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Tagalog People: History, Culture and Arts, Beliefs, Customs and Traditions [Philippines Ethnic Groups | Tribes]

Malakas at Maganda
Tam Austria, Malakas at Maganda, 1994 (Photo courtesy of Leon Gallery Fine Arts and Antiquities)

The Tagalog comprise one of the eight major Philippine ethnolinguistic groups. “Tagalog” is believed to be a contraction of either taga-ilog or taga-alog, which is from the prefix taga, signifying place of birth or residence, and ilog, meaning river or “alog,” which is old Tagalog for shallow portion of a river or a low-lying area that floods during rains. Thus the word means “river dwellers,” a direct reference to the riparian civilization of this group.

For centuries, Tagalog has referred to the natives of the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Marinduque, Nueva Ecija, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Quezon, Rizal, and certain parts of Zambales and Tarlac, and of the cities of Cabanatuan, Gapan, Palayan, Muñoz, Balanga, Caloocan, Quezon, Pasay, Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Las Piñas, Malabon, Navotas, Pasig, Parañaque, Taguig, Muntinlupa, Marikina, Valenzuela, San Jose del Monte, Meycauayan, Malolos, Antipolo, Imus, Bacoor, Dasmariñas, Tagaytay, Cavite, Trece Martires, San Pedro, Biñan, Calamba, Los Baños, Santa Rosa, San Pablo, Lipa, Batangas, Tanauan, Tayabas, Lucena, and Calapan. However, with the massive migration into Metropolitan Manila and other urban centers of people from all walks of life from the regions, the intermarriage between Tagalog and non-Tagalog in the 21st century, and the spread of Tagalog-based Filipino as the national lingua franca, it has become more difficult to define who is Tagalog, especially in the urbanized areas. As of 2010, Filipinos identifying themselves as Tagalog number 22.5 million, out of a total Philippine population of 92 million.

The people inhabiting the territories enumerated above speak a language called Tagalog, which is descended from the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) stock. Through centuries of trade and intermarriage with the Chinese and of living under the Spaniards and the Americans, the basic Malay vocabulary of Tagalog has incorporated or adapted words from Chinese, Spanish, and English. In Metro Manila—which has been the melting pot in the last century of Filipinos speaking other Philippine languages, and the political, religious, economic, social, and cultural center of the country—a lingua franca that derives much of its structure and vocabulary from Tagalog began to take shape in the last four or five decades. This language called Filipino, which assimilates words from languages both local and foreign at a very fast rate, has spread throughout the country because it is the language of radio, television, film,and popular magazines. In Metro Manila, out of a population of 2.1 million, 2 million are Tagalog, or Tagalog-speaking. This means that 94.34% of the Metro Manila population is Tagalog, and the rest are Ilocano, Cebuano, Bikol, Bisaya, and other Philippine ethnic groups.

For centuries, the Tagalog have inhabited territories endowed with good natural resources. Almost all provinces, except for landlocked Nueva Ecija, have coastal areas or are islands. The Central Plains of Luzon containing Bulacan, Bataan, and Nueva Ecija have arable flatlands, which can be irrigated by the various river systems in the area. The area covering Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, and Quezon has flat, arable lands as well as lakes, hills, and craters. Laguna de Bay (pronounced “ba-i”), measuring 922 square kilometers, is the largest freshwater lake in the country, while Taal Lake, measuring 19 kilometers from east to west and 24 kilometers from north to south, is the mouth of an active volcano. San Pablo City, Laguna, has seven minor lakes: Bunot, Kalibato, Muhikap, Yambo, Pandin, Palakpakin, and Sampalok.

The Sierra Madre mountain range runs from the Central Luzon to the Southern Tagalog provinces. Other mountains are Banahaw, Macolod, Makiling, Malepunyo, San Cristobal, Nasugbu, Pico de Loro, and San Pedrino. The island of Mindoro is bisected into eastern and western parts by a mountain range, the highest peaks of which are Abra de Ilog, Calavite, Mount Baco, and Mount Halcon. The island of Marinduque has flatlands except for the rugged terrain toward its center. Rainy months during the southeast monsoon are from June to October and dry months are from November to April.

The Tagalog, as an ethnolingustic group, are no longer homogenous as they must have been in earlier times. The culture of the Tagalog has been affected by distinctions in urban and rural levels of socioeconomic development, especially in the last two centuries. Moreover, the presence in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Filipinos from all regions and all social and economic backgrounds has led to the development of a culture that is more general than regional, especially in Metro Manila.

History of the Tagalog People of the Philippines

The Tagalog are of Austronesian ancestry. The prehistoric Tagalog journeyed in outrigger boats called balangay or barangay, to the archipelago after the last glacial period, from 5,000 BCE to 400 CE. They probably settled in the coastal and inland areas around the Manila Bay and gradually populated the Pasig River territory. From there, they steadily expanded and occupied the river valleys of Laguna de Bay.

Depiction of Tagalog nobles, circa 1590
Depiction of Tagalog nobles, circa 1590 (Boxer Codex, The Lilly Library Digital Collections)

Another group of these Proto-Austronesians may have landed in the Batangas region, spreading west and south toward the Bondoc Peninsula, and north toward Quezon. By the 16th century, the region around Laguna Lake and the areas of Batangas and Mindoro were among the most populated areas in the islands. Novaliches in Quezon City and Marilao in Bulacan were also the sites of early Tagalog settlements.

Pueblo de Calamba provincia de Pagsanjan
Carl Johann Karuth, Pueblo de Calamba provincia de Pagsanjan, 1858 (Georgina Padilla Zobel de Ayala, photo courtesy of Filipinas Heritage Library)

Long before contact with the Europeans, the ancient Tagalog actively traded with the Chinese and other Asians, as proven by tradeware excavated in Manila, Laguna, and Batangas. An early Chinese chronicle dated 982 CE reported that there were Arab traders regularly calling at Ma-i, possibly Mindoro, on their way to Canton. The well known chronicles of Chao Ju-Kua described the island of Ma-i as being located north of Borneo, with high mountains and flatlands intersected by small rivers, a rich soil, hot climate, and fertile fields more productive than anywhere else.

The community unit of early Tagalog society was the barangay, named after the boats on which the Tagalog migrated to the islands. The barangay was a settlement composed of about 30 to 100 families. Situated on the banks of rivers or seacoasts, each barangay was an autonomous unit, although they were near enough to each other to facilitate mutual assistance.

The formally acknowledged leader was the datu (chieftain). Chosen for his age, his knowledge of the community’s customs, his bravery, affluence, and physical prowess, the datu had jurisdiction over military, spiritual and social affairs. Among the Tagalog datu were Lakan Tagkan of Sapa (now Santa Ana); Rajah Matanda and Rajah Soliman of Manila; Rajah Lakandula of Tondo; Datu Ladia of Malolos; Gat Pagil of Sampaloc (now San Pablo, Laguna); Gat Pulintan, Gat Sungayan, and Gat Salacab of areas in present-day Batangas.

Heads of families and elders of the community acted as an advisory council. When disputes arose, the council of elders would listen to arguments and examine proofs presented by representatives, usually relatives, of litigants. Judgments and decisions were made after careful deliberation and a consensus reached by the group.

Precolonial Tagalog society had four classes: the datu and his family; the timawa or maharlika (free men), who were the vassals serving the datu as warriors; the aliping namamahay (debt peons); and the aliping saguiguilid (slaves). The maharlika was privileged, for they were exempt from paying buwis (tribute). They were also not obliged to serve the chief but often joined him in war. They were recompensed with a share of the spoils if triumphant. The aliping namamahay, so-called because they had their own houses, used half of the produce of their lands to pay buwis to the chief or the maharlika they served. They rowed for their master during trips and helped in farming, fishing, and building houses. The aliping saguiguilid lived in the master’s house, could marry only with his permission, and could be bought or sold. They received no pay although their master could bestow a piece of land as incentive. Persons became slaves as punishment for crime or for failure to pay debts or as captives of war. They could, however, buy their freedom, marry a free person, or be freed by their masters.

Social status was generally inherited; upward social mobility was possible though difficult. Usury disabled the lower classes from rising to a higher status. In general, people married those from their own class.

In 1570, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who had been in Cebu since 1565, planned to attack Manila. He then sent Martin de Goiti and his nephew Juan de Salcedo to travel first to Mindoro and then to Batangas. After engaging the Batangueño in battle, Goiti and Salcedo retreated to Cavite. They then proceeded to Manila, where they fought and defeated Rajah Soliman. Triumphant, Goiti reported back to Legazpi, who then decided to transfer his government to Manila in 1571.

From 1571 to 1576, the Spaniards proceeded to conquer adjoining towns and regions. Salcedo met fierce resistance from the people of Cainta and Taytay in Rizal and Majayjay in Laguna. In 1587, Soliman’s son Magat Salamat, and Lakandula’s nephew Agustin de Legazpi, led an alliance that included native chiefs Joan Basi of Taguig, Omaghican of Navotas, Phelipe Salalila of Maysilo, Malabon, as well as the leaders of Pandacan, Catangalan, Castilla, Candaba, Bulacan, Bangos, and Cuyo.

By the 1600s, the Spaniards had succeeded in establishing their colonial power, with the walled city of Intramuros as their center. Spanish power radiated from Manila to all points in the archipelago.

During the 16th century, the Spaniards established the encomienda system in which early conquistadores were given jurisdiction over an encomienda, with natives numbering from 50 to 70,000 and residing in a particular territory or the area assigned to a conquistador to rule and tax. An encomendero collected tribute from the inhabitants of his area in exchange for spiritual and temporal services, such as the building of churches and the maintenance of peace and order. In 1572, the earliest encomiendas were distributed to Juan Pacheco Maldonada in Bay, to Juan Gonzalez de Pedro in Majayjay, and to Juan Gutierrez in Mirabago. By 1591, Taguig, Taytay, Morong, and Parañaque had also been similarly divided.

The abuses of many encomenderos, however, led to the abolition of the encomienda system and its replacement by the gobernacion-provincia-pueblo-barangay structure. In this system, a governor-general appointed by the King of Spain had jurisdiction over all conquered lands, called gobernacion, divided into provincias headed by a Spanish alcalde mayor or, if the area was unpacified, a corregidor. A province was subdivided into pueblos or towns, headed by a mayor called gobernadorcillo or capitan municipal. The towns were subdivided into the barangay or barrio governed by a cabeza. Only the positions of gobernadorcillo and cabeza were open to natives and mestizos. Both officials were supposed to be elected by the principalia, but in many cases, the Spanish parish priest controlled the election results.

In 1582, the enlarged province of Manila, with Tondo as capital, included Morong (now Rizal), Laguna, Tayabas (now Quezon), Batangas, and Mindoro. Pampanga, Bulacan, and Bataan were also attached later. Most of these areas became provinces and stayed as such during the American colonial period.

The Spaniards classified colonial society according to blood into four classes: the peninsulares, the Spaniards born in Spain; the insulares or criollos, the Spaniards born in the Philippines; mestizos or persons with mixed parentage, subdivided into mestizos sangleyes (half-Chinese and half-native) and mestizos Españoles (half-Spanish and half-native); and the indios or the pure native Christianized Filipino.

Throughout Spanish rule the centers of colonial government were the pueblos, where the natives were gathered and where stone churches, conventos (residence of the parish priest), casas reales (royal houses),and tribunales (courts) were built through the levying of taxes and forced labor. Through the same means, bridges, roads, watchtowers, and forts were erected in many Tagalog provinces. During the Manila-Acapulco trade period, galleons were constructed and repaired in Cavite and other shipyards.

The imposition of a hacienda system where vast, undeveloped lands were transformed into plantations was met with resistance from the Tagalog natives. In the 18th century, oppressive and arbitrarily increased taxes, tributes, exorbitant rents, forced labor, and personal unpaid services led to agrarian unrest. In 1745, the Batangueños in Lian and Nasugbu decried the usurpation of their land by the Jesuits, who also charged them fees for the wood, rattan, and bamboo they gathered. At about the same time, the peasants of Bulacan were also cheated of their lands and denied access to the river by the friars. In various hacienda towns, among them Bocaue and Santa Maria, peasants, called colonos, were press-ganged and recruited into the hacienda of Pandi-Lolomboy, managed by the Dominicans. In 1745, Joseph de la Vega led 1,000 men in a revolt that spread from Cavite and Tondo to Laguna and Batangas. The uprising was directed against both the Dominicans and the Sangley mestizos of Biñan, Laguna. The uprising ended after the Spanish colonial government promised reforms.

From the 1820s, many tulisan (social bandits) emerged. These “outlaws” were often those who suffered abuses in the hands of the Spaniards, left the pueblo, and went back to the mountains, occasionally launching attacks on the Spanish and their military. Because they often took from the rich to give to the poor, they were sometimes regarded as heroes of the masses. The most famous bandit leaders were Luis de los Santos and Juan Upay in Cavite; Blas Tapia, Balong Tansanio, and Juan Buenaventura of Laguna; and Bertrocio and Iscong Turoy and Nicolas de la Cruz of Batangas. There were also several tulisan in Makati and Pasay.

The peasant struggle took on a religious character with the organization of the Cofradia de San Jose, led by Hermano Pule (Apolinario de la Cruz) of Lucban, Tayabas. Established in 1841, it was a reaction to the prejudice of the Spanish church against natives. It quickly spread to Laguna and Tayabas, and proclaimed Hermano Pule as “King of the Tagalog.” The authorities beheaded Hermano Pule; the cofradia’s remnants fled to the mountains of Tayabas and Laguna and reorganized themselves in groups called colorum.

The Cavite Mutiny in 1872 was one of the first revolts led by workers. The huelga (strike) was a culmination of a series of events: the reduction of salaries of shipyard workers; the withdrawal of exemption privileges from taxes and forced labor of artillery workers; and the lower ranks and salaries of soldiers. The failed mutiny resulted in the implication of the Filipino priests Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, who were active in the secularization and Filipinization of the clergy. Accused of being agitators, the priests were executed by means of garrote. Their death marked the birthing of the movement toward nationalism among the mestizo and native classes.

The 19th century saw the rise of the Tagalog middle class. With the opening of Manila as an international port of commerce in 1834 came the expansion of agriculture and commerce. The demand for sugar, coffee, copra, and indigo was met by Chinese or Spanish mestizo or native entrepreneurs, who planted cash crops like sugarcane and coffee and expanded their landholdings by buying lands from peasants or appropriating these through the pacto de retroventa (mortgage agreement). Their wealth enabled them to build mansions with expensive furniture and paintings, to dress in expensive clothes and jewelry, to hold the position of gobernadorcillo, and to educate their children in Manila or abroad. From their ranks came the ilustrado (educated), who would clamor for reform.

Reformists Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, and Mariano Ponce, 1887
Reformists Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, and Mariano Ponce, 1887 (Photo from Ambeth R. Ocampo Collection)

The reform movement, based in Manila and later in Madrid, was led by Jose Rizal of Laguna, Marcelo H.del Pilar and Mariano Ponce Jr. of Bulacan, Pedro Paterno of Manila, and other ilustrados from different regions. They worked for the reform of the Spanish clergy and the military, representation in the Spanish Cortes, the teaching of Spanish, secularization of the parishes, and Spanish citizenship for the Filipinos. They published periodicals to expose friar and military abuses and to persuade the Spanish government to grant reforms. The Diariong Tagalog first came out in 1882; and the La Solidaridad was published in Spain from 1889 to 1896. In the spirit of the movement, 21 young women of Malolos, under the guidance of Teodoro Sandico, bravely and successfully petitioned Governor-General Valeriano Weyler for a school where they could learn Spanish. On 3 July 1892 in Tondo, Manila, the La Liga Filipina was founded by Rizal, Ambrosio Salvador, Agustin de la Rosa, Bonifacio Arevalo, and Deodato Arellano. While the reform movement was successful in bringing to public attention the plight of the Filipinos, it failed to effect real changes because of Spain’s preoccupation with internal problems, the power and influence of the friars, lack of funds, and disunity among the Filipino reformists.

Front page of Diariong Tagalog
Front page of Diariong Tagalog (National Commission for Culture and the Arts)

Because of the weakness of the reform movement, the secret society known as the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) or the Katipunan was organized in 1892 in Manila, to prepare for the overthrow of the Spanish colonial government. From Manila, the Katipunan first spread to all Tagalog provinces, later to most parts of Luzon and the Visayas. Founded by Andres Bonifacio, it had among its leaders Emilio Jacinto, Aurelio Tolentino, Vicente Fernandez, Pedro Cortez, and Antonio Guevara who organized cells in Manila, Morong, and Laguna; Ladislao Diwa, Felipe Calderon, and Julian Felipe of Cavite; Isidoro Torres and Gregorio del Pilar of Bulacan; Galicano Apacible, Miguel Malvar, Felipe Agoncillo, and Ananias Diokno of Batangas; Paciano Rizal and Juan Vicente Cailles of Laguna; and Vicente Leyba, Gregoria de Jesus, and Pantaleon Torres of Manila.

A Katipunan leader Andres Bonifacio
A Katipunan leader Andres Bonifacio (Photo from Ambeth R. Ocampo Collection)

The discovery of the Katipunan led to the Cry of Pugadlawin on 23 August 1896. On this day, in Balintawak, the Katipunero tore their cedulas, thereby breaking all ties with Spain. Simultaneously, in other places such as Balakbak in Mandaluyong and in other areas in Caloocan, the local Katipunan groups had their own version of the Cry. The first battle between the Katipunero and the Spanish soldiers occurred in San Juan del Monte on 30 August 1896. Immediately after, the Katipunero set up camp in the hills near Marikina, San Mateo, and Montalban, as the towns of Santa Mesa, Pandacan, Pateros, Taguig, San Pedro, Makati, Caloocan, Balik-Balik, San Juan del Monte in Manila, and San Francisco de Malabon, Kawit, and Noveleta in Cavite simultaneously rose in arms.

A Katipunan leader, Gregoria de Jesus
A Katipunan leader, Gregoria de Jesus (Photo from Ambeth R. Ocampo Collection)

In retaliation, Governor-General Ramon Blanco and his successors ordered a series of arrests and executed four members of the Katipunan on 4 September 1896 at the Luneta; the 13 martyrs of Cavite on 12 September; Jose Rizal on 30 December, and many others in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. The revolutionary forces remained undaunted, and by the end of the year, all of Cavite and most of the towns of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Laguna, and Bataan had joined the struggle.

Internal conflicts besieged the Katipunan in Cavite as the rift widened between the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions. Andres Bonifacio got embroiled in this conflict, which led to the coup d’état on his leadership by forces loyal to Magdalo leader Emilio Aguinaldo. During the Imus Assembly held on 31 December 1896 and the Tejeros Convention in San Francisco de Malabon on 22 March 1897, the Magdalo faction moved to replace the Supreme Council of the Katipunan with a revolutionary government headed by Aguinaldo. The rivalry between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo resulted in the execution of the former on 10 May 1897 after a mock trial.

It would appear that the execution of Bonifacio merely created the condition for Aguinaldo to seek a compromise with the Spaniards. Not long after the incident, he and his men retreated to Biak-na-Bato in San Miguel, Bulacan, and authorized Pedro Paterno to negotiate with Governor-General Primo de Rivera. This led to what came to be known as the Pact of Biak-na-Bato.

Apolinario Mabini, prime minister of the first Philippine republic (Colorized by the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)
Apolinario Mabini, prime minister of the first Philippine republic (Colorized by the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)

After the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was signed in San Miguel, Bulacan, Aguinaldo and his followers went on voluntary exile to Hong Kong. There they prepared to launch the second part of the revolution. Aguinaldo returned in 1898 and by June of that year, the Philippine revolutionary forces had routed the Spaniards in most parts of Luzon. On 12 June 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines in Kawit, Cavite. Not long after and because of pressure from the Americans, he moved his government to Malolos, Bulacan. On 15 September 1898, the Malolos Congress opened to write a constitution for the new government. The Constitution was promulgated on 21 January 1899 and, two days later, the Philippine Republic was inaugurated in Malolos, with Aguinaldo as president.

inauguration of Malolos Congress, 1898 (Colorized by the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)
The inauguration of Malolos Congress, 1898 (Colorized by the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)

The Malolos Republic was no sooner established than it was demolished with the American invasion of the islands. After the Battle of Manila on 13 August 1898, the Spaniards surrendered to the American forces, who subsequently occupied Intramuros. The Treaty of Paris was signed on 10 December 1898, providing for Spain’s cession of the archipelago to the United States for 20 million dollars. The American Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris on 6 February 1899.

