dance when the people are already tired dancing the ballroom dances. It is viewed as an indicator of the actual social status and a reverence to the babaknang as an elite social class to further articulate their status. The dance is a manifestation of our class-conscious attitude, thus revealing some of our dominant values and ideologies.


Our dances epitomize the intense passion, creativity, and diversity in the province, as well as our people’s love for celebration. These performances also mark the ingenuity of the Ilokano people, entwined to our value of keenness – a thriving evidence of our rich culture and identity. Our celebration of Ilocos Norte’s heritage dances is likewise a fitting tribute to our kakailian, who, like our performers, bear an equal responsibility of communicating our culture-from our handwoven textiles, costume construction, fabled gustatory, to our collective consciousness.


Philippine Folk Dances Volume VI by Francisca Reyes Aquino

Filmed at La Tabacalera de Currimao and Malacanang of the North

Binatbatan is an occupational dance from Paoay. The dance depicts the beating of cotton pods to separate the seeds from the fibers with the use of two sticks called batbat. To process the raw material used in weaving, ginne cotton was beaten with a pair of sticks sounding a clear and distinct rhythm on a carabao hide to separate fiber strands. The people of Paoay are known for their fabled skill in weaving a heritage cloth called abel. Oftentimes, weavers engage in a contest as to who could finish first and could produce cleaner and more fibers. The celebration of loom-weaving features Ilocos Norte’s mythic woven designs out of raw bright cotton threads. It is not only a manifestation of our people’s industriousness but also our weavers’ artistic consciousness and mastery of cultural knowledge. When weavers wish to have a merrymaking, they sing and use the batbat in a dance. They prance between and out of parallel sticks without stepping on them, showing their expertise, ingenuity, and brilliance. The tempo of the beating and the rhythmic resonance produced by sticks make the dance festive, vibrant, and zestful. Over the years, the Binatbatan has been one of the province’s amalgams, connecting every Ilokano to our cultural roots through our diligence in labor, prolific narratives, and fondness of revelry.


Based on Ilocano Folk Dances by Teresita Pascua Ines

Filmed at Gabut Norte, Badoc

Dinaklisan originated from Currimao, a town where fishing is the chief industry. It is also an Ilocano term with the variety, agdaklis, meaning to fish with the use of a net. It has been a testament to hard work, resilience, and endurance that is espoused by the town’s fisherfolks. Dinaklisan highlights the role of the people of Currimao who inspire the whole community as they altogether defy the law of the seas. Moreover, it sheds light on the natural bounties that the coastal municipality is blessed with, and a time to bond together with the community, thankful not only for material blessings but also for social ties that strengthen the people in times of crisis. Through time, our people have redefined the meaning of panagdaklis- progress and growth, including the vital aspect of environmental preservation and conservation, especially with both livelihood and tourism being dependent on our coast and our ocean. Daytoy ti maysa kadagiti sekreto iti kinaandor dagiti mangngalap iti Currimao. Nu maminsan bassit ti makalapan, ngem nu maminsan aglaplapunusan. Ngem, dumteng man ti dawel, awan iti saanda a malasat.


Based on Tadek: Traditional Dance of the People of Nueva Era by Master’s

Zyrill Ianna Pauline Nolasco Domingo-Pe Benito

Filmed at Madongan Dam, San Marcelino, Dingras

The vigorous Tadek In-daya is an ethnic dance that originated in Ilocos Norte, featuring ceremonial dances portraying death customs, courtship, marriage, and victory; a manifestation of the people of Nueva Era’s efforts to preserve the distinct culture that binds them together in the highlands. It has been performed by the people in the eastern part of Nueva Era on different occasions such as, after burial. It is believed to cause the soul of the dead to rest. Also, it is staged during a wedding where it depicts merry-making for the married couples and entertain visitors. On courtship, a man and a woman perform the dance, swaying their hands and stomping their feet while following the beat of the gong and drum. Moreover, it is performed as a ritual for the healing of illnesses. Over time, it has been a showcase of the indigenous culture and a repository of collective consciousness and heroic narratives. The breath-taking performance of rituals is a fuselage enriching the province’s cultural landscape. Furthermore, it highlights the mutually nurturing relationship between the people of Nueva Era and their environment; giving praise and gratitude to their deities to whom they owe the abundance of their harvest.