President Emilio Aguinaldo (Colorized by the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)
President Emilio Aguinaldo (Colorized by the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)

On 4 February 1899, the Philippine-American War began in San Juan del Monte, Manila. The Philippine Revolutionary Army under Aguinaldo engaged the better-armed American forces in a war, which formally ended in 1901 with the capture of Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela. In 1902, Miguel Malvar of Batangas, the last high-ranking revolutionary general leading the Filipino armies in Southern Tagalog, surrendered.

However, a protracted guerilla war continued, led by revolutionaries, who were later labeled by the Americans and their collaborators as “bandits,” among them Macario Sakay, Julian Montalan, and Cornelio Felizardo. In a determined bid to remain free, they formally established the Philippine Republic, known as the Republika ng Katagalugan, in 1901. The short-lived government, which had Sakay as president and Tanay as headquarters, surrendered in July 1906. In Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija, Felipe Salvador, known as Apo Ipe, led a crusade known as the Santa Iglesia Movement against the American authorities from 1907 to 1910. Similarly, a short-lived outbreak was led by Simeon Mandac in Nueva Ecija in 1910.

President Macario Sakay, seated second from right, and the top generals of the Republika ng Katagalugan, 1906
President Macario Sakay, seated second from right, and the top generals of the Republika ng Katagalugan, 1906 (National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Wikimedia Commons)

In the civil government set up by the Americans, the Philippines was headed by a civil general, later called governor, appointed by the United States government. The country was divided into provinces based roughly on the alcaldias of the Spanish period. Each province was headed by a Filipino governor, an American treasurer, and an American supervisor. Later, the office of the treasurer was occupied by Filipinos. Provinces were divided into municipalities headed by a municipal president called alcalde or presidente, a vice-president, and a municipal council.

Elections were established, but only males at least 25 years old were allowed to vote. Moreover, requirements like the ability to speak and write in Spanish or English, tax payments, property, wealth, and experience in politics favored the traditional elite, who would monopolize elections for many decades. Political dynasties include the Rodriguez and the Sumulong in Rizal; the Adriatico and the Leuterio in Mindoro; the Paras and the Nepomuceno in Marinduque; the Tirona, Virata, Camerino, and Montano in Cavite; and the Laurel, Leviste, and Recto in Batangas.

The suffragette movement resulted in a Woman’s Suffrage Bill signed by Governor Murphy in 1933. In the plebiscite held in April 1939, women from the Tagalog and other regions asserted their right to vote, enabling them to participate in the first election of the Commonwealth period.

The American government pursued a policy of attraction and co-optation, with the primary goal of developing the Philippines, not only as a source of raw materials but also as a market for American goods. The colonial government invited members of the Filipino elite to join the bureaucracy and started the pensionado program, sending scholars to the mainland for further political and technical education. A system of education was organized, initially using soldiers as teachers and superintendents and later, American teachers whose first batch arrived aboard the USS Thomas. English was adopted as the medium of instruction, possibly the most important tactic in the cultural reorientation of the Tagalog mind. Roads, bridges, schoolhouses, and other infrastructures were constructed. At the same time, American industrialists and investors engaged in import-export trade and extractive industries to their full advantage.

From 1919 to 1934, parliamentary missions were sent to the United States to work for Philippine independence. Among the Tagalog involved in the campaign for independence were Manuel L. Quezon, Rafael Palma, Claro M. Recto, and Juan Sumulong. The campaign resulted in the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines on 15 November 1935 at the Sunken Garden in Manila, with Manuel L. Quezon as president. On 9 November 1937, Tagalog was recommended by the Institute of National Language to become the basis of the national language. Three years later, the national language was ordered taught in all schools, and the Institute prepared for the printing of a dictionary and grammar book.

The American colonial regime favored many of the elite families of the previous century, but it did not institute substantial change in the lot of workers and peasants. The struggle of the peasants and workers continued. Labor unions and peasant organizations worked toward concerted political action. Among these groups were the Union Obrera Democratica, later known as the Union del Trabajo de Filipinas, organized in 1902; the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas, in 1913; and the Union de Aparceros de Filipinas, established by Jacinto Manahan of Bulacan in 1919. Strikes were set up by embroidery workers in Manila, workers of the Manila Electric Company and the Manila Gas Company, and rice mill workers in Nueva Ecija. The members of the Katipunan ng Magsasaka in Bulacan paralyzed the irrigation system; the Union de Arrendamientarios in Hacienda Esperanza in Nueva Ecija protested the changes in their contracts; the peasant members of Handa Na and Oras Na protested from 1937 to 1939 the maladministration of the 27,408-hectare Hacienda Buenavista of the San Juan de Dios Hospital, refused to pay their dues, and demanded the transfer of the hacienda to the government and to the farmers; and 200 tenants of the Hacienda Tuazon in Bago Bantay, Caloocan took the hacienda by force.

Influenced by Marxist international organizations, peasant and labor leaders established the Kalipunang Pambansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas in 1928; the Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis ng Pilipinas in 1929; and the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas in 1930. Leaders with a socialist orientation were Juan Feleo of Nueva Ecija, Jacinto Manahan, Crisanto Evangelista, and the Lavas of Bulacan. The Communist Party later merged with the Partido Socialista led by a Kapampangan, Pedro Abad Santos.

Meanwhile, the colorum groups of the 1920s assumed a religious character similar to that of Hermano Pule’s in the 1840s. Combining Catholic devotion, hero worship, and folk superstition were groups like the Caballeros de la Sagrada Familia in Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Pangasinan; the colorums in Manila; and the Kapisanan Makabola Makarinag, organized by Pedro Kabola in Nueva Ecija in 1923.

Two important political movements among the Tagalog during the 1930s were the Tanggulan and the Sakdal. Tanggulan was a patriotic secret society, whose principal objective was the “attainment of independence through an armed uprising.” At the height of its organizational strength, it had a membership of 40,000 workers and peasants in Manila, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Laguna, Pampanga, Tayabas, Cavite, and Bataan. The Sakdalista uprising grew out of the critical newspaper Sakdal, founded by Benigno Ramos of Bulacan. As a political party, the Sakdalista campaigned for “complete and absolute independence” and vowed to confiscate large landholdings by the feudal class for redistribution. On 30 May 1935, armed Sakdalista peasants numbering 65,000 clashed with the military in Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite.

In December 1941, Japanese forces invaded the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Japanese bombed the Santo Domingo Church, the old Intendencia Building, San Juan de Letran, Santa Catalina College, and the newspaper offices in Intramuros. Amidst bombings in Manila, Quezon was sworn into office for a second term. Manila was declared an “Open City” on 26 December. In preparation for the Japanese entry, Greater Manila was established by President Quezon while he was in refuge in the island of Corregidor in late December. Quezon appointed his executive secretary, Jorge Vargas, as mayor of this new political entity comprising of Manila proper, Quezon City, Caloocan, Pasay, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Parañaque. The Japanese soon abolished this Greater Manila, replacing it with what was to be known as the twelve new administrative districts of Manila (Bureau of Print 1942) or simply, Manila.

On 3 January 1942, General Masaharu Homma of the Japanese Imperial Forces announced the end of the American occupation. Filipino and American forces who retreated to Bataan surrendered on 9 April 1942; those in Corregidor, on 6 May. The national government was soon reorganized and the Japanese-sponsored Republic was proclaimed on 14 October 1943, with Jose P. Laurel of Batangas as president. Quezon and his party had left the Philippines for the United States, where the Commonwealth continued to function as a government in exile.

On 29 March 1942, peasant leaders met in Central Luzon to form the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon or Hukbalahap, which aimed to end the Japanese colonization and continue the struggle of the peasantry. The movement effectively liberated Nueva Ecija and Pampanga even before the coming of the Americans. The liberation of the entire archipelago came later, with the return of the Americans. However, liberation also led to the disarmament of the Huks in Bulacan and Pampanga. In 1946, Juan Feleo, a socialist leader, was abducted. Hundreds of Huks were massacred in Bulacan.

With the war, 80% of the capital’s southern residential area was destroyed, 75% of its factories, 70% of its utilities, and practically all forms of businesses after the Battle of Manila in February to March 1945 (Manchester 1978). Before the end of World War II, Commonwealth President Quezon died in New York. At the end of the war, his vice-president Sergio Osmeña took over the civil government on 27 February 1945. Congress convened on 4 January 1946 to set the election. On 4 July, Philippine independence was proclaimed.

Manuel Roxas became president after the 1946 election. Washington favored him over the likely successor Osmeña who, since the end of hostilities, had been prosecuting collaborators and in doing so cooperated with socialist and communist groups in the country. Roxas’s victory is considered a product of American postwar foreign policy which shifted from WWII politics to combating the emerging threat of Communism (Steinberg 1967). Prosecution of political collaborators waned in the succeeding years especially after 1948 when Roxas granted them general amnesty. Soon after, Roxas died of a heart attack.

Greater Manila benefited from the reconstruction boom of 1947. With the plan of making Quezon City its new capital, the government channeled funds into building new infrastructure there while private financiers focused on redeveloping the remaining cities. The lack of a solid industrial foundation and reliable sources of raw materials foiled such plan. Meanwhile, Manila proper’s elite who had been uprooted from their homes during the war, decided to transfer to other localities, following the direction of postwar real estate development, particularly those by the Ayalas and the Ortigases. In the 1950s, the two families significantly shaped the Greater Manila area into what it is today with their purchase and development of vast land areas in Makati and Mandaluyong that include Forbes Park, Ayala Avenue, Mckinley Road, Wack-Wack, and part of Highway 54, now EDSA (Camba 2011).

Peasant unrest in the countryside, however, grew with the reconstruction that mainly benefited the capital city in the late 1940s and 1950s. The Huks reestablished themselves into the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan or HMB, maintained a base of operations in the peasant-populated Central Luzon, and grew to as many as 20,000 fighters at its peak. Assuming the presidency after Roxas’s death, Elpidio Quirino made the dissolution of the HMB an integral part of his campaign toward peace and order, along with putting a stop to the rampant corruption and kidnapping instigated by the military and civilian guards. Quirino’s defense secretary Ramon Magsaysay, who had been projected by his public relations officers as a friend of the tao or “common man,” succeeded in negotiating with the HMB (Agoncillo 1990). Magsaysay effectively used this very image in the 1953 presidential election, doubling the vote garnered by Quirino. Amidst agricultural programs and military repression under Magsaysay, disunity among the HMB leaders eventually caused the underground organization’s demise by the 1960s (Lanzona 2009, 7).

After Magsaysay died in a plane crash in March 1957, his vice president, Carlos P. Garcia completed the remaining eight months of the administration and went on to win the November presidential race. Garcia was known for his “Filipino First” policy which created economic policies and programs favoring Filipino entrepreneurs. As an answer to the country’s continued poverty, Garcia’s reign was also marked by a policy of austerity and an appeal to the public to adjust their way of life. The policy, however, backfired on the administration in the 1961 election when voters refused to return Garcia to office, believing that he had been as corrupt as previous administrations (Agoncillo 1990).

Campaigning against graft and corruption, Diosdado Macapagal won the election of 1961. Along with socio-economic reforms, Macapagal pushed for a revival of the Filipino sense of morality and hoped to set himself as a model for “honesty, uprightness and simple living.” However, his presidency was remembered by most as that which was marred with extravagant parties, midnight appointments of his friends, and extreme corrupt practices. In March 1962, government agents arrested American millionaire Harry Stonehill and confiscated large volumes of cash and documents from his office, including a record book that implicated high-ranking government officials to corruption. Macapagal did succeed in installing the Land Reform Code in August 1963 which centralized the responsibility of land redistribution that gave much hope to the majority of landless farmers (Agoncillo 1990; Overholt 1976, 433).

Nationalist Claro M. Recto
Nationalist Claro M. Recto (Photo courtesy of National Library of the Philippines)

In 30 December 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was sworn into office at the Luneta Grandstand as the 10th president of the Philippines. With the battle cry “This nation can be great again” and the bio-film Iginuhit ng Tadhana shown early in the year, he defeated reelectionist Macapagal. Early in his administration, Marcos sent the Philippine Civic Action Group or Philcag to the American war in Vietnam that delighted the White House. The ostentatious lifestyle of the Marcos family and their cronies was viewed in stark contrast to the poverty of the majority. 

Nationalist Lorenzo M. Tañada
Nationalist Lorenzo M. Tañada (Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Tañada)

Nationalist Jose W. Diokno
Nationalist Jose W. Diokno (Photo courtesy of Diokno Family Collection)

Inspired by nationalists Claro Recto, Lorenzo Tañada, and Jose Diokno, the broad anti-imperialist and anti-feudal alliance Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism was established in early 1967 (Constantino 1969). The revolutionary Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP emerged in 1968 and continue to engage in protracted war from the countryside through the New People’s Army. Despite the growing opposition from inside Manila and out, Marcos won reelection in November 1969 promising more rice and more roads. Dissatisfaction brought about by his first State of the Nation Address sparked the student-led First Quarter Storm in the early months of 1970. In February the following year, while drivers mounted a nationwide transportation strike, students and teachers staged the Diliman Commune at the University of the Philippines (UP). An audio tape of Marcos’s romantic affair with American actress Dovie Beams was aired by UP’s radio station DZUP. The 1970 Manila visit of Pope Paul VI and promises of reform in the 1971 constitutional convention did little to appease the public. Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the aftermath of the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing. Completing the so-called Ilocanization of the military hierarchy at the beginning of 1972, Marcos declared Martial Law in 21 September. Curfew was maintained from midnight to 4 in the morning. Rallies and strikes were prohibited.

Marcos’s wife Imelda was appointed in 1975 to the post of governor of Metropolitan Manila, created especially for her. Prior to this, the former beauty queen had been responsible for the construction of edifices such as the Folk Arts Theater and Philippine Heart Center, and for global events like the Miss Universe 1974 and the 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” Ali-Frazier match. These were followed by the construction of the Philippine International Convention Center and the Philippine Plaza Hotel (now Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila) in 1976.

After two postponements, the election for an Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP) was held in April 1978. The election was Marcos’s response to allegations of human rights violations, which at the time had reached tens of thousands. As expected, almost all IBP seats were taken by regional representatives of Marcos’s own party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. Marcos also became prime minister, in addition to being president. Martial law was lifted three years later but most decrees and orders remained.

Funeral procession of Benigno Aquino Jr. along Rizal Park, Manila, 1983
Funeral procession of Benigno Aquino Jr. along Rizal Park, Manila, 1983 (Joe Arazas)

Upon return from exile in August 1983, Marcos’s political rival Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino was assassinated at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport (later renamed after him). Ninoy’s widow, Corazon, ran against Marcos in a hastily called snap election, which Marcos won through massive vote rigging. This led to the People Power Revolt which transpired mainly at Metro Manila’s major road artery EDSA. Betrayed by his top officials Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos, Marcos was forced to leave the country on an American plane for Hawaii where he would spend the rest of his days. Thus began the ascent of Aquino’s wife Corazon to the highest post of the land (Totanes 1998; Brillantes 1987; Felicia 1995; Wurfel 1988).

Early in her term, Aquino opened Malacañan to the public as “symbol of the living reality of a government open to the people and trying to become an integral part of their lives and hopes” (Aquino 1986). At the beginning of the following year, however, a group of mostly farmers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas clamoring for agrarian reform were fired upon by anti-riot lawmen at Mendiola Street, Manila while they were marching toward Malacañan. The shooting left 13 dead and dozens injured ( 2012). The Tarlac-born president’s regime was also challenged by a number of coup attempts from 1986 to 1990. Considered to be most serious, the August 1987 coup orchestrated by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement or RAM headed by Col Gregorio Honasan successfully seized television stations in Metro Manila and several military camps and airbases. Three rebel-commandeered T-28D Trojan planes bombed and strafed Malacañan and hovered all over the metro during another coup attempt in December 1989 (Official Gazette 1990). These planes were eventually destroyed while on the ground by government Northrop F-5 fighter planes. Despite these troubles, Aquino stayed in power and is now best remembered as the president who overthrew the dictator Marcos and who strove to keep the price of the poor man’s galunggong fish affordable. Succumbing to heart attack in 2009, Aquino remains an icon of change as proven by the hundreds of thousands who attended the eight-hour funeral parade from Manila Cathedral to Manila Memorial Park ( 2014; 2009).

Assuming presidency in 1992, former military general Fidel Ramos aimed at making the country a new Asian tiger by the end of his term. But by relying too much on foreign investment, Ramos’s vision of “Philippines 2000” is considered a failure. Economic gains in the early years of his term did not translate to agricultural and industrial developments (Diokno-Pascual 1999). Energy cisis in the 1990s made millions of families suffer daily power outages that lasted hours even in Metro Manila (Rood 2015). At the time of the centennial celebrations of the Republic in 1998, the country was deeper in debt and the population more impoverished (Diokno-Pascual 1999).

Tondo-born Joseph “Erap” Estrada used the mass appeal he had garnered as an actor in more than a hundred films to gain votes in the 1998 election. Despite a long career in politics as mayor, senator, and vice president to Ramos, Estrada was often ridiculed by many intellectuals in the capital. He was eventually booted out of office after the so-called EDSA Dos (Second EDSA Revolt) amidst an impeachment case for plunder. His vice president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, daughter of a former president, assumed office after his ouster in January 2001. Estrada was eventually judged guilty of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in September 2007 but was pardoned by Macapagal-Arroyo the following year. In 2012, Estrada successfully returned to politics as mayor of Manila, and was also reelected after his first term.

Macapagal-Arroyo’s rule was challenged while she was serving the remainder of Estrada’s term. In July 2003, hundreds of “Magdalo soldiers” represented by Navy officer Antonio Trillanes IV occupied the Oakwood Premier (now Ascott Makati) building in Ayala Center, Makati. The group called for the resignation of Macapagal-Arroyo and several military officials for alleged corruption in the armed forces. The mutiny ended after 20 hours, the perpetrators charged with coup d’etat. Macapagal-Arroyo was reelected in 2004 but her term was shaken by vote-rigging allegations after beating popular actor Fernando Poe Jr. Barely a year in office, a controversial phone conversation recording between her and election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was released to the public. Several impeachment attempts did not materialize. Civilian protests against Macapagal-Arroyo lingered while a military rebellion led by Gen Danilo Lim prompted her to declare a nationwide state of emergency in 2006. Several military and government officials were arrested and charged with rebellion in the aftermath. Macapagal-Arroyo was responsible for providing outsourcing services to the global economy by establishing the Philippine Cyberservices Corridor. This 600-mile information and communications technology belt from Baguio to Zamboanga is considered by critics as a temporary solution to unemployment through the service-oriented call center industry (Campoamor 2013).

Benigno Aquino III’s fame was propelled by the death of his mother, former president Corazon, in 2009. The following year, he gained almost six million more votes over his closest rival former president Joseph Estrada. Despite the popularity, Aquino’s term was marred by his administration’s perceived inefficiency during crucial moments, such as the hostage taking of foreign tourists at the Quirino Grandstand in August 2010, the crisis brought about by Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in November 2013, and mishandling of police operations in Mamasapano in January 2015. The deterioration of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Metro Manila’s major form of transport, and telecommunication and Internet system likewise added to such perception, prompting activists to coin the term ‘Noynoying’ to refer to Aquino’s ineptitude ( 2016).

Livelihood of the Tagalog People

Agriculture has always been the main economic activity and source of livelihood of the Tagalog, given the hospitable climate, favorable topography, and fertile soil of the region.