The Ilocano Folk Dance Festival is indeed the perfect essence of our greatness. Undeniably, our culture and the arts are powerful instruments in fostering unity in the community and pride in our heritage. As we altogether recover from the effects of the pandemic, this festival has revived the creativity and livelihood of designers, performers, choreographers, and other artists in the province, inspiring and reassuring them that their passion has a place in Ilocos Norte.


The Guling-guling of Paoay is celebrated every March right before the proverbial St. Agustin Church. As part of a sacred tradition, the dance highlights the smearing of the cross on a person’s forehead using wet, white rice flour, as a form of cleansing from sins. This practice was introduced by the Spanish friars which has been celebrated for more than 400 years now. Included in the celebration is the commemoration of the founding of the St. Augustine’s Church which is a living testament of the people of Paoay’s commitment and loyalty to their faith. Hence, in celebration of the Guling-guling, the townsfolk don themselves in the famous abel and dance  their way to the church where they are met by the priest who imprints the sign of the cross or guling on their foreheads. For centuries, it has been marking each time a season of greater faith and devotion among our people to the Almighty God. Today, the Guling-guling inspires us to recommit and truly demonstrate our faith in our lives as we all unite in praying for continuous progress, our rapid recovery, and abundance for all of our kakailian.

The Ilokano Performing Arts

In Bacarra and nearby towns are found the makers of the arpa (harp), which is favored to the guitar by the gentry in Ilocos Norte. The guitar and the violin are also made in some towns of the region. In festive gatherings, a band is usually invited to perform the native airs. The group usually includes a flutist, trumpeter, saxophonist, bass drummer, trombonist, and a cymbalist. When a band is invited to accompany a sarsuwela performance, one or two violinists go along with the group as lead musicians. There are also several rondalla groups in the Ilocos based in public and private schools. The big bands of Pangasinan are often contracted to provide music for the weeklong carnival dance sessions held before and after coronation pageants for the fiesta queen and her court. They also make the rounds in Metro Manila nightclubs, on a contract of six months to a year.

The smaller hometown band members, whose instruments are usually inherited from their fathers, are invited to weddings, religious processions, and funerals. The kutibeng (native guitar) is now a cherished artifact displayed in museums, but the bamboo flute is still heard in the hilly areas of Ilocos, along with the heirloom gongs that accompany the tadek dance in interior towns like Cervantes or San Emilio in Ilocos Sur. Some returning oldtimers from Hawaii and California have brought home a few old accordions and banjos, while all over the Ilocos can be heard transistorized radio sets blaring with pop songs almost nonstop, as well as karaoke sing-along systems brought home by overseas Filipino workers.

As soon as the fruit-laden ramada rises in front of a chapel or before the house of the family designated as hermana mayor of the fiesta, the Ilocano start rehearsing their song-and-dance rituals and such traditional poetic jousts as the arikenken or the more rhetorical bukanegan. The Ilocano feast is often a multipurpose gathering, commemorating the day of the patron saint, a baptism, a housewarming, a bienvenida (welcome party), a wedding, or a class reunion. The delightful customs, folk songs, and delicacies come to the fore with the verbal battle of metaphors and folk wisdom through the bukanegan and the more stylized dallot, which is partly sung and declaimed, on such a feast day.

Among the most renowned Ilocano songs are “No Duduaem Pay” (If You Doubt Yet), an impassioned plaint of endless affection; “Dundungnguenkanto” (I Will Always Care for You), a lullaby that may as well be a love song; “Ti Ayat Ti Maysa nga Ubing” (Love of a Young One), which swings from tenderness to humor in reminding an old man not to fall for a maiden but instead to settle for a widow more tolerant of his white hair and missing teeth. A favorite of the young is “Manang Biday” because of its lively rhythm and puppy love theme. “No Sumken ti Sennaay” (When Longing Sinks In), composed by Claro Caluya of Piddig, Ilocos Norte, has a more mature outlook to love and life and is usually sung during the evening tapat (serenade). There are songs to provide tempo in the work sites, like the “Pamulinawen,” which was actually the rowers’ song in the days when the viray sailed the West Philippine Sea.

The duayya is sung by a parent to rock a baby to sleep. It is typified by this ballad chanted as a lullaby (Azurin 1991, 48-49):

Marba koma diay bantay

Ta magaboran dediay baybay

Bareng makitak pay

Ni manong ko no dipay natay.

Kaasi pay ni manong ko

Ta naayaban nga agsoldado

Napan nagehersisio

Idiay paraangan ti palasio.

(Would that mountain crumble

So as to cover the sea

That I may walk over it

To find my brother if he’s not dead yet.

Pitiful fate befell my brother

Since he was conscripted,

And gone for military drills

At the front yard of the palace.)

“No Duduaem Pay,” a favorite courtship song, is often sung by a man intent on baring his heart during a serenade. The song makes the plea that should the woman still doubt the frenzied depths of his love, she must really be so cruel, for only the grave can still this heartache. So, would she be kind enough to try feeling what he feels?

Opera aficionados are now a rarity in the region, although the baritone Elmo Makil comes from San Emilio. However, the Iluko songs popularized by the sarsuwela Ilocana troupes always come to the fore during the fiesta season. During the Semana Santa, it is the lectio chanting and lamentation based on the sudario that is heard in the plazas and on the radio. While it is mostly the elderly who perform this Lenten dirge in the manner of the traditional dung-aw, there are always teenage chanters ever ready to substitute for the older ones.

A traditional song-and-dance performance infused with poetry revolving around the wedding ceremony is the dallot, a vibrant medium for articulating Ilocano folk beliefs because it gives expression to the social values of the community regarding conjugal relationships, even as it revives the treasury of poetic lines bequeathed by previous generations. Through the dallot performers’ interpolation on their respective positions concerning the mutual obligations of husband and wife, the verbal joust becomes a communal counseling for the newlyweds. The other family members can participate spontaneously, clap in approval of or hiss in disagreement with the arguments presented. Performers accompany their chanting with the characteristic sway-balance of the pandango. Arikenken, on the other hand, is a more casual and hilarious variant of the dallot, which provides the preliminaries to the moment of counseling. However, in certain areas of Ilocos, “dallot” is a generic term for oral narrative poetry interspersed with spellbinding chant and expansive swaying of the hands as the performers catch their breath and trace the continuity of ideas.

In 2010, some members of GUMIL Filipinas formed the group Daniw ken Basi as a means of reviving traditional Ilocano poetry through performance art, though they are not averse to transforming it into modern, even comic, forms. They have performed the elegiac dung-aw and a bukanegan in which three women comically compete for the love of one man. A dallot in which two parties discuss terms of betrothal and wedding details have been performed by Fe Camacho and Mario Tejada. Contemporary forms in the group’s repertoire are the daniw iti parparaangan, narrative poetry about everyday life in Ilocandia; the daniw iti radyo, poetry recited on radio with an instrumental rendition of “Faithful Love” as standard background music; and the danirak, poetry accompanied by rock music (Tabag 2016).

A danirak band called Manong Diego, composed of Ariel Tabag and Mighty Rasing, existed until 2014. Tabag was the band’s composer and lyricist as well as the bassist; Rasing was the singer and guitarist. Manong Diego performed in schools in the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Isabela, occasionally in the capitol of Cagayan, and at events of the GUMIL Filipinas. It jammed with other bands whenever possible. It performed twice at the Conspiracy Bar in Quezon City. But the band held its last performance at an event of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino in 2014 before Rasing left for America (Tabag 2016).