Group of Tagalog people pounding corn
Jose Honorato Lozano, Limpia de arroz a mazo por convite, Ayala Album, 1850-1851 (Ayala Corporation Collection)

In Nueva Ecija, 249,939 hectares comprise the total land area devoted to rice farming alone, and these yield more than 1.3 metric tons of rice. In Laguna, 62,555 hectares are dedicated to farming rice, corn, fruit-bearing trees, vegetables, tubers, roots, bulbs, and legumes. The province also has 3 million coconut trees, 6 million pineapple plants, and 1.4 million banana plants. Quezon has the largest number of coconuts planted in CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), with 36.5 million. Cavite has 32 million pineapple plants and produces 4 metric tons of coffee. As of 2002, there are 542,218 hectares of farmland in MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan); 588,516 hectares in CALABARZON; 44,018 hectares in Aurora; 40,121 hectares in Bataan; and 63,134 hectares in Bulacan.

In recent years, however, the areas devoted to agriculture, particularly in CALABARZON, were declared industrial zones, thereby converting these into nonagricultural lands. Similarly, many good rice lands in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija have been converted by real estate developers into industrial estates, golf courses, and residential subdivisions. Urban expansion is evident in Bacoor, Kawit, Imus, and Dasmariñas in Cavite; in San Pedro, Biñan, Cabuyao, and Calamba in Laguna; in Cainta, Antipolo, and Taytay in Rizal; and in Meycauayan and San Jose del Monte in Bulacan. These are slowly being integrated with Metro Manila through the construction of highways and the expansion of the mass transportation system such as the Light Rail Transit (LRT)-1 extension toward Dasmariñas City, Cavite and the LRT-2 extension toward Antipolo City, Rizal. Construction of the MRT-7, stretching from North EDSA in Quezon City toward San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, is planned for 2016, to be followed by the construction of MRT-4, from Ortigas, Pasig City, toward Taytay, Rizal. Since 1991, urbanization has steadily shrunk the size of agricultural land in the Central Luzon, CALABARZON, and MIMAROPA regions.

Rice has many varieties, the most common of which are intan, C4, macan, wagwag, milagrosa, dinorado, malagkit,and laon. The high-yielding varieties were developed and improved by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna, and are characterized by short, sturdy plants which are less inclined to fall over when the grains become heavy. The Philippine Rice Research Institute, now based in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, was established in 1986 and continues to do rice research focusing on the Philippines, in contrast to the international focus of IRRI.

Tagalog Man carrying kalaykay at the rice field
Un Yndio Labrador by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection

Rice is grown primarily in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. Planting is done once a year in areas with no irrigation and twice a year in fields with irrigation systems connected to sapa (rivers).The Angat Dam in Bulacan and the Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija, for example, provide both irrigation and hydroelectric power. The farmer uses either the araro (plow) or the tractor in plowing the field to prepare the soil for planting and in eliminating grass or weeds. Then the seedbed is prepared and, when ready, the seeds are scattered. To prevent the disappearance of the palay seeds, scarecrows are set up to drive away sparrows, while chickens are set loose to eat caterpillars. The farmers plow the field, which is covered by water. Approximately one month after sowing, the young rice is transplanted to the field. As the rice is growing, farmers weed the fields and drive away pests. Harvesting is done by hand and in groups after the rainy season. Threshing may be done by using a pyramidal bamboo frame-and-platform or a threshing machine. Rice may be milled through the mortar-and-pestle method or through a rice mill.

Una Yndia Ollera de Pasig by Damian Domingo, circa 1830
Una Yndia Ollera de Pasig by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection

Rice is grown as principal staple or ground to make rice flour for native rice cakes like bibingka, puto, cuchinta, palitaw, and maja blanca. Rice called malagkit is made into different types of suman, sweetened rice boiled in coconut milk and wrapped in palm leaves.From paddy waters and streams also come other sources of food such as frogs, snails and fish varieties like bulig and hito. During the past few years, however, the use of pesticides, as provided by programs like the Masagana 99, has brought about ecological imbalance, resulting in the disappearance of aquatic life.

Un Yndio Cargador by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection
Un Yndio Cargador by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection

Coconut, largely grown in Quezon and Laguna, is planted in four ways: in straight formation, square, triangular, or quincunx. In the more favored quincunx, four coconuts are each planted at a corner of a rectangle, and a fifth at the center. Coconut is harvested with the sungkit, a seven-to-eight-meter bamboo pole with a sharp curved knife at the tip, and transported on a coconut raft that is floated downriver. The fruit yields many products: edible oil, coco oil, candy, dessert, jam, crude oil, milk, butter, lard, coco flour, cookies, cake, and poultry feed. Coconut water is made into a syrup concentrate for soft drinks, sugar, yeast, nata de coco, vinegar, alcohol, and tuba (coconut wine).

Una Mestiza Mercadera de Manila by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection
Una Mestiza Mercadera de Manila by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection

Sugarcane is grown in over 25,000 hectares of land in Batangas and other parts of Southern Tagalog. Sugar is grown on huge estates such as the Central Azucarera Don Pedro in Nasugbu, Batangas. There are at least 20 varieties of cane in the archipelago, and two of these varieties are favored by planters in Luzon: binting dalaga, a slender, thin-skinned cane suitable for munching, named after a maiden’s limb, and tubong totoo or true cane, which is for the sugar mills. Before World War II, the Philippine Sugar Association conducted experimental work in Luzon and Negros for the improvement of cane breeding, supervised entomologists in the discovery of methods of fighting harmful insects and pests, and hired chemists to make soil analyses.

Un Yndio Banquero de Manila by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection
Un Yndio Banquero de Manila by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection

Sugarcane is planted in February, March, and April. Pieces of stalk are planted in shallow furrows running the length of the field. Harvesting is done once or twice a year depending on how large the estate is. During the milling season, the farm workers remove the leaves and cut the top and bottom parts of each sugarcane. Then the canes are piled into heaps and brought to the mills. In earlier times, juice was extracted from the cane by exerting pressure on a hand- or foot-lever against a wooden surface; later, wooden rollers and stone cylinders were used. This was then replaced by steam power from machinery and equipment, and centrifugal mills were installed, such as those located in Nasugbu and Balayan, Batangas. The milling process includes cutting the sugar, milling, clarifying, evaporating, and centrifuging. Raw sugarcane or muscovado is produced, which, when sent to a refinery, becomes white, refined sugar. Fermented sugarcane juice is known as basi.

Una Yndia Pescadera de Manila by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection
Una Yndia Pescadera de Manila by Damian Domingo, circa 1830, Paulino and Hetty Que Collection

Kapeng Batangas or Batangas coffee has been famous since the 19th century; about 753 metric tons in Batangas and nearly four metric tons in Cavite are harvested yearly. After about 18 months, coffee seedlings are transplanted under shady trees that must be regularly pruned to enable the growing plants to get more sunshine. The white flowers are replaced by green berries, which turn into brown and then into red. The beans are extracted from the pulp of these berries, then dried and roasted. Commercial packaged coffee is sold at supermarkets.

To augment their income and maximize their land and their time before harvest, farmers of rice, coconut, and coffee engage in multiple cropping, which refers to the practice of growing two or more crops in one piece of land. Batangas, for example, grows sugarcane, rice, peanuts, turnips, corn, coconut, and mangoes.

The Philippines used to enjoy a monopoly over the production and sales of the Manila hemp or abaca. In the early 20th century, it comprised about two-thirds of the country’s total export trade (Edwards and Saleeby 1910, 9). Significantly waning since, export earnings from abaca at present remain high at around $90M (Lantican 2008, 7). Abaca, however, is technically not hemp or fiber produced out of the plant Cannabis sativa. Abaca fibers come from the plant Musa textilis (Edwards and Saleeby 1910, 9). The name “Manila” attached to the product can also be misleading since majority of all 14 varieties of abaca were mainly cultivated outside Manila, particularly in the Bicol and Samar-Leyte regions in 1910 (Lee 1920, 159-160). Probably owing much to its port of origin, abaca came to be known worldwide as Manila hemp, as did other “Manila” products (rope, folder, paper) that originally had abaca as key ingredient.

With most mountains in the Tagalog areas already bald, logging has been concentrated in the past decades in the Southern Tagalog region, which has two million hectares of forestland. Trees are also cut in Aurora, Quezon, and Mindoro. Forestland in 2013 was reduced to 1.76 million hectares. The logging industry has come under fire in recent years because of the ecological imbalance that it has caused. To protect forests and wildlife in the Philippines, the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines was passed in 1990, the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act in 1992, and the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act in 2001.

Next to agriculture, fishing has been the most important economic activity in the Tagalog region because all provinces except Nueva Ecija have coastal areas. Among the fishing grounds are the western coastline of Batangas known as Verde Island passage; Manila Bay between Cavite and Bataan; Ragay Gulf between southern Quezon and Camarines Sur; Tayabas Bay at the southern coastline of Quezon and Malabon; and Laguna Lake. Freshwater fish include the tilapia, kanduli, karpa, bangus, dalag, palos, and ayungin, as well as shrimps and snails. Among the saltwater fish are lapu-lapu, tanigue, mayamaya, dapa, bakoko, alumahan, espada, talakitok,and sapsap. The fishing gear used include the kawil, a handline for deep-water, still fishing; gayad, a scoop seine or large fishing net; pangduhay, a special deep-water cast net; pukot or tuck seine; sapyaw, a typical round haul seine; pante or gill net; kitang or longline; sakag or scissors net; baklad or fish corral; and dala or cast net. In 2012, the fisheries industry yielded revenues of nearly 408 million pesos for CALABARZON and 685 million pesos for MIMAROPA.

Small fishers have traditionally engaged in the fishing industry. In recent times, it has been dominated by large-scale commercial fishing, with corporations mainly based in Manila and the Navotas-Malabon area, where fishing magnates operate. Laguna Lake is now crisscrossed by fish pens owned by large-scale fishing operators. Fishponds for bangus, found in coastal areas, are run by capitalists. At present, the marine ecosystem of the Tagalog region is endangered by overfishing, poaching, illegal methods of catching fish, as well as by environmental degradation caused by industrial pollution and siltation. Alien fish such as the janitor fish and knife fish have also spread in Laguna Lake.

Oysters and kapis (windowpane shell) are cultivated simultaneously at Bacoor Bay in Cavite. Bamboo fences serve as clutch for oysters while the enclosed area is used to spread half-grown kapis seedlings. After harvesting, the kapis meat is removed and made into bagoong (fish paste) or omelet; and the kapis shells are soaked in water. They are then scrubbed, graded, and packed in bamboo baskets. A variety of products may be produced: windowpanes, lamp shades, picture and calendar frames, panel partitions, fruit and cake dishes, lanterns, trays, place mats, and other novelties.

Cattle are raised in Batangas. Farmers tend the cows in their backyard to be sold in times of need. Cattle are traded in Padre Garcia, Rosario, and Lemery. Other provinces such as Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Laguna, and Rizal have piggeries and poultries, and other livestock industries. Pateros is famous for its itik (a species of duck), which may be fried for food or whose eggs may be made into balut. Duck raising is found in many lakeshore towns in Rizal and Laguna.

Among the known mineral reserves of Batangas are barite ore, lime, silica, limestone, shale, clay, gypsum, marble, copper ore, marble ore, and molybdenum. There are limestone deposits in Rizal and marble in the town of Teresa. A lot of marble is also found in Norzagaray and Angat in Bulacan. Geothermal fields developed between 1979 and 1982 are found in Makban in Southern Tagalog. Silver and copper are mined in Marinduque.

Tourism is a major industry in CALABARZON, which is the site of five out of Luzon’s 14 top tourist destinations: Pagsanjan, Los Baños, Ternate, Tagaytay, and Batangas. Visitors in Antipolo, Rizal go to Hinulugang Taktak, Mainit Spring, Mount Payong, Baño de la Virgen, Bubucal Cave, and Mount Bangko. Still in Rizal, Angono is known for its artists’ studios. Las Piñas, on the other hand, is famous for its bamboo organ. In Batangas, among the tourist spots are Tagaytay Ridge, which overlooks Taal Lake and Taal Volcano; the submarine gardens in Laiya, San Juan; the subterranean caves of Pulangsaya; the Kamantigue and Motoco Hills; the Tombol Springs in Rosario; the Tinga Falls; and beaches. Aside from its beach resorts, Laguna is known for Pagsanjan Falls and the numerous hot springs in Los Baños.

In Central Luzon, Bataan has a national shrine, Dambana ng Kagitingan (Altar of Valor), on Mount Samat, Pilar. Bulacan has Barasoain Church and several museums in Malolos, and hot springs in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Important tourist events are the Obando, Bulacan, fiesta on the first weekend of May; the carabao races in Pulilan, Bulacan, and the pahiyas in Tayabas, Lucban, and Sariaya, Quezon, both on 15 May; the maytinis in Kawit, Cavite, on 24 December; the Santo Niño festival in Malolos and Manila in January; the flagellation of penitents in Paombong, Bulacan on Good Friday; the Holy Week processions in Baliuag, Bulacan and San Pablo, Laguna; the turumba fiestas in Pakil, Laguna; the pagoda and fiesta of Angono, Rizal on 23 November; and the Wawa pagoda in Bocaue, Bulacan in July.

Buntal hats are made in Lucban, Quezon and Baliuag, Bulacan. In Lucban, there are two types of buntal hats: the liso (solidly woven hats) and may butas (open-worked hats). The fiber, obtained from the petiole of the open leaf of a young buri palm, comes from the Quezon towns of Sariaya, Tayabas, Candelaria, and Pagbilao. The process of weaving, called lala, begins with the preparation of the nagsisimula (starting piece).Then the buntal straw is separated into pino (fine) and bastos (coarse), and brought to the ilohan (crushing machine). The over-and-under technique is used in weaving. To keep the weave tight, the hat is rubbed with a bottle. A moldi (block) is also used until the brim is finished. The dikin (a ring fitted to the mold) is used to keep the hat in shape. The hats are then given to the magsusuksok, who folds back the excess fiber, thereby rimming the hat. The hats may be bleached, rinsed in cold water, and air-dried. In Baliuag, the buntal hat is called the balibuntal or balihat and is more closely woven and texturally finer than the Lucban buntal. Bags, cigarette cases, place mats, baskets of all sizes and shapes, fans, and decorative items are also woven in Lucban and Baliuag.

The barong tagalog and other embroidery products are made in Taal, Batangas and Lumban, Laguna. This entails various phases: the printing of the design, actual embroidery work, calado (open work), washing, starring, ironing, and stretching. Embroidery may be done by hand in piña (pineapple cloth) and jusi (mixture of piña and abaca), and by machine on cotton, polyester, and linen materials.

Wood carving in Paete, Laguna
Wood carving in Paete, Laguna, circa 1990 (CCP Collections)

Wood carving is a thriving industry in Paete, where there are more than 200 wood-carving establishments. The forests of Mindoro, Rizal, Quezon, and Bicol provide wood carving materials: batikuling and acacia for statuary and relief panels; kamagong for smaller sculptures; lauan for giant fork and spoon sets; and lanete and marang for other pieces. Wood sculpture involves the following stages: carving from a block with a rough sketch; configuration of details with medium and small chisels; smoothing, cleaning, and sanding; and spray varnishing or painting.

Other towns in the Tagalog area are known for their products: Marikina City for shoemaking; Malabon for patis (fish sauce); Balayan, Batangas for bagoong; Paete, Laguna, for papier mache figures; Parañaque and Las Piñas for salt making known as iras Tagalog; Taal, Batangas for furniture and balisong (knife); Baliuag, Bulacan for inlaid furniture and silk tapis (overskirt); San Miguel, Bulacan for sweets and pastillas wrappers; Bataan for uraro biscuits; Laguna for its lanzones; and Batangas for its sinturis (small oranges). Calamansi, mangoes, papaya, bananas, watermelons, and melons are also produced in the Tagalog provinces.

Metro Manila continues to be the commercial and financial center of the country. Concentrated in it are factories for the manufacture of various products. In Caloocan, industrial firms engage in food manufacturing; various industries like steelworks, packaging, furniture, plastics, and garments; and warehousing. In Rizal, factories produce garments, electrical and electronic products and appliances, food products, cement, furniture and woodwork, and gifts, toys, and housewares. Cainta’s commercial establishments include major industries producing paints, textiles, chemicals, automotive parts, steel and metal, electrical products, electronics, and construction materials, as well as small-scale industries engaged in food preservation, suman, and latik (sweet coconut residue) making, furniture making, piggery, repair shops, and dressmaking. Today, the industrial sprawl has reached the Southern Tagalog region and Bataan. Laguna, Bataan, and Cavite have industrial parks, also known as export processing zones, now called ecozones.

The CALABARZON Special Development Project began to be implemented in Southern Tagalog in 1990. The master plan, under the sponsorship of the Japanese government, was to transform the region into a cluster of ecozones, aimed at stimulating agro-industrial development and to make the area the catchment for industries located outside Metro Manila. Ecozones are areas that have been or are being developed for industrial, commercial, tourist, recreational, and investment purposes. The passage of the Ecozone Act of 1995 boosted the number of ecozones in the region from 19 to 64 between 1993 and 2003, making 40% of the country’s total number. These cover 30% of the nation’s total land area allocated for ecozones. The primary export products of these ecozones are semiconductors and electronics. The Laguna Technopark is the largest-earning exporter of these commodities, with an income of 4.6 billion US dollars in 2000, equivalent to 44% of the region’s total export income. Other earners are car assembly factories as well as petroleum and oil refineries.

Known to be the country’s fastest-growing industry is the new business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. With the growth of a more globalized system, multinational companies from developed countries like the United States have mushroomed in the Philippines to facilitate the employment of cheaper labor in developing countries such as the Philippines. The call center is the BPO sector’s fastest growing employment and income-generating industry in the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila, also known as NCR, where almost half of the country’s 1,319 call centers are located (Campoamor 2013, 30). Call center employees number more than half a million.

The entire BPO industry nationwide yields 15.5 billion US dollars in revenue and provides 900,000 jobs (Natividad 2015). NCR has the largest number of BPO establishments, numbering 1,116; CALABARZON has 41; and Central Luzon has 30. The economic and cultural landscape surrounding Manila’s Malate district, Makati’s Rockwell Center, and Quezon City’s Eastwood Cyber City and Araneta Center have significantly changed, as “nocturnal” employees of call centers in the area have increased in number. Most notable has been the transformation of Araneta Center, which before the call center industry had remained largely the same since its construction in 1976 for the Muhammad Ali-versus-Joe Frazier fight.

Commercial malls have proliferated in Metro Manila and other cities in the Tagalog region. SM Prime Holdings, the biggest mall operator in the Philippines, has 50 malls in the Philippines. It has 18 in Metro Manila and has a presence in Bacoor, Lipa, Rosario, San Pablo, Lucena, Calamba, Santa Rosa, Marilao, Batangas City, Dasmariñas, Angono, Taytay, and Baliwag in the Tagalog regions. SM Prime Holdings earned a total of 13 billion pesos in 2014.

Political System

The Tagalog area is politically divided today into four regions: Central Luzon, excluding Pampanga; CALABARZON; MIMAROPA; and NCR or Metro Manila. Central Luzon consists of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Bataan, and a part of Tarlac. CALABARZON is made up of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon. MIMAROPA is made up of Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Romblon, Palawan, and Marinduque. NCR, was established in 1975, and incorporates 16 cities and one municipality into what is now known as Metropolitan Manila. The 16 cities are Manila, Quezon, Pasay, Caloocan, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Las Piñas, Malabon, Navotas, Pasig, Parañaque, Taguig, Muntinlupa, Marikina, and Valenzuela. The only municipality is Pateros. In 1995, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was created by Republic Act (RA) 7924 to replace the Metropolitan Manila Commission, which had been created in 1975. The MMDA is headed by a chairman, who is appointed by the president; a council made up of the mayors of the cities and municipality as voting members; and the heads of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) as non-voting members.

Jose Honorato Lozano, Presentacion de un preso en el tribunal, Ayala Album, 1850-1851 (Ayala Corporation Collection)
Jose Honorato Lozano, Presentacion de un preso en el tribunal, Ayala Album, 1850-1851 (Ayala Corporation Collection)

The four regions are further subdivided into districts, each of which is represented by a congressman. In Central Luzon, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan have four each; Bataan, two; Aurora, one; and San Jose del Monte City, one. In CALABARZON, Cavite has seven; Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon have four districts each; Rizal, two; and Antipolo City, two. In MIMAROPA, Palawan has three; Oriental Mindoro, two; Occidental Mindoro and Marinduque, one each. NCR has four administrative districts. The 1st District is Manila, also called the Capital District; the 2nd District is Eastern Manila District, made up of Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Pasig, and San Juan; the 3rd District is the Northern Manila District, also known as CAMANAVA, composed of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela; and the 4th District is the Southern Manila District, made up of Las Piñas, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pateros, and Taguig. The number of Congress representatives that each city is entitled to depends on its size. Manila and Quezon City have six each; Caloocan, Makati, Parañaque, Marikina, and Valenzuela have two each; Muntinlupa, Pasay, Pasig, San Juan, Taguig, Navotas, Malabon, and Mandaluyong have one each.

The basic unit of government is the barangay, ruled by a barangay captain. The captain is assisted by a Sangguniang Barangay, which is the legislative authority in a barangay. Barangays are grouped into a municipality, which in turn is governed by a mayor, a vice mayor, and a Sangguniang Bayan. Municipalities are further grouped into a province. A governor, a vice governor, and a Sangguniang Panlalawigan head the province. House representatives represent the province in the national legislature, or Congress.

As in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the leaders in the municipal, provincial, and district levels are usually chosen from among the economic and social elite, many of whom are descendants of the landowners of the 19th and early 20th centuries. For one, it is the elite families who have led local government units for centuries, assuming a prominence that is difficult to counter or erase; for another, it is these families that have the funds to spend for elections that have become more and more expensive over the years, especially since vote buying and political horse trading have not been eradicated. In places where the old elite has given way to the new rich, new leaders have emerged. Moreover, the protest and democratic movements of the 1970s have allowed a few nontraditional politicians and professionals to hold some positions in government. By and large, however, the political system, in spite of its avowed “democratic structure,” still needs to be made more participative.

As exemplified in Occidental Mindoro, the political system may be called dynamic. Nongovernmental forces affect the political structure, and national officials also intervene in local affairs. Moreover, a higher official within the region can regulate the actions of lower officials; in turn, the lower officials can intervene in the activities of higher officials by recommendation or petition, which, when supported by powerful followers, becomes compelling rather than merely suggestive.

Although political activities are supposed to be impartial and impersonal, the Tagalog leaders have to contend with personal and familial relations in the execution of their duties. Thus, the politics in Mindoro has been compared to the pandanggo sa ilaw or “oil lamp dance,” where dancers balance lighted glass oil lamps on their heads and on the backs of their hands as they move about nimbly. Similarly, politicians have to move with calculation and agility, manipulating or “getting along” with people of all classes, sectors, religions, and genders to get their support and patronage, often by exploiting traditional values.

Three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule, 50 years of American sovereignty, and almost 50 years of the Republic have consolidated the role of the Tagalog region as the geopolitical, economic, and cultural center of the archipelago. Because of history and practicality, Manila, later Metro Manila, has been the hub of commerce and trade, the location of government centers, and the gateway to the outside world. Not surprisingly, the Tagalog is the most highly represented group in the national government. It must be said, however, that Manila is culturally a melting pot, with people from all regions living among the Tagalog majority.

Social Organization, Culture, Customs and Traditions of the Tagalog People

Tagalog society today is pyramidal, consisting of a small upper class, a middle class, and a widening lower class. The composition of the upper class has begun to change. More than landowners, as was the case before World War II, the upper class now largely consists more and more of industrialists and businesspeople, especially in the urbanized areas.

tagalog man wearing barong traditional Filipino dress
Justiniano Asuncion, Un mestizo de Manila, 1841 (From the New York Public Library)

The middle class, composed largely of businesspeople and professionals, has increased its influence because of the growth of the demand for their services. Their opinion is now often equated with what has been loosely termed as “public opinion” (Agoncillo 1990, 666). The number of those belonging to the lower class, however, has multiplied rapidly, and their hardships have increased just as quickly because of unemployment.

Tagalog Woman wearing traditional dress
Justiniano Asuncion, Una mestiza de Manila, 1 (From the New York Public Library)

The basic unit of a traditional Tagalog society is the family. The father is generally regarded as the head of the family, while the mother supervises the household. These roles are manifested in the terms used to refer to the husband and the wife. Ang tao ko, used for the husband, literally means “my man”; and maybahay, used for the wife, “owner of the house.” In many urban areas, however, wives now provide for the family as much as husbands do and therefore share the powers and responsibilities in managing the family with their husbands.

Traditionally, rural families are extended, that is, two or three families—one or two of which are the married children’s—stay in one house. However, many rural families today have become nuclear, composed only of parents and their children. In contrast, urban families have become extended.

Tagalog families are generally closely knit. Relatives are expected to support one another and to reciprocate whatever service one has received from another. Respect for elders is very pronounced, as manifested in the Tagalog language, which has forms and words meant to signify respect and courtesy. Children use opo to signify agreement instead of the usual oo when they speak with their elder, or address the elder as kayo rather than with the familiar ikaw.

Most Tagalog view the family as a defense and as insurance. No matter how low one has fallen, one can expect the family’s welcome and support. In disputes with other families or individuals, the family supports its member blindly. Conversely, family members are willing to sacrifice personal well-being for their family’s sake. Older children may work to finance their younger siblings’ education.

Filipinos during the old times
Marcelle Lancelot, Fete a Sta. Cruz de Nano (Le Tour du Monde, Nouveau Journal des Voyages by Edouard Charton. Librairie de L. Hachette et Cie, 1884.)

Tagalog families are bilateral. Children trace their relationships both on the mother’s and the father’s side. They also reckon their relationships in both the vertical and horizontal directions. Horizontal relations are considered close only to the fourth degree. Thus, marriages between first, second, and third cousins are considered incestuous, but marriages between distant cousins are permissible.

The general term for sibling is kapatid, but the position of siblings is revealed in the kinship terms derived from the Chinese. The oldest brother is called kuya; the next eldest, diko; the third, sangko; the fourth, siko. The eldest sister is called ate; the next eldest, ditse; the third, sanse; the fourth, sitse.

Kinship systems can be extended through rituals, specifically baptism, confirmation, and weddings. After these rituals, parents and godparents (in the case of baptism and confirmation), newlyweds and sponsors (in the case of weddings) treat each other like blood kin, calling each other kumpare and kumare. Godparents, called ninong or ninang, are expected to support their godchild financially. Moreover, when a child is orphaned, the godparents are expected to take over as foster parents. Wedding sponsors, also called by the same name, usually help to advise and settle arguments between their anak sa kasal (children in wedding).

There are more than 2.3 million are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the largest number of these coming from the Tagalog regions of CALABARZON, with 415,000 OFWs, which is 17.9% of all OFWs; Central Luzon, with 360,000, which is 15.5%; and NCR, with 243,600 (10.5%). All in all, the Tagalog constitute almost half of the country’s total population of OFWs. Until the mid-1990s, this phenomenon was causing alarm for creating a “culture of migration” based on a values system of consumerism and material or financial dependency. However, between 1996 and 2006, the trend has reversed itself. “Global parenting” through electronic technology, such as the mobile phone, Internet, and videocam, has created a virtual intimacy of sorts. As a result, children of migrant parents generally perform well academically and behave properly. Moreover, they have a relatively high sense of well-being and are emotionally at ease. This is because members of the extended family, such as grandparents and aunts, provide adequate, supplementary psychological and emotional support for the children.

Next to the family, the neighborhood is the most basic unit of Tagalog society. The neighborhood, called kapitbahayan, is influential in defining norms and values. Often, the fear of gossip discourages members from deviating from the norms set by the neighborhood or the values it upholds; thus, gossiping itself “encourages” cohesion. The Tagalog feel hiya (shame) upon realizing that the group they interact with does not accept them.

One of the values prevalent among the Tagalog is social acceptance. Pakikisama (concession to another) leads to social acceptance and the establishment of smooth interpersonal relationships. So does the use of euphemisms and go-betweens. Utang na loob (debt of gratitude) is another important value. It is a kind of reciprocity involving a sense of obligation. Failure to return a favor, for the Tagalog, means social censure and the risk of being called walang hiya.

The values, however, are dependent on circumstances. They can be easily changed by the same neighborhood that instituted them when the situation calls for it, as happened to slum dwellers in Manila in 1967. A price increase resulted in mass layoffs and increased rents. Jobless, many families moved out of the neighborhood, and those who stayed became involved in many street-corner brawls. The norms of hiya, utang na loob, and pakikisama—very important in rural areas—became meaningless in the city, when the main concern was survival.

Wherever they settle, most Tagalog follow similar customs related to the stages of the life cycle: conception and pregnancy, childbirth, infancy and childhood, puberty, courtship and marriage, and death.

During paglilihi (the period of conception), the wife may become particularly irritable and whimsical. She may have sudden cravings and aversions, usually relating to food. The husband attends to her caprices; failure to satisfy her cravings results, according to tradition, in the abnormality of the child or to a miscarriage. Another belief related to pregnancy is that the child will resemble the mother’s cravings. For example, a child may be born dark-skinned because of her mother’s fondness for eating liver during conception.

Pagbubuntis (pregnancy) follows conception. Traditional beliefs related to pregnancy involve food. Eggplants must be avoided to ensure a healthy baby; a husband must not eat from the cooking pot to ensure an easy delivery for his wife. Eating twinlike fruits may lead to giving birth to twins. Popular in Baliuag, Bulacan is the belief that a pregnant woman must not step over a piece of rope to avoid a miscarriage.

Childbirth among the rural folk may take place in the house. A midwife is fetched to deliver the baby. The husband and other kinsfolk are around to help the midwife. Certain practices are believed to affect the ease or difficulty of delivering the child and the nature of the newborn child. Inverting the house ladder is supposed to ease the birthing, while lending a neighbor a needle with a thread through its eye does the opposite. To ensure that the child will be intelligent, the father must wrap the placenta, along with a pen, in an English-language newspaper. To prevent sickness, the skin of a hen is made into a bracelet for the infant to wear.

Pagdidilom or pagririlom is the period of recovery and lasts seven to 10 days, during which the mother is not allowed to bathe. A midwife massages her continually. The mother avoids eating certain foods, usually sour ones, and performing strenuous tasks. She bathes between the seventh and the 10th day in liquid brewed from medicinal plants. Three months hence, she may have sex with her husband again.

Babies are regarded as bunga ng pagmamahal (fruits of love) and are thus treated with fondness. Because of this, childless couples are often pitied. Moreover, in agricultural societies, where help in the fields is needed, children are viewed as an “economic investment” or as kayamanan (wealth). In addition, they often strengthen a couple’s relationship and become the couple’s baston sa katandaan (walking cane in old age).

Childhood is generally playtime. Although boys and girls interact in such games as hide-and-seek, many games are gendered. Boys are expected to play war games, to fly kites, or to indulge in sports; girls, to play house and to groom dolls. In urban areas, children now spend time watching television and playing with “westernized toys” such as robots. Boys stop interacting with girls in games after they reach the age of nine. Boys and girls are further segregated when they reach puberty. Girls with a traditional upbringing are expected to be modest and to be especially protective of their virginity. The value placed on virginity is based on the belief that the honor of the girl is like water in a jar; once contaminated by a drop of oil, it will be shunned.

After they undergo their first menstruation, girls are called dalagita. They are warned against eating sour foods and performing strenuous activities. In pre-Hispanic times, the dalagita would be wrapped in blankets and kept in a darkened house for days. She would also be blindfolded to prevent her from seeing bad spirits. Today, a girl only avoids bathing for three days.

Pubescent boys, called binatilyo, have their own rites of passage. An urban boy may be circumcised shortly after birth, but a rural boy may still be supot (uncircumcised) until 12. He goes to a manunuli (circumciser), who performs the operation with a sterilized knife or blade, afterwards applying a concoction of guava leaves to the boy’s penis to help it heal. While the wound heals, the boy avoids certain foods like fish and chicken and wears a tapi (wraparound cloth) instead of trousers.

Traditional courtship starts at 18. It begins with ligaw-tingin, in which desire is expressed nonverbally and at a distance, through a meaningful glance. At this stage, a go-between, often a friend, is resorted to. Real courtship, called panliligaw, follows soon. This is marked by the suitor’s first dalaw (visit). Suitors visit on a Saturday or a Sunday; the beloved must be with the parents, whom the suitor must regard with respect.

Some rural Bulaqueños have a unique practice of courtship. Called paninilong, it is clandestine courtship in which the suitor hides himself under his beloved’s house, rouses her from sleep with a stick which he thrusts up through the bamboo slats of the floor, and confesses his love for her, while the rest of the family is sleeping. In many urban areas, however, quaint practices like this have given way to dates.

In some rural areas, bride service is asked of the suitor, who then lives in the beloved’s house and renders various services, like fetching water, splitting wood, fixing the house, and helping in the fields. This tradition led a Spanish chronicler in 1663 to theorize that a matriarchal form of society might have existed once among the Tagalog.

Pamamanhikan is the discussion of marriage plans. Agreements on the time and place of the wedding and the like are entered into by the parents and relatives of both the suitor and the beloved. The representatives of the suitor and the beloved bargain or decide on the dowry in metaphors. As in the past, marriage may involve the paying of the bigay-kaya (dowry) by the suitor to the beloved’s parents as compensation for the loss of their daughter.

In some cases, feasts are celebrated on the eve of the wedding day. Among the Bulaqueños, the traditional disposoryo may be held, in which the suitor, with his relatives and friends, parade into the beloved’s house, carrying the picture of the marriage of Mary and Joseph called “disposoryo,” and the vats of food and cases of drink for the wedding celebration. The image is placed on an altar in the beloved’s house, and the couple prays before it. Merriment follows. The wedding itself is based on Christian practices, but traces of early folk practices may be discerned. In Batangas, the husband races with the wife to the church door in the belief that whoever reaches it first will dominate the marriage. It is believed that if the wedding veil is put on top of the groom’s head, instead of his shoulders, he will be ander da saya (under the woman’s skirt). Whichever wedding candle (the groom’s or the bride’s) dies out first indicates who of the two will pass away first.

In Tayabas, a ballad called matrimonyo is sung during wedding ceremonies. Called papuri in Quezon and balayang in Batangas, the ballad enumerates the duties of husbands and wives, explains the meaning of various marriage rites, and describes the nature of love and courtship. One of the main lessons of the matrimonyo derives from a pasyon account of the creation of Adam and Eve. It says that Eve was taken neither from the head nor the foot of Adam because she was not meant to be superior or inferior to him. Rather, she was taken from Adam’s rib, close to his heart, so that she will be loved by him.

The wedding is followed by a feast attended by numerous relatives in the bride’s house. Among the Tagalog in Laguna and Batangas, the couple dance as part of the feast. As they dance, relatives pin money on the bride’s gown and the groom’s shirt and pants. There is some competition between the two clans in terms of generosity because the money is counted afterward. In Bulacan, after the wedding, the bride moves to the groom’s house as townsfolk dancing in costume accompany her. This practice is known as lipat.

The festiveness of weddings is counterbalanced by the somberness of kamatayan (death). Some Tagalog believe in premonitions of deaths, such as dreams of falling teeth. When a person is dying, a ritual called pahesus is observed. The leader of the pahesus holds a crucifix and a lighted candle beside the dying person and recites the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and the prayers for the dying. The relatives of the dying person, meanwhile, pray for the forgiveness of his sins.

When the person is pronounced dead, the candlelight is blown out and a sign of the cross over the deceased’s body is made. The corpse is then cleaned for burial. The hands of the dead person are crossed over his belly, usually tied with a rosary. For several days the family holds a lamay (vigil), in which the abuloy (financial help or material contributions) are given to the bereaved family. To keep themselves awake, mourners play games like the karagatan, kulasisi ng hari, mahjong, and cards. On the patapos (ninth evening) or the patatlo (third evening) of the pasiyam (nine-day wake), a form of debate called the duplo is held if the deceased is not a child.

Close relatives of the deceased wear black to signify mourning. After a year, the family of the deceased offers a mass and a feast called babang luksa (to remove black clothes). They are now through with mourning and can wear clothes of any color. However, close relatives sometimes wear black and white to signify a transition.

Various prohibitions arising from folk beliefs still abound among many Tagalog. Cleaning the house during a wake is not allowed because it may mean another death. Tears of grieving relatives must not fall on the corpse or they will die soon after. Children or grandchildren of the deceased are passed over the coffin so that the spirit of the deceased will not show itself to them. Mirrors are covered with white cloth to prevent another death.

Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Tagalog People

Anitismo, the belief in anito (spirits), is the oldest form of religion among the Tagalog. Highest of the spirits is Bathalang Maykapal, the creator of the universe. Gods connected with the forces of nature and sources of livelihood are Lacanbaco, the god of rice and the fruits of the earth; Lacapati, god of fishing and water in the fields; Oinon Sana, god of the mountains and fields that one travels through; Hayc, god of the sea who controls the storms, squalls, and winds at sea; Dian Masalanta, god of lovers and generations; the moon, god of life and wealth; the stars, like Tala; and ancestors, especially those who died in war, were struck by lightning, or eaten by the crocodile. The anito may be benevolent or malevolent and therefore have to be placated.

Felipe Roxas, [Holy Week Procession], 1886, Private collection (Photo courtesy of Elmer I. Nocheseda)
Felipe Roxas, [Holy Week Procession], 1886, Private collection (Photo courtesy of Elmer I. Nocheseda)

Spirits may express themselves through animals, such as Bathala’s tigmamanukin (white bird), meylupa ’s crow, the anito’s crocodiles called nuno, snakes, and lizards. Spirits are also believed to reside in trees like the balete, and huge boulders or cliffs; or they may be represented by sculptures called likha or larawan, made of wood, stone, or ivory, and sometimes embellished with gold.

To communicate with the gods, priests or priestesses called catalonan (shaman) perform pag-aanito, rituals where they kill the sacrificial pig or chicken representing the supplicant. Usually held in the chief’s house or in structures of wood and palm leaves called simbahan, these pag-aanito could be held to bless the passage of individuals through the stages in the life cycle or to cure the sick, and to ensure an abundant harvest or victory in war. After the animal is killed and offered, it is cooked and consumed by the people who also drink, sing, and dance.

Aside from the catalonan, there are other individuals believed to have special powers: the mangagaway who, through charms, can cure the sick or inflict sickness or death; the manyisalat, who can sow discord between couples and prevent intercourse; the mangkukulam, who emits fire at least once a month, a fire that could be extinguished only if they wallow in excreta under someone’s house; the hocloban, who can kill by raising their hands; the silagan, who tear out and eat the liver of anyone clothed in white; the magtatanggal or manananggal, who show themselves without their head or entrails at night, returning these to their bodies in the morning; the aswang, who can fly and eat human flesh; the manggagayuma, who make charms for lovers from stones, wood, and herbs; the sonat, priests who help one to die; the pangatauhan, who predict the future; and the bayogin, men whose nature is “inclined” toward women.

The Tagalog believe in an afterlife. Solad is a place where those who have done evil in life would go, whereas kaluwalhatian is the future residence of those who have been brave and have accomplished great deeds in life.

Spanish colonization decreed the destruction of native “idols” and beliefs in order to facilitate the acceptance of the colonizers’ religion. Unlike anitismo, Catholicism professes faith in only one God who has three persons; in Jesus Christ, son of God who became man to save sinners and who died by crucifixion but resurrected on the third day; in the Last Judgment and the second coming; and in eternal life in heaven for those who die in grace and hell for those who die unrepentant. Catholicism teaches that grace can be given, strengthened, or recovered through the seven sacraments.

Karokol festival in Cavite
Karokol festival in Cavite, 1990 (CCP Collections)

In contrast to the open and autonomous structures of the indigenous religion, Catholicism is a highly centralized religion. The Pope in Rome is the supreme pontiff of all Catholics the world over, the bishops govern the dioceses into which the Catholic world is divided, while the parish priests administer the parishes which make up the diocese. In the administration of parish members, the parish priest is often assisted by the cofradias (confraternities of devotees) such as the Cofradia de la Correa, during the Spanish period and by organizations such as the Legion of Mary, Daughters of Isabela, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League, Adoracion Nocturna, and others in the 20th century.