As the Ilocano way of feasting pragmatically unites the old folk and the youngsters, and blends custom with the current scene and styles, some dances considered traditional have evolved through cultural adaptation. This is evident in the favorite dances of the babaknang—pandango, chotis dingresa, duratsa pakoayesa, and la jota laoaguesa —performed in more formal occasions.

Ilocana a Nasudi performed by the Baranggay Folk Dance Troupe of Philippine Normal College
Ilocana a Nasudi performed by the Baranggay Folk Dance Troupe of Philippine Normal College, circa 1965 (Photo courtesy of Ian-James R. Andres)

The Ilocano dances more deeply rooted in the lifeways are manangbiday, a courtship dance centered on a woman’s shy and tender feelings; biniganbigat (every morning) and sileleddaang (in sorrow), both depicting love’s trial and difficulties; Ilocana a nasudi (chaste Ilocana), celebrating the virtuous Ilocana; and the arikenken, performed during weddings and interwoven with the customary verbal joust.

Other folkdances are ingrained in the quest for sustenance, such as the rabong (bamboo shoot), which celebrates this Ilocano delicacy, the dinaklisan (fishing) and the asin (salt). Other “occupational” dances are the agabel (handloom weaving) and the agdamdamili, which depicts the ingenuity and rusticity of the potters’ life. Some of these dances glorify such social traits as persistence, abiding affection, industry, and thrift.

The guling-guling (to mark or smear), said to have started 400 years ago, is a yearly festival of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, held on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is an occasion for unrestrained merrymaking before the Lenten season begins the following day. The people put on their native garments: the women, their abel kimona and pandiling (handwoven blouse and skirt), along with their heirloom jewelry and suitable accessories; the men, the camisa de chino and abel trousers. They dance toward the anawang, “a makeshift oven made from dried sugar cane pulp,” where they partake of dudol, “a native delicacy made from rice flour, coconut milk, sugarcane juice, and anise.” The mayor—the chieftain during the Spanish colonial period—then marks the forehead of each one with the guling. The people break into boisterous street dancing, which is also an act of reconciliation and forgiveness as they dance with townmates with whom they have had conflicts and differences. The dances are traditional forms: the sabunganay, paoayeña, arikenken, kuratsa, amorosa, pandango, and la jota, as well as the occupational dances binatbatan and the agab-abel (“Guling-guling” 2016).

Ilocano jota performed in a street dancing competition
Ilocano jota performed in a street dancing competition (Edison Adzuara)

Since 2000, the Tan-ok Festival has been held yearly in Ilocos Norte’s provincial capital, Laoag City. It is a merging of the dance festivals of the province’s 21 towns and two cities into one grand fest: Laoag City’s Pamulinawen Festival revolves around the rivalry between an Ilocano youth and a Spaniard for the love of a lass named Pamulinawen. Piddig town reenacts the events culminating in the Basi Revolt. Batac City offers the Empanada Festival. Pinili town demonstrates their harvest of garlic in a white-and-gold motif. The fishing town of Currimao demonstrates the use of daklis (fishing net). Badoc town reenacts the arrival of the image of La Virgen Milagrosa, patroness of the province. The Tinguian people are represented by the town of Nueva Era, with the Tadek Festival. The dances are a fusion of traditional and contemporary forms set to the appropriate pop beat and melody (Adriano 2013).

Protodrama in the Ilocos may be traced to the rituals. An example is the ritual of the nakadalapos (bumped), where a white pig is butchered and half of its meat left in the haunted grove during the healing rites. Whiteness here signifies purity of intention, and the fresh meat symbolizes the desire to offer a gift of atonement. All through this process, the healer leads the family of the victim “touched” by the spirits in the woods to a solemn process of prayers requesting the supernaturals to release their hold on the victim’s soul.