The annual sayaw sa Obando in Bulacan
The annual sayaw sa Obando in Bulacan, 1990 (CCP Collections)

Catholicism was brought to the Tagalog by different religious orders: the Augustinians, who took charge of most of the parishes in Bulacan, Morong (now Rizal), and Cavite; the Dominicans, who administered most of Bataan and some parishes of Laguna as well as Binondo, Manila; the Franciscans, who took care of most of Laguna and Tayabas (now Quezon) towns, as well as Obando, Bulacan; the Jesuits, who initially had Marikina, Antipolo, and Makati in Rizal, as well as Silang, Indang, and Maragondon in Cavite, and the parishes in Marinduque; and the Recollects, who had parishes in Morong and Cavite, and took over many of the parishes left by the Jesuits, who were expelled in 1768. While some of the early friars seemed to be concerned with the natives’ conditions and defended them against abusive encomenderos and officials, many of the friars of the 19th century became obsessed with power and with profit from their haciendas and the administration of the sacraments. By the end of the 19th century, the rule of the friar or frailocracia had become stronger than that of the secular government, which could not do anything about the anomalous situation because it depended on the friars for control of the native population.

The beginning of the Translacion of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo
The beginning of the Translacion of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, 2012 (J. Singlador, Wikimedia Commons)

In the Tagalog towns that were effectively Hispanized, the new religion reoriented rituals and celebrations to the events of the liturgical calendar, using the literary, performing, and visual arts to illustrate or underscore the events in Christ’s life. The Christmas season has been highlighted by the panunuluyan, niños inocentes, tatlong hari, and pastores, while Lenten rituals include the pabasa, via crucis, and sinakulo, osana, paghuhugas ng paa, huling hapunan, siete palabras, bakahan, and the Good Friday procession, the custom of self-flagellation, and the salubong and moriones. Feasts of patron saints occasioned the chanting of novenas, processions with band music like that for the Quiapo Nazareno, pagoda or fluvial procession, like the caracol of Ternate, Cavite, loas or poems of praise like those of Taal, Batangas, as well as performances of the komedya, saynete, sarsuwela, and drama. May was for the Santacruzan, venerating the Holy Cross, or the Flores de Mayo, honoring the Virgin Mary. Some festivals merely baptized indigenous feasts, like the pahiyas of Quezon for San Isidro Labrador, actually a harvest festival, and the sayaw sa Obando, a fertility dance for the three patron saints of Obando, Bulacan.

Although the imposition of Catholicism initially met resistance from the native catalonan, the Christianization-colonization process triumphed in the end. But even as the friars baptized the natives, the indigenous anitismo assimilated the tenets and objects of the new religion, interpreting these according to the native belief system as well as the events, heroes, and ideals of the struggle for freedom. Examples of these peasant millenarian movements are the Cofradia de San Jose of Hermano Pule; the Santa Iglesia of Apo Ipe; the Watawat ng Lahi of Lecheria, Calamba, Laguna, founded in 1914; and the Iglesia Filipina ng Sinco Vucales y Virtudes, founded in 1926 in Candelaria, Quezon. The last two contemporary organizations consider Rizal as the embodiment of Christ, and Mount Banahaw as the New Jerusalem. The Watawat believes that if World War III erupts, millions of people will die, but Rizal will appear and lead the army of God.

A child of the revolution against Spain is the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Aglipayan Church, which was founded in 1902 in Manila by Gregorio Aglipay and Isabelo de los Reyes. Aglipayan beliefs and practices closely resemble those of Catholicism, except that Aglipayans do not recognize the pope in Rome. Aglipayanism developed close relations with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. The Aglipayan Church continues to have many followers in many rural areas of the Tagalog provinces.

Protestantism, which believes in the Bible as absolute authority, was introduced into the country by the Americans. Among those which have established churches in the Tagalog regions are the United Methodist Church, which began work in 1899; the Church of Christ (Independent), which started in 1901; the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which reached the Philippines in 1912; the Baptist Bible Church, established in 1948; the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, which was introduced by Alvaro Lariño in 1949; and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, which began in the 1960s.

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) ministers use Tagalog as their primary language in their services and published circulars. Founded in 1914 by Felix Manalo in Santa Ana, Manila, the INC believes in one God, the Creator of the Universe, and in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God but who himself is not a god. It teaches that the only authority is the Bible, which is to be interpreted by the messengers of God, Manalo being the last of these messengers. In 2000, the INC had an estimated 1,760,000 members in the Philippines. In 2014, INC celebrated its centenary at the newly constructed Philippine Arena, a 55,000-capacity indoor arena, and thus, one of the largest indoor arenas in the world. The INC wields political influence through its practice of block voting during elections and the loyalty of its members to the church authority. It is headed by Eduardo Manalo, grandson of founder Felix Manalo.

All Tagalog towns have a Catholic majority, with the other religious sects constituting about 10% of the total population. In Metro Manila, out of 9.9 million households, 8.8 million or 89% are Roman Catholics; 285,600 or 3% are INC members; 172,000 or 2%, Evangelicals; 59,000 or 0.17%, Muslims; and the rest—200,000 or 2%—belong to other Protestant sects, practicing other religions, or none at all.

The Katagalugan Community

In the 16th century, the Tagalog settlements, called barangay, were located on the seashore or beside rivers because bodies of water were both highways and sources of food. Near the places of habitation, rice was cultivated in fields. Settlements by the sea had coconut and palm groves, while the rest had fruit trees growing around them.

Tanay Church in Rizal
Tanay Church in Rizal (Randell Tambongco, photo courtesy of Rizal Provincial Government)

Interior of Tanay Church
Interior of Tanay Church, 2012 (Roy de Guzman)

The indigenous house of the Tagalog, which later evolved into the bahay kubo, was elevated from the ground to avoid dampness of the earth, rats and vermin, and waters at high tide. It had posts of hardwood buried in the ground, a framework and slatted bamboo floor, flap windows, and a steep high roof. Walls, windows, and roof may be made of bamboo, nipa palm fronds, cogon grass, or other natural materials abundant in the area. With its materials, steep roof, and windows that remained open except during storms, the bahay kubo had natural ventilation that neutralized the tropical heat. It was a house that “breathed.”

A typical bahay kubo would have the following house parts: hagdanan (bamboo ladder), at the foot of which the occupants washed their feet before going up, and which could be removed at night or when owners were away; a bulwagan (hall or living room), where mats were spread on the floor to sleep or sit on while eating from a low wooden table called dulang; the silid (room), marked off by a sawali wall from the bulwagan, where personal belongings were kept; the lutuan (kitchen), later called kusina (from the Spanish cocina), where the dapugan (ash or “dirty” kitchen) was found; an outcropping outside the kitchen called bangahan (storage for pots), later called banggera or banggerahan; the batalan, an open-air porch beyond the kitchen where containers for drinking and bathing water were kept; and a silong (space under the house), which was either open or enclosed with bamboo slats, creating a coop for domestic animals. Poles called suhay propped up the kubo during storms. Sometimes, a bamboo bridge connected the house to a small, enclosed structure called komun, which served as toilet or bathroom.

With Spanish colonization, the scattered barangay were gathered in strategically located towns called pueblo, which had a central plaza dominated by the simbahan (church), casa parroquial or convento, the casa tribunal (municipal building), and the houses of the native elite. This layout facilitated the tasks of evangelization and of politico-military control for the Spaniards. Most of the early pueblos were old centers still lining the shores of major rivers or bays, but later towns were established next to the new roads that were built by the Spanish government through forced labor.

The most important structures built by the Tagalog during the Spanish colonial period are the Roman Catholic churches. Described as “plain stone box[es] with decorated front[s],” these buildings are heavily rectangular or cruciform in plan. Their thick walls are made of adobe stone, coral stone, brick, or a combination of these, and are usually supported by buttresses on all sides except the facade, which is left free for the most impressive decorations. Bell towers may be built separate from the church building or attached to the facade.

Inside the church, the bautisterio (baptistry) is found to the right or left of the church door, and the coro (choir) hangs right over the church door. The central aisle, later flanked by pews, leads directly to the altar mayor (main altar), which is dominated by a retablo, a wooden structure with many niches for the images of saints. Behind the retablo wall is the sacristy, where the priest vests for mass. On either side of the main altar are smaller altars and retablos that echo the grandeur of the altar mayor. A pulpit hangs from one of the walls facing the central aisle.

Carvings are found on the main church doors, the retablo, the altar, the dalmatic chairs, and the pews. Interior walls and ceilings may be painted with scenes from the Old and New Testaments, interspersed with portraits of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints, or the seven sacraments. Floors are paved with cement tiles. Chandeliers may hang from the ceilings, while silver frontales (flat panels), ramilletes (bouquet stands), candeleros (candle sticks), and sacra (mass tablets) lend opulence to the altar mayor on special feasts.

Styles of ornamentation may vary: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Baroque, and Rococo, and sometimes Gothic, Romanesque, and Mudejar (Moorish). These styles, however, were transformed by native artisans, who introduced local motifs into their stone and wooden carvings, and into their paintings on canvas or interior murals. The religious orders that built the churches—the Augustinians, Recollects, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits—left their indelible mark on these churches as they highlighted the saints, emblems, and accomplishments of their orders in these buildings.

Some of the more outstanding churches of the Tagalog region are those of Calumpit, Bulacan with its heavy facade carvings; Hagonoy, Bulacan with its heavily carved Baroque front doors; Tanay, Rizal with its exquisite retablo and stations of the cross; Morong, Rizal with its facade-bell tower that combines many architectural styles and motifs; the Las Piñas, church, with its famous bamboo organ; the church of Paete, Laguna with its huge canvases by Jose Dans; the church of Pakil, Laguna with its retablo, relieves (reliefs), and crucifix; the church of Majayjay, Laguna with its majestic brick facade and stations of the cross; the basilica of Taal, Batangas, the biggest church in the country, with its three pediments contrasting with the vertical columns; the cathedral of Batangas City with its cupola and murals; the church of San Jose, Batangas with its ornate retablo; the church of Maragondon, Cavite with its facade and retablo; the church of Silang, Cavite with its outstanding relieves on the retablo; the church of Boac, Marinduque with its fort complex and retablo; the church of Lucban, Quezon with its facade; and the church of Tayabas, Quezon with its key-shaped floor plan.

In Manila, Intramuros once had the most magnificent churches, but only San Agustin remains, with its magnificent interior paintings, baroque wooden church doors, and multiple side altars. Of the Manila churches, Santa Ana has preserved its old mural paintings and retablo, while the San Sebastian steel church with its stained glass windows and neogothic altar stands very much the way it was in the 1890s.

Four important architects of the Spanish period are Bartolome Palatino of Paete, Laguna, who created the ornate facade-belfry of Morong; Felix Roxas Sr., who designed the neogothic Santo Domingo and the neoclassic San Ignacio in Intramuros; Genaro Palacios, who was responsible for the steel, prefabricated church of San Sebastian in Manila; and Luciano Oliver, who designed the churches of Taal and Malabon and the 1879 Manila Cathedral.

Aside from churches, the Spaniards directed the building of civic and military structures, such as the forts of San Felipe and Porta Vaga in Cavite. Notable too are the escuela pia of Taal, Batangas; the town arch of Pagsanjan, Laguna; and the cemetery of Nagcarlan, Laguna. The most outstanding of the Spanish-period structures, however, are the walls and bastions of Intramuros.

The narrow, wedge-shaped piece of land where the Manila Bay and Pasig River converge was originally the territory of Rajah Soliman, the precolonial ruler of Maynila. A palisade of bamboo and earth protected his community, composed of small families living in bahay kubo or nipa huts. After the Spaniards took over Maynila in 1571, the wooden palisade was replaced with adobe stone quarried from Guadalupe, Makati. Each time there was an attack or a threat from other invaders, the Spaniards would build fortifications and replace the former palisade.

The Spaniards laid out the city following the urbanization ordinances of 1573, which stipulated that Renaissance urban planning was to be followed. Hence, a grid street plan was created with open and built spaces within city blocks. The city covered an area of approximately 64 hectares, from the north on the side of Manila Bay to the south in the area of Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park) and west on Parian, now Plaza Lawton. It comprised four barrios—San Antonio, San Carlos, San Gabriel, and San Luis—and was divided into two parts: the military establishment and the city. The Spaniards maximized the space and erected buildings according to the outlines of the area’s natural harbor.

The walled city could be accessed through seven gates: Puerta Postigo, Puerta Santa Lucia, Puerta Real, Puerta del Parian, Puerta Isabel II, Puerta Santo Domingo, and Puerta Almacenes. Fort Santiago, the military stronghold on the south bank of the Pasig River, was separated by a moat and bridge and had its own gate, thus essentially becoming an island in itself. On the south side was Fort Nuestra Señora de Guia, currently integrated into the Baluarte de San Diego, a circular fort designed by Jesuit friar Antonio Sedeño and built from 1586 to 1587. By the 18th century, Maynila, now called Intramuros, literally “within the walls,” was totally enclosed, with a moat built around the city, and the Manila Bay and Pasig River serving as natural barriers.

As the religious orders arrived intermittently between 1571 and 1886, seven major churches were built along with chapels of colleges and other institutions. Hence, it became a tradition to go to Intramuros for the visita iglesia of the seven churches. Bricks, adobe, and high-quality wood, such as molave, narra, and tindalo, were used as materials for the construction of the churches as well as the military and government institutions.

There were a number of plazas in Intramuros, the most important of which was Plaza Roma, the principal plaza where the Manila Cathedral, Ayuntamiento (Cabildo/City Hall), and Palacio del Gobernador (Governor General’s Palace) were located. The plaza complex, as seen in Plaza Roma, which highlighted important buildings, served as the operation centers of Spanish religious proselytization, political domination, and cultural indoctrination, thereby making it the center of the walled city and the showcase of Spanish colonization. The centrality of the plaza and the urbanization of Intramuros were duplicated through mini-plazas also located within the walled city, as several religious orders and institutions wanted to emphasize their politico-religious link within the city.

Because the mestizo and native landowners of the 19th century had grown rich from the export of sugar, coffee, or copra, they commissioned large residences that would reflect their new status. The bahay na bato (stone house) were two-story houses of stone and wood, built around or near the church plaza. A Jesuit priest, Francisco Ignacio Alcina, referred to structures built from wood and stone as “arquitectura mestiza.” The ground floor was made from stone and the upper floors from wood to make the structure resistant to earthquakes.

Like its ancestor the bahay kubo, the bahay na bato had wooden posts buried in the ground. On these posts were attached the basic framework of the wooden upper story, and on top of this, the roof of wood and tiles. The stone wall underneath functioned as a skirt covering the posts and enclosing the space beneath. Walls of the second level were of wood. As in the bahay kubo, cross ventilation was provided by windows on all sides of the house, except that now there were two sets of tall, sliding windows—one of capiz shell for the rain and another of wooden slats for the sun—as well as ventanillas (small, sliding wooden panels) below the pasamano (window sill). Windows were protected from sun and rain by the media agua (awning).

Gregorio Agoncillo house in Taal, Batangas
Gregorio Agoncillo house in Taal, Batangas, 2017, above (Roy Jorge)

Interior of the Gregorio Agoncillo house
Interior of the Gregorio Agoncillo house, 2015 (Will Fly for Food,

The main door of the bahay na bato was situated at the center of the first-floor stone wall. The area on the first floor called zaguan stored carro (floats), carruajes (carriages), and huge rice bins. Through the zaguan, one ascended the grand staircase, which led to the caida or antesala (anteroom), which was connected to the main sala (receiving hall), whose windows overlooked the main street. Adjacent to the sala are the cuartos (bedrooms). The comedor (dining room) is found next to the sala. Connected to the comedor is the cocina (kitchen), where one finds the dapugan (cooking stove) and the paminggalan (food cabinet or cupboard). Next to the kitchen or the comedor is the azotea, the open area with balustrades around it. Running around the front and sides of the house is the volada, a gallery that allows access between rooms. To aid ventilation, the upper portion of the solid wooden walls isolating the cuartois provided with callado woodwork, carvings or cutouts that allow the air to circulate between the rooms.

Stone for the bahay na bato of the Tagalog elite came from the quarries of Meycauayan in Bulacan; Majayjay, Los Baños, Makiling, and Pakil in Laguna; and Mauban and Banahaw in Quezon. Carpenters, masons, and cabinetmakers from Paete became as well known as the Chinese artisans who had worked in the construction of Manila’s stone houses since the 16th century.

In Manila, some of the well-known bahay na bato constructed in the last two centuries are those of the Araneta and Paterno families on Calle Hidalgo; Carmelo and Garchitorena on Calle Azcarraga; Palanca on Calle Rosario; Yangco and Francisco in Binondo; Tuason, Ongpin, and Tiaoqui on Calle Evangelista; Monroy on Calle Arlegui; Litonjua in San Nicolas; Alberto on Calle Nozaleda in Intramuros; Bautista-Nakpil on Barbosa; and Goldenberg in San Miguel. In the late 19th century, Spanish residents began to move out of the walled city as it became more cramped and stifling due to overpopulation. Summerhouses in the style of bahay na bato were built in San Miguel, on Calle F. R. Hidalgo in Quiapo, and Calle Herran in Santa Ana.

Prominent bahay na bato stand in other provinces: in Nueva Ecija, the Tinio house of San Isidro, the De Guzman of Gapan, and the De Guzman of Cabanatuan; in Batangas, the Ilagan, Alvarez, and Agoncillo of Taal, the De Leon-Marella of Calaca, the Pastor and Rosales-Borbon of Batangas City; in Bulacan, the Tecson of San Miguel, Castro of Plaridel, Mercado of Bustos, Bautista and Santos of Malolos, and Constantino of Balagtas; and in Quezon, the Enriquez-Gala and the Gala-Rodriguez of Sariaya.

The suburbs or arrabales outside Intramuros had been developing since the term of Governor-General Luis Perez Dasmariñas began in 1593. Following the destruction of the Chinese Parian, which was just outside the walls, Governor-General Dasmariñas purchased Binondo, originally called Binondoc, meaning “hilly terrain,” from encomenderos for 200 pesos. He ordered the Sangleys or Chinese natives to convert to Catholicism and reside in this new settlement, which had as its patroness the Nuestra Señora de Santisimo Rosario. This land grant would be exclusive to the Catholic Chinese, who would enjoy certain privileges, including exemption from the land tax.

Binondo slowly established itself as a Chinese town of commerce, especially during the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, which lasted from 1565 to 1815. For 250 years, San Nicolas, which was absorbed as Binondo’s arrabal, enjoyed a heavy traffic of goods through its own alcaiceria, a new marketplace. It became a trading port with its own customs house across Fort Santiago. A bridge, called Puente de España, now Jones Bridge, connected it to Intramuros.

Rizal Avenue, Manila, 1930s
Rizal Avenue, Manila, 1930s (Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

Trading shifted from Intramuros to Binondo and Quiapo. Santa Cruz, particularly the streets parallel to Rizal Avenue, with their bahay na bato in Oroquieta and Misericordia, maintained a strictly residential atmosphere. In contrast, Binondo developed into a commercial and cultural hub, with theaters. The most expensive accommodations such as lodges, inns, and hotels, sprung up in the 1870s. Hotel de Oriente on Plaza Calderon de la Barca and Fonda Francesca on Barraca Street were considered the best lodgings at the turn of the 20th century and favored by foreign tourists. Both structures were made in the style of the bahay na bato.

Subsequently, many streets in Binondo, Santa Cruz, and Quiapo specialized in specific trades for which these became known. San Fernando Street at the foot of the bridge was known for its hotels; Anloague (now Juan Luna), for its resident carpenters; Jaboneros (soap makers), for soap; Ilang Ilang, for perfume shops; and Fundidor, for its foundries. Escolta, situated between Binondo and Santa Cruz, was the center of commerce, where the rich and the wealthy shopped. The narrow streets of Nueva (now E. T. Yuchengco), San Vicente, Gandara (now Sabino Padilla), and Rosario (now Quintin Paredes Street), where the Chinese wholesale and retail stores were located, were favored by the masses. Raon (now Gonzalo Puyat) became a center for electrical tools and supplies; F. R. Hidalgo for camera supplies; and Azcarraga (now Rizal Avenue) for clothes and shoes at mid-range prizes. The glorification of Spain was manifested in the naming of streets after Spanish cities such as Madrid, Sevilla, and Barcelona. Even Christianity lived on with names such as Rosario, Misericordia, Santo Cristo, and San Fernando. The districts of Binondo, Santa Cruz, and Quiapo became cosmopolitan centers with diverse races, cultures, and traditions.

Binondo and Santa Cruz are the sites of notable structures. Caza Vizantina, owned by Don Lorenzo del Rosario and built in 1890, was a three-story bahay na bato in San Nicolas, Binondo. It stood on what became the original site of the Instituto de Manila, now the University of Manila. The structure was built in neo-Mudejar style, a type of Moorish revival architecture popular in Madrid during the late 19th century. It used Moorish motifs such as horseshoe arches, arabesque tiling, and abstract-shaped brick ornamentations on the facade. The house has been transferred piece by piece to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, in Bagac, Bataan, a resort owned by old house collector and real estate magnate Jose Acuzar.

The district of Quiapo, on the other hand, was divided by Quezon Boulevard. On the north side of Quiapo Church and Quinta Market stood bahay na bato that were turned into commercial accesorias. The south side of Arlegui and Barbosa Streets maintained its quiet and idyllic residential character. F. R. Hidalgo Street, named after the renowned Filipino painter, was regarded during the late 19th century as the most beautiful street in Manila because of its bahay na bato mansions.

The American Occupation wrought significant changes in Philippine architecture, particularly in the districts of Ermita, Malate, Paco, and Pasay. American colonial policy, which was based on secular education and public service, necessitated a new type of urban planning and architectural structure. American architects Daniel Burnham and William Parsons created a new city outside of Intramuros, from the Post Office to Herran Street (now Pedro Gil) with Taft as the main avenue.

Around this area were built the earliest examples of American colonial architecture. The small district of Ermita, outside Intramuros, was one of the first beneficiaries of the American infrastructure development. Taft Avenue, which begins in Ermita and ends in Pasay, became a heritage corridor of architectural masterpieces by renowned American and Filipino master planners and architects. The land reclamation from Intramuros to Pasay was initiated at the turn of the 20th century to decongest the inner city and its ancient, narrow streets. Following Burnham’s suggestion to develop architecture suited for the tropics, William Parsons turned the area of Luneta, south of Intramuros, into an architectural centerpiece by designing a mix of government buildings and private structures, such as the Manila Hotel, Army and Navy Club, Elks Club, the Philippine Normal College, and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). Juan Arellano designed the Legislative Building, while Tomas Mapua did the Nurses’ Home of the PGH. For government buildings, the neoclassical style was favored.

Elks Club, in front, and Army and Navy Club, behind, Manila, early 20th century
Elks Club, in front, and Army and Navy Club, behind, Manila, early 20th century (Leo Cloma Collection)

This pattern was replicated on a smaller scale in the capital towns of the provinces. The Americans built capitol complexes, where the kapitolyo (provincial capitol building), jail, court, high school, sports complex, hospital, and library would all be located. The buildings in this complex had the same neoclassical style of government buildings in Manila.

However, Intramuros was not exempt from this development when a section of its walls were demolished to give way to vehicular traffic and wharves. The moat that used to surround the walled city for protection was filled in with soil and sand for sanitary reasons and was turned into a park that eventually became a golf course. Still, the walled city kept its identity with its seven churches, schools, government buildings, and residential houses, some of which were partitioned and rented out to migrant families from the provinces.

The American colonial government encouraged Filipino architects to design civic and private buildings in Ermita and other suburbs such as Sampaloc and Quiapo. Arcadio Arellano designed the Gota de Leche Building and Hidalgo House; Antonio Toledo, the Manila City Hall and two buildings composing the Agrifina Circle: the Department of Finance (now Museum of the Filipino People), and the Department of Agriculture (now Museum of Natural History). For government buildings, the neoclassical and Greek revivalist styles using doric and ionic columns were favored.

The north section of Taft Avenue became the center of architecturally significant buildings. The Philippine Normal University at the corner of Taft Avenue and Ayala Boulevard was finished in 1915. This mission revival and neoclassical-inspired complex was designed by William Parsons. The Neoclassical Manila Central Post Office in Plaza Lawton, built in 1926, was designed by architects Juan Arellano and Tomas Mapua. The Metropolitan Theater, also in Plaza Lawton, was built in 1931 and restored in 1978 by Otilio Arellano in art noveau, a style characterized by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms. Ornamentation for the theater was provided by Isabelo Tampinco. Toward the south of Plaza Lawton and Luneta are several colleges and universities, clubs, churches, and residential areas. The streamlined structure of architect Welton Becket’s Jai Alai Building, 1940, was considered a fine example of modern art deco for its emphasis on long horizontal lines, curving forms, and nautical elements. The building survived World War II but was demolished in 2000.

Churches and temples increased in number in Ermita and Malate. Besides Malate Church, 1591, and Ermita Church by Lorenzo Guerrero, 1885, there were the Central Methodist Church, 1906, designed by C. B. Ripley; San Marcelino Church, 1926, by Andres Luna de San Pedro, and Carlos Santos-Viola, 1950s; the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, 1920s; and Temple Emil, 1922. Between the last two temples, only the Masonic Temple survived the burning and shelling of Manila toward the end of World War II in February and March 1945.

The Americans continued to uphold the downtown area of Binondo, Santa Cruz, and Quiapo as the prime commercial district. The prime street in downtown Manila was Escolta, meaning “escort,” located parallel to the bank of the Pasig River. An already thriving commercial center during the Spanish colonial period, this street of less than a kilometer long teemed with bazaars and shops that sold only the best products.

El Hogar Filipino Building, at the corner of Muelle de la Industria and Juan Luna in Binondo, is a fine example of beaux-arts, a style that reflects the elements of neoclassical and renaissance architecture. Built in 1914 and designed by Ramon Irureta-Goyena and Francisco Perez-Muñoz, El Hogar is priceless both for its aesthetic value and its significance as representative of the district’s history as the prime commercial center. Regina Building in Escolta stands out for its beaux-arts style. Built in 1915 and designed by Andres Luna de San Pedro and Fernando Ocampo, the commercial building was rented out mostly to top insurance companies during the pre-World War II era. The current owners have maintained the building’s old-world charm by maintaining both its interiors and exteriors.

In Binondo, Santa Cruz, and Quiapo, and even in some sections of Tondo, the bahay na bato was adapted to suit the requirements of trade. Instead of the ground floor being used as the zaguan or corridor for the kalesa, it was used for shops and a warehouse, while the upper story retained its function as the living quarters. This type of dwelling became known as the accesoria. The functional design of the accesoria continues to be used in many modern structures in Binondo and Santa Cruz, with the ground floor used for business and the upper floors for residences.

These bahay na bato on Escolta up to Rizal Avenue became commercial buildings. La Campana was known for confectionaries, and La Confianza was a grocery store that sold imported goods. Botica Boie, which had the country’s first revolving door, was a German dispensary that became a drugstore and a soda fountain. Puerta del Sol and La Estrella del Norte sold quality textiles and jewels. New buildings like the upscale, concrete high-rise Heacock’s Department Store carried the latest clothes, shoes, and cosmetics.

Economic and social developments in the first half of the 20th century created a demand for other architectural forms. Moving away from the neoclassical tradition of the beaux-arts School, younger Filipino architects in Manila, such as Andres Luna de San Pedro, Pablo Antonio, and Juan Nakpil, began to create new commercial office buildings like the 1928 Perez-Samanillo Building on Escolta; apartments like the 1937 Bel-Air on Roxas Boulevard, and cinema houses like the 1930s Cine Ideal.

Art deco, popular in the 1930s for combining crafts and machine-age motifs, was exemplified by Andres Luna de San Pedro’s Crystal Arcade on Escolta. It housed the Manila Stock Exchange and premier shops with air conditioning, which was then uncommon even for high-rise buildings. The Crystal Arcade did not survive the war but was replaced by the Philippine National Bank (PNB) Building designed by Carlos Arguelles in the 1960s. The PNB Building exemplified the precast construction and prefabrication at that time.

The area of Rizal Avenue in the district of Santa Cruz was the downtown area of Manila. The street was vibrant with specialty shops, hotels, theaters, and offices, especially in its heyday from the 1920s to the early 1940s. During these decades, the bahay na bato were replaced by concrete buildings. Stand-alone movie houses such as the Avenue, State, and Grand Theater, done in art deco and neoclassical styles, dominated the main thoroughfare.

The Ocampos, Tuasons, and Aranetas lived in Quiapo until around the mid-20th century, when pollution and overpopulation led to its decline. Nevertheless, some streets in Quiapo still retain a number of houses with traditional arcades that serve as shade for people on the sidewalk as well as houses with courtyards like the houses in Intramuros before its destruction in 1945. The Paterno mansion, also on F. R. Hidalgo Street, still retains elements of the fully enclosed courtyard of an old Manila house.

The emerging middle class as well as the elite wanted houses for small families in the city. Thus, a new type of house in the growing suburbs of the city evolved. Known as the chalet (pronounced tsalet), this type of house was made of wood, smaller than the bahay na bato, and significantly less ornate. Elevated by about one or two meters from the ground, the chalet had only one level. It usually had stone stairs in front, which led to a porch which could be connected to a balcony running all around the house. Other districts such as Malate and Sampaloc followed suit and had several chalets in the same style. A good example of the chalet is the one on P. Guevara Street, San Juan City, which has twin staircases in front. This has been converted into a restaurant.

The tail end of World War II, between February and March 1945, destroyed more than half of Manila, but many of the structures were never rebuilt. A handful of government buildings were reconstructed, such as the Manila Post Office, Manila City Hall, Legislative Building, and the Agriculture and Finance Buildings. However, the core of the city, composed of Intramuros, Santa Cruz, parts of Quiapo, Ermita, Malate, Paco, Santa Mesa, and Pandacan, were reduced to rubble and barely recovered.

The International Style was used for postwar rehabilitation of damaged buildings and construction of new landmarks. Luis Araneta, Rufino Antonio, and Juan Nakpil designed new high rises that emerged from the rubble on Escolta. Angel Nakpil completed the National Press Club Building at the foot of Jones Bridge. Federico Ilustre, the consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works, designed the GSIS Building, the Veterans Memorial Building, Manila International Airport, and the DENR (formerly Bureau of Lands) building in the International Style. Ilustre is also known for the Quezon Memorial Monument on Elliptical Road in Quezon City.

The use of brise soleil (sun breakers) became associated with the International Style. Although the style had already been used before World War II, architects like Pablo Antonio, who designed the Capitan Luis Gonzaga Building, continued to make use of this style to suit the country’s tropical climate. Aside from sun breakers, vertical and horizontal details were used, evident in Alfredo Luz’s World Health Organization Building, Carlos Arguelles’s Philam Life Building, and Jose Zaragoza’s Commercial Bank and Trust Company, all in Manila.

The town of Pasay, named after Rajah Soliman’s daughter, Princess Pasay, was a precolonial town east of Manila. Like Ermita, Pasay was quaint with rows of chalet and two-story bahay na bato, owned by illustrious figures like Manuel Quezon and Claro M. Recto. The Manila Polo Club and Harrison Park were its two centers of leisure, with the sea just a few blocks away. It was an exclusive district until it began to decline in the late 1960s.

The national government’s efforts to improve the area began with the reclamation of the land to build the Cultural Center Complex. The reclaimed area was in the Brutalist style, characterized by the predominance of exposed concrete on the facade of heavy-looking and fortress-like structures. This reclaimed area in Pasay became a showcase of this style, which was popularized by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. Aside from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Folk Arts Theater, Philippine International Convention Center, Philippine Plaza Hotel (now Sofitel), and Philcite are prime examples of structures meant to appear massive and finished by rough concrete, glass, and bricks. At present, the SM Group of Companies in Pasay City continues to reclaim the land to build its own center composed of residential condominiums, offices, malls, a church, a museum, hotels, and an international school.

On the other hand, the influx of migrants from the countryside in search of employment introduced the barong-barong (makeshift shanty)—an eyesore for most people yet undeniably raw and a product of improvisation and ingenuity. An urban shanty, or barong-barong, covers about 10 to 15 square meters. It is generally built on land that is either government property or owned by an absentee owner. The barong barong is a simple one-room dwelling. Its walls are made of plywood or polystyrene joined by thick, rusty nails; its roof is made of rusty, sometimes blackened, galvanized iron sheets. Materials are commonly sourced from abandoned or destroyed houses.

Like the bahay kubo, the barong-barong is unstable and is prone to fire and damage. But despite natural threats, shantytowns last for decades and often spread into adjacent areas. The national government has continually attempted to solve this problem by constructing low-cost houses, such as tenements, and awarding home lots, such as the Dagohoy Estate in San Andres Bukid, Manila. The Marcos administration initiated the Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services, also known as the BLISS community. Targeting poor and low-income Filipinos, this housing project was replicated by succeeding administrations. Success, however, has been limited, as the proliferation of informal settlements remains a prevalent problem in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Due to the rising urban problem in the city’s core, most of the original dwellers of Ermita and Malate moved out and built new houses elsewhere. Makati, originally called San Pedro de Macati, was a mere swampland and virtually ignored up to the early 20th century. It was developed during the post-World War II years. The Nielson Airport and runways were transformed into main avenues. The subdivisions of San Lorenzo, Bel-Air, Magallanes, and Urdaneta were developed in the 1950s to the 1960s. The wealthy families of Manila relocated to the upscale and exclusive North and South Forbes Park. To sustain the lifestyle of the growing population living in Makati, supermarkets, arcades, restaurants, and theaters were opened. The Makati Central Business District grew alongside these establishments.

The simplicity of the International Style was its centerpiece—Cubist forms and materials such as concrete, steel, and glass defined this unornamented and functional style. In Makati, “the Insular Life Building by Cesar Concio on Ayala Avenue had a curving facade covered with vertical projections set close to each other to conceal the curtain wall behind it” (Lico 2008, 432). The same style was used by Jose Ma. Zaragoza for the Meralco Building and Francisco Mañosa for the San Miguel Headquarters, both located in Ortigas Center, Pasig. The construction of these iconic buildings heralded the development of business districts outside Makati. Aside from the International Style that had become the preference of architects, elements of Brutalist architecture inspired by traditional and modern styles remained popular. v’s Pacific Star Building and the Asian Institute of Management, both in Makati, the Central Bank of the Philippines in Manila, MWSS Headquarters in Quezon City, and Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan stood harmoniously with other International Style buildings.

Meralco Building, Pasig City
Meralco Building, Pasig City, 2012 (Laine Cedillo)

Since the 1990s, old and new generations of architects have designed structures along postmodernist principles. In contrast to modernism, postmodernism considers ambiguity and contradiction as valid elements. Colors, ornaments, historical styles, and eclectic elements are used in Rogelio Villarosa’s Tektite Tower, Renaissance Tower, and AIC Gold Tower in the pseudo-classicist genre. In the city of Makati, Wong Tung’s Enterprise Center, 1998, and Palmer and Turner and Recio Casas’s Shang Grand Tower, 2006, have art deco details that stand out among the more minimalist structures in the area.

In 1992, RA 7227, also known as the Bases Conversion and Development Act, designated 440 hectares of the Fort Bonifacio military base in Taguig City for conversion into a business, retail, and residential center. Hence, Fort Bonifacio has become the site of the Bonifacio Global City (BGC), which has, in effect, become an extension of the Makati Central Business District. BGC is the site of upscale residential condominiums such as the One McKinley Place, Serendra, and Pacific Plaza Towers. Office buildings such as NetOne and W City Center dominate the Taguig skyline as intended by its architects of the New York-based firm CAZA. Modern architecture prevails in BGC with the use of all-glass, aluminum frame, and steel curtain walls.

Bonifacio Global City skyline
Bonifacio Global City skyline, 2016 (wikimediacommons/Mjdiamzon)

Bonifacio High Street, on the other hand, has restaurants, bookstores, and retail shops for the residents. BGC continues to grow as private and government institutions have started moving in, such as the St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Colleges and universities have put up satellite schools in the area. In addition, BGC features mixed-use areas like the Forbes Town Center, composed of low-density residential buildings, shops, and leisure centers.

BGC and other “new cities” are the effect of population explosion and the scarcity of land in urban areas. Condominiums are being built for the elite and multistory housing units for the middle- and lower-middle class employees. The former vast pasturelands and rice fields of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna have been converted in recent years into development sites for mass housing projects for government personnel and private workers; more are being eyed in the future as more tracts of land are given over to industrial and commercial investors, both foreign and local.

Visual Arts 

Prehistoric pottery has been found in archaeological excavations in Rizal, Manila, Laguna, Batangas, and Mindoro. In a Novaliches cave, Iron Age vessels included shallow bowls with high or low ring stands, single jars, and jars with short necks and everted rims. Sites in Taal, Batangas have yielded jars of different sizes, with two ears and geometric designs, as well as a turtle effigy jar. A four-breasted jar was unearthed in Calapan, Mindoro.

Basket of buri and rattan from Quezon
Basket of buri and rattan from Quezon (Lane 1986)

Earthenware pottery declined with the influx of tradeware from China and the Southeast Asian countries, both before and after the coming of Spain. Through the Spanish colonial period and to the present, terra-cotta has been used primarily for traditional functional objects. The various pieces of pottery in Batangas, Bulacan, and Pasig are the palayok, a vessel with shoulder used for cooking rice; the sigangan, whose mouth is wider than the palayok’s, is a clay pot for stewing vegetables and meat; the balanga,a variation on the sigangan; the kalan, a basin stove with foot ring or stand, usually with an extended front called labi (lip) for putting and stoking the firewood; and the tuntong or suklob, a cover with knob handles, for pots and jars. The laruan ng bata (children’s toys), also called kalakuti, include a bowl of local fruits or a miniature cooking set for children, with a pot, a pot cover, a stove, and a frying pan. Other items made only in some barrios are the balanga, a water jar; the paso or masetera, flower pots; the banga, a water jar without a spigot; the kalang Hapon or kalang uling, small charcoal stoves with a flower-pot shape and a floor above the fire chamber; the bangusan, shipping pots for fish fry; the bibingkahan and putuhan, clay baking pans for cooking bibingka and puto; and the galong, a type of water jar.

Contemporary ceramics are exemplified by the functional art pieces of Jaime and Anne de Guzman, who in their workshops in Candelaria, Quezon have been producing in the past decade a wide range of designs, from standard dinnerware and tea sets to free-form glazed and unglazed functional clay sculptures.

For centuries, baskets, mats, and hats have been woven by the Tagalog from plant materials abundant in their environment, such as palm, buri, pandan and anahaw leaves, rattan, and bamboo strips, and the vines of banban, kilab, nito, kaong, and tanlak. Traditional baskets continue to be woven in Bulacan, Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon, and may be classified into baskets for storing, carrying, winnowing, and for other purposes. Storage baskets from Bulacan are the egg basket of split bamboo, which consists of an inner cone-shaped basket and an outer basket with circular format; and the matong, a huge bin of sawali for storing grain, which is reinforced with striated pallets of bamboo weavers. In Laguna, rice may be stored in the buli-ligon, which is a huge, deep container, and a bakol, a household basket made from the bevelled edge of bamboo in close weave. In Batangas, the balaong, a basket almost four feet high with a four-pointed base and a circular rim, can contain as much as 10 cavans of threshed palay.

Egg basket made of split bamboo, from Bulacan
Egg basket made of split bamboo, from Bulacan (Lane 1986)

Carrying baskets from Bulacan are the bangkaso, a round, six-inch-high open basket made from thin bamboo strips, used for transporting grain, vegetables, and cooked food; the ordinary basket, an open-weave, roundish, foot-high basket of bamboo strips with a handle of thin rattan, used for going to the market; the kaing, a foot-and-a-half-high, wider-rimmed basket of bamboo strips, for transporting mangoes; and the buslo, a foot-high basket of bamboo strips with a small rim and cap, which is tied to a fisher’s waist and into which fish caught in streams or fishponds are secured. In Laguna, coconuts may be transported in the bakid, oval-shaped, heavy-duty pannier baskets of rattan or bamboo, which are strapped in pairs on either side of a horse; lanzones are carried in a smaller version also called bakid. In Batangas are found the takuyan, a basket of split bamboo with a circular rim and four-pointed base, tied around the waistline of a farmer with a string or a thong, which carries the sheaves of palay gathered by a sharp cutting knife called yatab; and the bakid, a wide-rimmed basket of split bamboo in open weave, which is used to carry kinumpay (mown pasture grass) or cattle feed and slung on the back for ease of travel and transport. Quezon’s version of the bakid, a basket of split bamboo for transporting grass, crops, and other items, has bamboo skids underneath so the basket can be dragged when the load is heavy.