Closely related to this process is the belief in naluganan or possession, where the soul of a dead person goes inside the body of a living relative to communicate with the family, either to ask for simple favors like placing on his or her grave a plateful of a favorite dish or a pair of sandals. The Ilocano family usually fulfills these wishes expressed by the dead. A famous case of naluganan was that of a housemaid of the Paredes family in Bangued, Abra by the spirit of a pilot’s son whose plane was shot down in Europe but whose corpse could not be located by the family. In a trance, the maid described the specific site of burial but the voice heard was that of the dead pilot. Members of the family flew to Europe and retrieved the remains from the designated gravemound that they recognized as that of the dead pilot. The traditional “rooster courtship,” the arikenken poetry-and-dance joust between a man and a woman, the dung-aw for a departed kin, as well as for the entombed Christ during the Lenten Lectio, are protodramas, too. Other performing arts during feasts and other social gatherings are the komedya and the sarsuwela Ilocana.

Ilocano komedya with an all-woman cast, Santa Catalina, Ilocos Sur
Ilocano komedya with an all-woman cast, Santa Catalina, Ilocos Sur, 1991 (CCP Collections)

The komedya is staged during fiestas in certain towns of Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte, but not in the capitals since a generation ago. It enjoyed patronage in Ilocos Sur for a few years during the governorship of Carmeling Crisologo, who herself took part in this folk theater characterized by colorful costumes, high-flown rhetorical verse, and stylized dance sequences for battle scenes.

A typical storyline unfolds in the Comedia a Biag ni Atamante (Comedia on the Life of Atamante), published by Imprenta Parayno in Calasiao, Pangasinan. The heir to the throne of the kingdom of Verona, Prince Atamante is yet a boy when King Lodimonte’s queen-to-be, Countess Loandra, has him banished to the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts, so that her own son, Prince Menople, would be the heir apparent. Count Aristipo strongly objects and informs Princess Florinda, the king’s sister, about the conspiracy. He goes in search of the ill-fated Atamante. While Verona’s royalty are mired in intrigues and amorous pursuits, Sultan Palmadin of the Turkish Empire sends his best fighters to spy on Verona’s domain and military defenses. He then sends envoys to demand King Lodimonte’s acceptance of Turkish domination or he would be attacked. Verona’s army and court are routed, and the royal family incarcerated. Count Aristipo and a young fierce villager called Quintillano stage a counterattack and free Verona. Quintillano turns out to be the castaway heir to the throne who has grown up under the care of a shepherd. The story rises to a tragic climax when Quintillano, almost late for the tournament in the Turkish royal grounds, insists on fighting although Prince Menople is about to be declared winner of both the tournament and the hand of Laudamia, the sultan’s daughter. In the battle between Menople and Quintillano, they discover that they are the long-lost brothers and heirs to the Verona throne. Quintillano is anguished not only for having killed his own brother but also by the realization that he is the Prince Atamante whom Menople had been searching for. When Atamante recovers from his grief, he persuades Princess Laudamia to flee with him to Verona. The enraged sultan attacks the kingdom, but his Turkish army is defeated. Their lives are spared on the condition that they submit to Veronian rule and to the Christian faith. Laudamia is baptized, taking the name Emiliana. Sultan Palmadin is baptized next with the king’s blessing, thus merging the once rival empires under one crown and religion.

Traditionally, the closest rival to the bukanegan and electoral campaign in attracting a large crowd in the Ilocos is the folk drama, sarsuwela Ilocana. The first performances of this kind of operetta were staged in the early 1890s by the Spanish director Baguer Barbero. The theater group came from Manila to perform the Spanish zarzuela in the principal towns of Ilocos during fiesta celebrations.