Bangkaso made of split bamboo, from Bulacan
Bangkaso made of split bamboo, from Bulacan (Lane 1986)

Winnowing baskets called bilao are wide and flat baskets of bamboo strips with strong bamboo rims. In the Tagalog provinces, these are used for winnowing newly harvested palay in the wind and for cleaning threshed rice before cooking. It has also been used for transporting all varieties of rice cakes. The igigan of Bulacan is a semicircular bowl used as a colander or sieve for draining fish; the salakab is a fish-trapping basket of bamboo strips, which has two openings, a wide one at the bottom for trapping the fish and a small one on top through which the fishers may lay hands on the fish.

In recent years, the demands of the local and international markets have produced baskets of all shapes, styles, and colors. Bulacan baskets made for this market use rattan wicker pre-dyed in various colors such as blue, violet, fuchsia, yellow, orange, red, and green. Examples of these multicolored baskets are a jarlike basket with rattan hoops serving as carrying handles on the lower shoulder, and a vaselike, cylindrical one with neck and lip tapering out. Other Bulacan baskets feature linings of brightly colored cloth, lace trims, and quilted covers.

Similarly, Quezon baskets for the contemporary market are usually free-form, and incorporate the natural colors and varied textures of different materials, such as natural rattan peel, black kalob vine, rust-colored agnaya, and the usual brown nito. The artisans of Quezon produce small gift items such as cigarette cases, purses, and placemats, all using buri leaves, which are receptive to dye treatment.

Mats are made of pandan leaves, which are softened by pressing and then woven incheckerboard design. Flexible, washable, and durable, these mats are used for sleeping or working on in many Tagalog provinces. In Quezon, mats may be of buri leaves dyed in four different colors, embellished with small square eyelets at the edge.

Woven salakot with velvet and silver trim, 18th to 19th century
Woven salakot with velvet and silver trim, 18th to 19th century, Luis Ma. Araneta Collection (Photo courtesy of Patricia Maria Araneta)

For protection against the sun, buntal hats crafted from the ribs of palm leaves have been woven in Baliuag, Bulacan for decades, although now Quezon has become the center of the buntal hat industry, producing hats for men and women for local and international markets. For sun and rain, Bulacan has produced the traditional salakot, a cone-shaped, circular, wide-brimmed headgear, which is made of layers of palm leaves radiating from the top and secured around a hoop of split bamboo with rattan strips. During the rainy season, the Quezon farmer wears a salakot formed out of several pieces of banana bark stitched tightly to a bamboo frame tied with rattan, and a raincoat with three layers of huge anahaw leaves sewn at the edges with split nito vine.

In the 19th century, the dome-shaped salakot of fine tightly woven strips of bamboo or vine was studded with beaten silver flowers or stars trimmed with scallops and other geometric patterns, and topped with finials of silver—to distinguish local chiefs called cabezas from ordinary “Indios.” The cords of these salakot were secured with old silver coins and embellished with silver pomegranate or ball finials.

In the 19th century, some piña or pineapple cloth, and jusi, a mixture of piña and abaca, were woven by women in the vicinity of Manila. Baliuag, Bulacan has become famous since the 19th century for the silk tapis and panyo (scarf folded on the diagonal and worn over the shoulder), which had stripes and squares in different colors and shades.

Baliuag silk shawl
Baliuag silk shawl, circa 1930 (Nicanor G. Tiongson Collection)

Rather than textile weaving, the Tagalog were better known in the last two or three centuries for their embroidery. Taught at girls’ schools run by the Spanish nuns and using techniques from the Chinese, the native embroidery was already well known by the beginning of the 18th century. In convents, nuns turned out priest’s vestments, altar covers, and costumes of saint’s images, embroidered with either flat or coiled metal thread from Europe. On the other hand, colegialas (schoolgirls) and the upper and middle classes did embroidery work on women’s baro (wide-sleeved blouse), pañuelo (scarf folded diagonally over the shoulder), pañolito (handkerchief), and the men’s baro (long-sleeved shirt, which is buttoned in front and worn with the lower part hanging loose) as well as baptismal gowns, curtains, bed hangings, and carroskirts. This embroidery work combined calado or open work with satin-stitched designs, such as the flores (flowers), butanika (hearts), bulon (raised knots), and tirik and bitik (herringbone stitches). Another technique called sombrado (shading) necessitated the cutting out of fine, curvilinear patterns from white cloth, which were then sewn on the reverse side of the fabric to create a “shadow” effect.

Because of the demand for embroidery in the local and international markets, communities of bordadoras (embroiderers) were found in Malate, Manila as well as in the barrios of Taal and San Nicolas, Batangas in the 19th century.

In the 1920s, machine embroidery developed into an industry in Bocaue, Bulacan. This industry specialized in the cadineta (chain stitch), which was popular as decoration for the terno sleeves and pañuelo, together with lentihuelas (sequins), abalorios (beads), azabache (jet beads), and seed pearls.

Today Taal, Batangas continues to produce embroidered piña and jusi barong tagalog, which use motifs like the sinampagita (jasminelike), sili-sili (tiny peppers), and kinape (coffee-beanlike), while Lumban, Laguna embroiders jusi and piña table cloths, coasters and napkins, dress and barong materials, and wedding ensembles.

Ephemeral materials like paper and leaves have been used by the folk. Papier-mache figures called taka have been made in Paete, Laguna for decades. Shaped on wooden molds and painted in bright enamel colors, toy dolls, houses, carabaos, roosters, hens, and pigs are sold by sidera (vendors) on church patios during town fiestas of adjacent provinces. The parol (Christmas lantern) is a bamboo framework shaped like a five-pointed star, dressed with either papel de japon or cellophane, decorated with cutouts and endowed with two buntot (tails) representing the star’s rays. Towns like Angono, Rizal and many towns in Cavite have created traditional and innovative parol designs. Finally, the pastillas wrappers of San Miguel, Bulacan are candy wrappers with long “tails” cut out, with floral and foliate designs framing words like “alaala” (remembrance) or “mabuhay” (long live) on the name of a person.

Coconut leaves have been used for cooking glutinous rice to make suman or regular rice in heart-shaped containers for big feasts. Young coconut palm leaves are also made into palaspas (palms) for Palm Sunday, which are decorated with palm leaves shaped into flowers, stars, balls, birds, grasshoppers, centipedes, shrimps, swords, and “lightning.” The Palm Sunday kubol (balcony) and the galilea (four-posted structure) of the Easter Sunday salubong are decorated with arches of palm leaves, hung with stripped coconut leaves and embellished with anahaw leaves framing flowers to make bouquets.

Procession of San Isidro Labrador during the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon
Procession of San Isidro Labrador during the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon, 1991 (CCP Collections)

Leaves may also be used to shape the rice flour that is cooked and made into the kiping for the Pahiyas harvest festival of Quezon. Individual leaf-shaped kiping in bright fuchsias, greens, yellows, and oranges are made into chandeliers or arranged in various patterns to decorate the facades of houses. Buntal hats and bakya (wooden slippers) as well as anahaw and coconut leaves, fruits and vegetables of the season, and rice stalks festoon houses to honor the patron of farmers, San Isidro Labrador.

The smithing of gold and silver is an ancient art among the Tagalog. Archaeological excavations in Mindoro have yielded gold ornaments, such as hoop earrings from 800 to 1300 CE, pomara or stylized flowers for the ears, from 1000 to 1300 CE, and quadruple wrist clasps with repousse work in graduated sizes from 100 to 800 CE, while those in Lemery, Batangas produced, among others, a bracelet with a figure with folded feet and hands raised in blessing from 100 to 800 CE. Piloncitos or gold nuggets used as currency from 800 to 1300 CE have been found in Calamba, Laguna.

During the Spanish colonial period, gold and silver were shaped by Tagalog jewelers into personal items such as the paineta (comb) in the kamatsile style or with seed pearls, flowers, and grapes; pantoche (hairpins); aretes (earrings), which were usually in criolla (hoop) style; alfiler (brooch) to keep the pañuelo together; llavera (key holder); and porta abanico (fan holder), as well as singsing (rings) with or without stones, pulseras (bracelets), escapularios (scapulars), gargantillas (chokers), kuwintas (necklaces), tamborin (round gold beads), and alpahor (chains), with a crucifix or a relicario (reliquary) as pendant. Diademas (tiaras) were also used by the ostentatious. Jewelry was usually done in gold but could also be executed in gilt silver.

Silver was used primarily for church implements like the frontales (board facades), the three sacra (cards containing various prayers), candeleros (candlesticks), ramilletes (stylized bouquets of flowers), relicarios (reliquaries), blandones (giant candlesticks), and sanctuary lamps for the altar; and the ciriales (processional cross and two candlesticks on poles), guion or Agnus Dei (processional standard depicting the Lamb of God), the carros, the aureola (halo around the head), rostrillo (halo around the face), mandorla (halo around the image), corona (crown), potencias (Christ’s three shafts of light), diadema, and saint’s attributes—all these for the processions.

For the house, the well-to-do melted down coins for their plates, spoons, forks, drinking bowls, platters, cruets, candlesticks, basins and ewers, incense stick holders, and tea sets. Special were the toothpick holders called paliteras, which were shaped into pineapples, dogs, birds, and fish. Silver was also used for cane knobs, trimmings for the cabeza’s salakot, belt and shoe buckles, betel nut bags, hairpins, fan holders, and key chains.

Important silversmiths at the turn of the 19th century were Paulino Gabriel, Fernando Cenon Faustino Sr., Julian Chanco, Manuel Geronimo, Juan Muñoz, and Juan Solterio of Santa Cruz, Manila; Crispulo Zamora and Ciriaco de Jesus of Quiapo, Manila; and Pedro Henson and Valentin Abelardo of San Miguel, Bulacan.

Centers of jewelry making during the Spanish period were Santa Cruz and Quiapo in Manila (the street of jewelers called Platerias is still found in Quiapo); Lipa, Batangas, where coffee wealth produced diamond-studded slippers, gold and diamond studs for the barong Tagalog, emerald- or diamond-encrusted painetas, and crowns of gold and precious stones; and Meycauayan, Bulacan, which has a long tradition of jewelry making.

During the American colonial period, jewelry started to emphasize stones rather than goldwork, even as it streamlined jewelry styles. Eventually, this led to the deterioration and disappearance of traditional styles of chasing, engraving, casting, and filigree.

Brasscasting is an ancient art among the Tagalog. Before the coming of Spain, blacksmiths like Panday Pira of Manila were casting small brass canons called lantaka, as well as daggers, spears, swords, shields, and helmets. During the Spanish colonial period, different kinds of bolos and daggers were made in towns like Malabon. In 1870, Hilarion Sunico of San Nicolas, Manila, opened a foundry, which cast bells of all sizes: the campana, the largest of all, which was rung by pulling its bayag (balls) against the side of the bell; the smaller esquila, which was rotated; the small campanilla or handbell, which was rung during consecration; and the rueda, a series of small bells attached to a wheel, which was played on Easter Sunday or Christmas and other special occasions.

The anting-anting (talismans) are cast in Cavite and Batangas to this day. They are believed to have the power to deflect bullets and bad luck from the wearer and to bless the owner with good luck and fortune. Mixing Latin and Christian symbols with indigenous beliefs, they can come in the figures of saints, angels, the animasola, the Tres Persona (Three Persons of God), or as round or polygon-shaped medallions.

Furniture in the bahay kubo was minimal. A dulang or low table was placed in the middle of the sala for meals, and removed after meals. A baul (chest) kept clothes and valuables and was placed in the silid (room). Plain, wooden bangko (benches), each with four legs and a brace underneath, and a small altar for household saints were later added.

With the Spanish regime and the bahay na bato came the European-type furniture that has now been adapted by most Tagalog. The sala showcased the silya (chairs) of different European-inspired styles (Luis Quince, Carlos Trece, Mariposa, and Vienna), which may be high or low backed, with or without arms, usually with cane seats and backs, with or without carving and/or bone inlay; the sopa (sofa), which matches the other silya; and the mesa (table), which may be long and rectangular for the dining room, or round for the sala or cuarto, and which may have carved feet and marble tops. In the cuarto were found the aparadores (armoires) for keeping clothes; the mesa-altar (altar table), which had several drawers; the baul for textiles; the cama, or four-poster bed; the lavadera (washstand with basin and mirror); the painadora or tocador (dressing table); and the almario (stand for storing pillows). The comedor showcased long dining tables with matching formal chairs; the platera, which could be an aparador or a partly open sideboard for keeping and displaying china, crystal, and silver tableware. In the cocina was the dapugan, the bangko, and mesa for the servants, and the paminggalan (pantry), which was walled with wooden slats.

Comoda or chest of drawers made of narra and balayong with bone inlay, Baliuag, Bulacan
Comoda or chest of drawers made of narra and balayong with bone inlay, Baliuag, Bulacan, late 19th century (Murvyn R. Callo)

Most of this furniture, which was made of hardwood like mulawin, kamagong, narra, tindalo, and ipil, were made by furniture experts in Binondo, Santa Cruz, or Quiapo in Manila, or provincial centers like Peñaranda in Nueva Ecija; Baliuag in Bulacan; Paete in Laguna; and Lipa and Taal in Batangas. Through the centuries, the regional styles among the Tagalog have become more distinct. The Batangas style, identified with Taal, shows Chinese influence in its curling legs and flat, carved wings. The Baliuag style, associated with both Nueva Ecija and Bulacan, is distinguished by its use of bone inlay and carving for bed frames, feet, and backs of chairs. In both styles, bamboo dowels are used.

Mesa altar or altar table made of tindalo and kamagong with lanite wood inlay, Batangas
Mesa altar or altar table made of tindalo and kamagong with lanite wood inlay, Batangas, circa 18th century (Murvyn R. Callo)

The Tagalog carved wood, stone, and ivory. The likha or larawan were images carved in wood or stone and embellished with gold or ivory, representing the anito or spirits of ancestors. These could be blocks of stone with faint human features or upright wooden figures with clear anatomical details, such as the one found by Marche in the 1880s in the Marinduque caves. The carving of these figures was done in towns like Paete, Laguna, which in 1571 was already known for skilled carvers.

With the coming of Christianity, the Tagalog and the Chinese artisans in Manila began to carve santos or images of the Christian saints. With the friars as their mentors and European prints as their models, these carvers produced santos for the home, for church altars and facades, and for processions. Santeros or carvers of santos were also engaged in carving retablos, pulpits, altars, and doors for churches. They were also commissioned by the new rich to do picture frames, valances, window posts, and furniture for many new bahay na bato.

Doors of Santa Ana Church in Hagonoy, Bulacan
Doors of Santa Ana Church in Hagonoy, Bulacan, 2009 (Marilou Lulot Ruiz)

These santos may be classified into three styles: the popular, the classical, and the ornate. The popular, usually for small household saints, is characterized by a “highly formalized anatomy,” symmetrical composition, exuberance of color and painted detail making up for lack of carved details, and “anachronisms in feature, costumes, and ornament.” Sculptors of this style are unschooled and quite spontaneous, such as the sculptors in Batangas, who produced the triangular images of the Virgin of Caysasay. The classical, which encompasses statues of wood and ivory for houses and churches, have robes and hair carved of the same material as the body, so that even when crowns, haloes, and wings are removed, the statue’s integrity remains. These santos are created by carvers who have been exposed to Spanish and Latin American models whose styles may range from late renaissance to rococo and baroque. Statues may be carved with one piece of wood or have pegs for arms and heads. Examples of this style are the 14 estaciones (stations) in relief of Tanay, Rizal, and the estaciones paintings of Paete, Laguna. The ornate style, popular in the 19th century and after, is an “elaborate development of the classical style” and is characterized by a fascination with “richness of material, realistic detail, and a certain theatrical flavour” (Zobel 1963, 32). Made by professional carvers, these statues “seem more like expensive dolls than religious images” (ibid.). To this style belong the santos with carved ivory heads and hands, wooden framework, gold-embroidered costumes, and silver or gold accessories; and the wooden images that attempt “high realism” in the carving and in the painting of the santo’s clothes. Examples of this style are the many foot-high, ivory figures in gold-embroidered robes, which are kept in home virinas (glass domes) and urnas (wood and glass cases) as well as the processional images of Holy Week and other Christian feasts.

Three centers of wood and ivory carving were Santa Cruz and Quiapo in Manila, and Paete in Laguna. A notable carver of the 18th century was Juan de los Santos of San Pablo, Laguna, who carved the ivory crucifix of San Agustin Monastery in Manila. In the 19th century, famous Manila sculptors were Isabelo Tampinco, Sotero Garcia, Eugenio Llerena, Lorenzo Asuncion, Domingo Teotico, Eulogio Velarde Garcia, Crispulo Hocson, Manuel Flores, Romualdo de Jesus, Maximo Vicente Sr., and Mariano de Guzman Siauinco. Paete’s salient names were Miguel Palatino, Canuto Madriñan, Mariano Madriñan, Amelio Buhay, and Jose Caancan. The carving of santos continues to the present in Paete and Metro Manila.

By the 1930s, secular sculpture in wood, stone, and bronze was being done by schooled artists like Guillermo E. Tolentino of Malolos, Bulacan, who did the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan and the Oblation of the University of the Philippines; and by his student, Anastacio Caedo who has done busts of heroes and saints’ images. With the rise of modernism, sculpture using different materials became a medium of expression for artists like Arturo Luz and Ramon Orlina. Eduardo Castrillo and Impy Pilapil have dominated the contemporary art scene with their sculptures in public parks and spaces.

Printmaking began with the Binondo Chinese Juan de Vera and Dominican Francisco Blancas de San Jose’s woodblock prints for the three doctrinas, 1593. Later, copper plates were made by Tomas Pinpin, Jacinto Magarulao, Raimundo Mag-isa, Andres de Belen, Buenaventura Lampao, and Gaspar de los Reyes in the 17th century; Juan Correa, Jeronimo Correa de Castro, Nicolas dela Cruz Bagay, Francisco Suarez, Cipriano Bagay, Laureano Atlas, and Phelipe Sevilla in the 18th century; and Ysidro Paulino and the descendants of Lorenzo Atlas (previously identified as Laureano but with recent evidence seems to be Laurentius in Latin or Lorenzo in Spanish) in the 19th century.

Outstanding works in print are the cover of the Doctrina Christiana, 1593; the Murillo Velarde map and vignettes, 1734; the Gaspar Aquino de Belen pasyon illustrations, 1760 edition; and the twin portraits of two Marian images, 1749. Most numerous were prints depicting Christ and the saints called estampas, which were framed for house altars, and smaller versions called estampitas, which marked prayer books. There were also illustrations of secular and religious coats of arms, portraits of kings and bishops, views of churches, and scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

In the second half of the 19th century and in the early part of the American colonial period, lithography was used by artists who illustrated portraits, buildings, landscapes, native inhabitants, and genre scenes in newspapers like La Ilustracion Filipina. The same process was used for the editorial cartoons of early American period magazines. Lithographic portraits of national heroes and government personalities were done by Jorge Pineda and others.

With the emergence of print as a conscious medium of artistic expression in the 1930s, several painters and sculptors created reliefs, intaglios, lithography, and serigraphy. Among them were Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Arturo Luz, Hilario Francia, Cenon Rivera, Florencio Concepcion, Mauro Malang Santos, Jose Joya, Marciano Galang, Benedicto Cabrera also known as BenCab, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Manolito Mayo, and Nonon Padilla.