By the first decade of the century, the sarsuwela Ilocana had edged out the komedya or moro-moro, when Ilocano playwrights and composers created orginal sarsuwela. Foremost pioneer of the sarsuwela was Mena Pecson Crisologo, who wrote Noble Rivalidad, also known as Natakneng A Panagsalisal (Noble Rivalry), Codigo Municipal (Municipal Code), and Maysa a Candidato (A Candidate) during the first decade. Other sarsuwelista of note during the first quarter of the century were Claro Caluya, Marcelino Crisologo Peña, Florencio Legasca, Mariano Gaerlan, Filemon Palafox, Mariano Navarette, Pascual Guerrero Agcaoili, and Martin Puruganan. Sarsuwelista of the second half of the century include Leon C. Pichay, Nena Paron, Florenda Reintegrado, Valentin Ramirez, Pantaleon Aguilar, Eugenio Inofinada, Tomas Dapiza, Rogelio Panlasigue, Isaias Lazo, Jose Flores, Guillermo Lazo, and Pedro Aurelio. After World War II, sarsuwela playwrights of note were Constante Arizabal, Juan Guerrero, Lorenzo Mata, Melchor Rojas, Alejo Villegas, and Barbaro Paat (Palafox and Ramas 1987, 14-15).

The folk sarsuwela performed usually by local troupes or by community members capped and still caps the fiesta revelry as a nighttime spectacle lasting until the wee hours. The audience relishes the sentimental songs and the intermission slapstick numbers and jokes, which contain biting commentaries on sociopolitical events and personalities. This performing art should be regarded both as a community ritual of entertainment and as a stage play.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the most popular sarsuwela troupe was the Ped Avila troupe of Vigan, whose appeal was the realistic acting and the servant comic routines performed before the front curtains. This intermission comedy allowed for a change of backdrop for the next scene. The group of Barbaro Paat in Bantay, Ilocos Sur seems to have been the most patronized because of the dramatic storylines of its plays and the most enduring, as evidenced by the age and style of the roll-up telon (painted backdrop). Theater groups might also assist smaller barrios for a fixed fee by lending their script, sound system, band, and rehearsing the performers.

The Bravo family in Solid West, Vigan constituted a whole band of accompanying sarsuwelista. One of the favorite bandleaders accompanying sarsuwela troupes from rehearsals to performance night was Guildo Lazo, himself a composer. Since there are only a few composers like Lazo, the melodies of many sarsuwela scores have the same pattern.

The Riverside Sarsuela Guild of Laoag City performed at nearby towns of Ilocos Norte. These groups were composed of ordinary workers, tricycle drivers, and local radio talents sidelining as sarsuwelista, and were equipped with a repertoire of melodramas with true-to-life plots that were recycled from town to town, year after year. In Pangasinan, the Sison Dramatic Guild was a favorite group performing in Pangasinan-speaking areas. Some groups might travel as far as the Cordilleras and Quezon province where there are Ilocano migrants.



Miel, Juan C. 1979. Samar Folk Dances. Catbalogan: Government of Samar.

Reyes-Aquino, Francisca. 1953, 1960, 1966, 1975. Philippine Folk Dances. Vols. I-II (1953), III-IV (1960), V(1966), and VI (1975). Quezon City: Kayumanggi Press.

Reyes-Tolentino, Francisca and Petrona Ramos. 1927. Philippine Folk Dances and Games. New York: Silver Burdett.

Reyes-Tolentino, Francisca. 1946 (1990). Philippine National Dances. New York: Silver Burdett, 1946. Reprinted, Quezon City: Kayumanggi Press, 1990.


Discover Ilocos Norte! - Best Tourist Spots - Northern Tourist Destination in the Philippines

Ilocos Sur Best Tourist Spots - Natural Beauty, Food, Culture and History

Amazing Paoay Church Light Show - Ilocos Norte Symphony of Lights - Narimat A Paskua - Paskong Pinoy

No comments:

Got Something to Say? Thoughts? Additional Information?

Powered by Blogger.