Religion was the dominant subject matter of oil paintings in the 18th and 19th centuries. Portraits as well as scenes from the lives of Christ, Mary, and the saints were commissioned for house altars, while murals were done for church walls, such as the murals of San Cristobal and on Heaven, Earth, Purgatory, and Hell, attributed to Jose Dans in Paete, Laguna.

But even as religious painting dominated the art scene, secular topics began to develop in the 19th century. For foreign visitors, Damian Domingo did several sets of the tipos del pais (natives in typical costume) in the first half of the century. By the middle of the century, the new-rich middle class which grew rich from the export of sugar, coffee, and copra, commissioned painters to do their retratos (portraits) in miniaturismo style; their letras y figuras, figures forming the letters of their names; and paisajes (landscapes) and bodegones (still life) for the new bahay na bato. Outstanding painters who did secular as well as religious paintings were Antonio Malantic, Justiniano Asuncion, Mariano Asuncion, Jose Honorato Lozano, Dolores Paterno, Juan Arceo, and Lorenzo Guerrero. Some painters, like Felix Resureccion Hidalgo, did paintings aimed at instituting reforms in the colony. In Angono, the names of Tandang Juancho, Pedro Piñon, and Juan Senson are noted.

Justiniano Asuncion, Portrait of Filomena Asuncion Villafranca, 1860
Justiniano Asuncion, Portrait of Filomena Asuncion Villafranca, 1860, Eleuterio M. Pascual Collection (Photo courtesy of Atty. Midas P. Marquez)

Many of the 19th-century painters studied at or were connected to the government’s Academia de Dibujo, 1821, and the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura, 1849, which was later reorganized as the Escuela Superior de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado. In these schools, Tagalog painters were exposed to aesthetics and techniques of European painting, engraving, and sculpture.

The American colonial period led to the dominance of secular concerns in painting. Portraits of the rich and prominent, landscapes of the idyllic countryside, and genre paintings showing Filipinos in their various rural occupations were patronized by American officials and tourists as well as wealthy Manila families. Artists based in Manila who were in demand for oil paintings as well as pen and ink drawings in the “classical” traditions included Fernando Amorsolo, Fabian dela Rosa, Irineo Miranda, Jorge Pineda, Dominador Castañeda, Pablo Amorsolo, Ramon Peralta, Toribio Herrera, and Teodoro Buenaventura.

Untitled oil painting by Carlos V. Francisco depicting the fiesta in Angono, Rizal
Untitled oil painting by Carlos V. Francisco depicting the fiesta in Angono, Rizal, 1960 (Photo courtesy of Leon Gallery Fine Arts and Antiquities)

With the rise of modernism in the 1930s and the emphasis on expression rather than representation, “unromantic” topics like beggars and slums as well as historical, allegorical, and symbolic themes were added to the usual portraits, landscapes, still life, and genre paintings of the older tradition. Imbibing and adapting Western styles and techniques to Philippine themes and conditions, Tagalog artists who have evolved original styles from the 1930s to the 1960s were Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Hernando R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, Jose Joya, Arturo Luz, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, and Mauro Malang Santos. From the 1970s to the 1980s, younger artists have emphasized the social dimension of art, among them Danilo Dalena, Onib Olmedo, Lee Aguinaldo, Junyee, Ben Cabrera, Jaime de Guzman, Edgar Fernandez, Pablo Baens Santos, and Renato Habulan. Roberto Feleo, Aro Soriano, Antonio Austria, and Tam Austria have emphasized ethnic and folk themes. Among these artists, Roberto Chabet, 1937-2013, who was closely associated with Lee Aguinaldo and Fernando Zobel, is considered a pillar of Philippine modernism, particularly conceptual art. His works of installation art are made of such materials as house paint and plywood, taken from actual construction sites.

Sa Birhen Painting
Danilo Dalena, Sa Birhen, 1986 (Photo from the artist)

Elmer Borlongan, through his distorted and unreal human figures in the style of figurative expressionism, critiques the Philippine socioeconomic divide with works that depict daily scenes of the working class. His Driver’s Lounge shows chauffeurs of wealthy families dressed in white and sitting on hard, plastic chairs in a waiting area that has a wall-mounted television set. Ronaldo Ventura, with his installations, sculptures, and paintings, presents grotesque images of Philippine popular culture. Ventura’s Point of No Return, 2012, combines images of Philippine and Western folklore. His Guardian 4 depicts a muscled man with a pair of wings on his back and the head of a wolf.

The “neo-genre” paintings of Dominic Rubio of Paete, Laguna feature Filipinos walking the streets of turn-of-the-20th-century Escolta and Binondo. His signature style is his use of exaggeratedly long-necked human figures, which, in combination with the superrealist style of the rest of the picture, create a cartoonish effect. Mixed media that incorporates painting with installation art is the trademark of Geraldine Javier of Candelaria, Quezon, and then Sampaloc, Manila. The blending of various media in one of her exhibitions, titled Landscape As a State of Mind Is a Landscape, has the elements of oil painting, collage, and embroidery, all in one artwork exploring the subject of physical and psychological death.

Jose John Santos III of Manila is a mixed-media artist inspired by turn-of-the-20th-century images of Filipinos in barong and terno. His surrealist work The Connection, 2005, depicts a Filipina in a baro’t saya (traditional Filipino blouse and skirt) and a Caucasian boy standing on an airplane; the two are connected by the telephone line stretching between them. Annie Cabigting’s signature style is her self-reflexivity in her paintings and installation art. Her Painting of a Photograph of a Photograph of a Painting, 2008, shows a person viewing a reflection of a woman peering back at the viewer. Micaela Benedicto’s architecture background is evident in her wall sculptures and installations. Former street artist Mark Jeffrey Santos’s brightly colored and wittily surrealist world is populated with furry creatures that seem to have sprung out of Dr. Seuss’s books.

Institutions of high learning like the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines, Technological University of the Philippines, Philippine Women’s University, Mapua Institute of Technology, and Bulacan State University have produced artists like Vincent Christian Quilop, JR Urao, and Joel Chavez, who have mastered portraits of human faces and images of Philippine popular culture. Art galleries such as the 1335 A. Mabini in Manila and the Silvervens Gallery in Makati have provided opportunities for young artists to exhibit their work. First-prize winners in the Shell National Student Art Competition have been Mary Grace Tenorio, Froilan Calayag, Aladin Antiqueño, Alberto Villavert III, and Francis Eugene Andrade.

The age of social media has introduced new artists like Jomikee Tejido, an architect by profession who also does acrylic painting on pandan banig or hand-woven pandanus mats, such as The Nurturers, 2008, Tree of Dominance, 2008, and Tree of Hope, 2008, although his Wood Menagerie is a collection of animal figures composed of wooden blocks of various shapes. Leeroy New’s installation art and gigantic sculptures, displayed in open spaces, simulate an invasion of creatures from the world of one’s phobias, such as itchy caterpillars, sea urchins, and balete trees. His rubber-cast top was featured on the cover of Lady Gaga’s single release. A group that uses installation art, photography, video, and street art through interactive and participatory projects is 98B COLLABboratory. It aims to promote the creation of new art forms of different artists who are not bound by a single art form.

Artists’ organizations have been established in various Tagalog provinces. In Bulacan, the Lakan Sining includes artists like Cenon Rivera, Phillip Victor, Roy Veneracion, Florencio Concepcion, and Al Perez. In Rizal, there are groups in Tanay, where Tam Austria paints; in Taytay, like the Group Artists of Taytay; and in Antipolo, like the Salingpusa. In Angono, the Angono Ateliers Association has for its members Nemesio Miranda Jr., Pepito Villaluz, Dominador Tiamson, Angelito Balagtas, Koni Sayo, and Cesar Hernandez, while the Angono Artists Association would include painters like Jose Blanco and his family, Salvador Juban, Perdigon Bocalan, Juanito Piñon, and Manuel Unidad Chua. The Junior Ateliers include Orville Tiamson and younger artists affiliated with the Angono Ateliers Association.

In Paete, Laguna, the younger sculptors and painters who are actual or artistic descendants of the 19th-century masters include Isaac Cagandahan, Mar Edjawan, Manuel Baldemor, Angelo Baldemor, Fred Baldemor, Esmeraldo Dans, and Froilan Madriñan Jr.

Komiks illustrations began with Jose Rizal’s 34 plates of the “Monkey and the Turtle” in 1886. In the late 19th century, Spanish newspapers published caricatures of Manila events and personalities, and even anti-Spanish or antifriar allegories. The same wit and satire was unleashed on the American colonizers and their local collaborators in magazines like Lipang Kalabaw and Telembang .This type of cartoons reached a peak in the 1970s and the 1980s in the illustrations and editorialcartoons made by Mauro Malang Santos, Corky Trinidad, Danilo Dalena, Jose Tence Ruiz, and Jess Abrera for national dailies and magazines.

The komiks as “funnies” trace their origin to Kenkoy, the character created by Tony S. Velasquez and Romualdo Ramos in 1928. Kenkoy spawned other Velasquez series on Nanong Pandak and Ponyang Halubaybay. Mars Ravelo followed with his Rita Rits, Gorio at Tekla, Engot, and Ipe. Larry Alcala created Kalabog en Bosyo, D.I. Trece, and Asiong Aksaya, while Nonoy Marcelo did Tisoy and Ikabod Bubwit.

Lapu-Lapu and Magellan Drawing
Francisco V. Coching, Lapu-Lapu and Magellan, 1974 (CCP Collections)

The komiks as “nobela” or pictorial narrative may be romantic or realistic. Romantic stories may be awit or korido types, like Francisco Coching’s Don Cobarde; fantastic adventures in distant lands and jungles, like Francisco Reyes’s Kulafu; supernatural tales like Mars Ravelo’s Dyesebel and Darna; and love stories like Gilda Olvidado’s Sinasamba Kita. The realistic may focus on historical episodes like Fred Alcala’s Yamato, based on World War II events, or on social problems such as Ravelo’s Roberta. To the romantic drawing tradition belong Francisco Coching, Federico C. Javinal, Mar. Santana, Hal Santiago, Elpidio Torres, Joey Celerio, and Nestor Malgapo. Realistic are the styles of Nestor Redondo, Ester Magpusao, Fred Carrillo, Fred P. Alcala, Steve Can, and Ben Maniclang. Famous komiks in Tagalog are Halakhak, established in 1946, the first comic book; and later Pilipino Komiks, 1947; Tagalog Klasiks, 1949; Hiwaga Komiks, 1950; Espesyal and Kenkoy Komiks, 1952. The komiks novel is now called the graphic novel, or adopting the Japanese term for it, manga.

National newspapers like Tempo and The Manila Bulletin have popularized comic strips, such as Tonton Young’s Pupung; Roni Santiago’s Planet op di eyps (Planet of the Apes), Mr & Mrs, Noon at Ngayon (Then and Now), and Kuyug. These depict the slice-of-life in the domestic scene and the workplace. The Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) introduced Jess Abrera to the reading public through his Pinoy Nga (Truly Filipino), A. Lipin, and the iconic kalabaw (carabao) named Guyito. Pol Medina’s Pugad Baboy (Swine’s Nest), also in PDI, reaped such success it became a television series. Medina has gone on to publish his works online, where there is more press freedom. Abrera and Medina seem to have captured the right mix of political humor, which is also both entertaining and commercial. Jess Abrera’s son Manix Abrera has made a name for himself with his Kikomachine. Abrera Jr. publishes News Hardcore both online and in print. The absurdities of real life are encapsulated in his nameless gingerbread characters with over-the-top, immensely humorous language.

Tagalog Literary Arts

Tagalog poetry has its origins in the centuries-old oral tradition, which produced folk speech, specifically the riddles, proverbs, and maxims, which either date to the precolonial period or were created in response to changing circumstances from the 16th century to the present.

Reading of the pasyon in Nuestra Señora de la Natividad Parish, Pangil, Laguna
Reading of the pasyon in Nuestra Señora de la Natividad Parish, Pangil, Laguna, 2013 (Bren Aldy Cabatic Adre)

Tagalog bugtong or riddle, which usually comes in couplet form, presents images that refer to an object or phenomenon that has to be guessed. Parts of the human body and the house, utensils and tools, plants and animals, stones, rivers, mountains, rain, wind, thunder, lightning, and other phenomena have been used as metaphor or object of riddling.

Here are some examples:

May isang bayabas

na pito ang butas. (Mukha)

(A guava fruit

with seven holes. [Face])

Bumbong kung liwanag

Kung gabi ay dagat. (Banig)

(Bamboo tube by day

A sea by night. [Mat])

Proverbs, maxims, and aphorisms, which are all wise sayings, may come in verse (couplets, quatrains, etc.) or prose. Known as salawikain, kasabihan, or kawikaan, many of these have no known origins, while some are actually parts of longer works. Whatever their origins, these sayings are based on folk wisdom gathered from experience and project a value system that is meant to be accepted by all for the sake of social harmony.

The proverbs quoted below are terse reflections on prudence and marriage:

Paa na ang madulas

Dila lamang ang huwag.

(Better a slip of the foot

Than a slip of the tongue.)

Pag-aasawa’y di biro

Kanin bagang isusubo

Iluluwa pag napaso.

(Marriage is no joke

Like rice spat out

When too hot for the mouth.)

Some Tagalog proverbs are of identifiable provenance. Francisco Baltazar’s Florante at Laura (Florante and Laura) is the source of this aphoristic quatrain (Batungbakal 1948):

Ang laki sa layaw, karaniwa’y hubad

Sa bait at muni’t sa hatol ay salat

Masaklap na bunga ng maling paglingap

Habag ng magulang sa irog na anak.

(Those who are reared in wealth and ease

Walk stripped of good, no counsel hear;

The parent’s wrong care, children to please,

Bears bitter fruit, and costs them dear.)

A native poetic form called tanaga is cast in the heptasyllabic quatrain and uses metaphors or talinghaga similar to those of the riddle. Like the proverbs, of which it seems to be a development, it presents metaphors in order to refer to an idea or an insight in life. This example refers to the difficulty of finding good persons:

Ang tubig may malalim

Malilirip kung libdin

Itong budhing magaling

Maliwag paghanapin.

(No matter how deep the water

It can be fathomed

It is a good person

That is difficult to find.)

Tagalog poetry written in the Roman alphabet during the Spanish colonial period was either religious or secular in subject matter; each of these topics was treated in both lyric and narrative poetry.

The earliest religious lyric poems appeared in the Memorial dela Vida Cristiana en Lengua Tagala (Guide for the Christian life in the Tagalog language), 1605, and were written by a ladinoor a bilingual native named Fernando Bagongbanta, an anonymous Tagalog poet, and by the Spanish friar Francisco Blancas de San Jose who wrote the book. With other poets during the 17th century, such as Tomas Pinpin and Pedro Suarez Ossorio, this group of writers used lyric poetry for religious didactic purposes; in the process, poetry became increasingly discursive and abstractly tendentious. Examples of ladino poetry in Tagalog and Spanish are “Salamat nang Walang Hangga” (Unending Thanks) by Fernando Bagongbanta and “Awit” (Song) by Tomas Pinpin. Such religious lyric poems would continue to be written by the Tagalog for centuries, especially for the novenas in the form of the dalit.

Religious narrative poetry is exemplified by the pasyon, the verse narrative on the history of salvation, which is divided into episodes with their corresponding aral (lesson). The pasyon uses the quintilla, a five-line verse with eight syllables per line, and assonantal rhyme. The earliest pasyon in Tagalog and in any Philippine language was the Mahal na Passion ni Jesu Christong Panginoon Natin na Tola (The Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Verse), 1703, by Gaspar Aquino de Belen, which indigenized the characters of the Christ story and dramatized Christ’s passion in powerful language and folk metaphor.

The second important pasyon was the Casaysayan nang Pasiong Mahal ni Jesucristong Panginoon Natin na Sucat Ipag-alab nang Puso nang Tauong Babasa (The Story of the Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ that Should Inflame the Heart of the Reader), 1814, by an anonymous author. More popularly known as Pasiong Mahal, Pasiong Pilapil, or Pasyong Genesis, this pasyon tells the story of salvation from the Creation of the World to the finding of the Holy Cross by Elena and Constantino, and is written in verses that approximate the colloquial language of the period. This is the pasyon that has been translated or adapted in different Philippine languages and continues to be read in most pabasa or chanting of the pasyon today. The third important pasyon is the El Librodela Vida (The Book of Life), 1852, by Aniceto de la Merced, whose coverage is the same as that of the Genesis, but whose first part is written in dodecasyllabic quatrains. Also called Pasyong Candaba, de la Merced’s pasyon was intended to rectify and replace Genesis, which was perceived by the erudite as fraught with “errors” of doctrine and style. Many other pasyon were written in Tagalog and circulated in manuscript form.

Toward the end of the galleon trade and of the mercantilist and restrictive economic policy of Spain, a more secular culture started to enter Manila. Because of this, a new type of lyric poetry that was not religious started to be written by poets like Jose de la Cruz of Tondo, also known as Huseng Sisiw, who was commissioned by young lovers to write love poetry like “Ah…! Sayang na Sayang” (Ah…! What a Waste); and by Sisiw’s student, Francisco Baltazar, also known as Balagtas, of Tondo and Bulacan, whose poems like “Labindalawang Sugat ng Puso” (Twelve Wounds of the Heart) established the tradition of romantic poetry that is characterized by strict versification (dodecasyllabic quatrains or its variations), the theme of romantic love that runs into obstacles of class, indifference, or infidelity, a tendency toward didacticism, and the use of metaphors, which later became standard. The influence of Balagtas is seen in poets like Diego Moxica, Pascual Poblete, Iñigo Regalado Sr., and Modesto Santiago, who in 1889 published a collection titled Pinagsalit-salit na mga Bulaclac, o Sarisaring Tula (A Garland of Flowers, or Various Poems), the first known anthology of Tagalog poetry.

Secular narrative poetry is typified by the metrical romance called the awit, which is in dodecasyllabic quatrains, and the korido, in octosyllabic quatrains. First introduced as oral narratives, these stories were written down from the late 18th century to the early 20th century by native poets like Jose de la Cruz, Francisco Balagtas, Ananias Zorilla, Joaquin Tuazon, Joaquin Mañibo, Cleto R. Ignacio, Feliciano and Jacinto Castillo, and Pedro and Simeon Aranas. Published as small libritos (pamphlets), these narratives drew subject matter from Spain, such as Siete Infantes de Lara (Seven Sons of Lara), Bernardo Carpio, Gonzalo de Cordoba, and Rodrigo de Villas; from France, such as Doce Pares de Francia (Twelve Peers of France), Principe Baldovino (Prince Baldwin), Prinsipe Reynaldo (Prince Reynald), Conde Irlos (Count Irlos), and Clodoveo; and from various sources, like Ibong Adarna (Adarna Bird), Haring Patay (Dead King), Juan Tiñoso, Sigesmundo, and Villarba. In Florante at Laura, 1838, Francisco Balagtas created an original awit that showed knowledge of characterization and mastery of metaphor, didactic language, and Greek and Roman mythology. Some scholars read Balagtas’s Florante as an allegory of Spanish oppression in colonial Philippines and is therefore the earliest example of the literature of protest.

Florante at Laura
Armando Goyena, Celia Flor, and Leopoldo Salcedo as Menandro, Laura, and Florante, respectively, in Vicente Salumbides’s Florante at Laura, 1949 (CCP Collections)

The last quarter of the 19th century witnessed the production of poetry that was highly political in nature and polemical in intent. The poets were reformists who sought to expose and demystify the nature of the colonial process and pressure Spain into granting the colony representation in the Cortes and the basic freedoms. Among these writers were Hermenegildo Flores and Marcelo H.del Pilar. In Diariong Tagalog, these two poets created an allegorical dialogue between Mother Spain and her daughter Filipinas, in order to expose the abuses perpetrated by the religious orders on the natives. Marcelo H. del Pilar also composed parodies of existing forms—like the pasyon and the duplo—in order to subvert existing realities. With the entry of these poets, the secular tendency already seen in de la Cruz and Balagtas was further transformed into a militant outlook.

When reforms were not forthcoming, Andres Bonifacio and his friends founded the Katipunan in 1892 to launch the movement for complete separation from Spain. To create one consciousness among the masses and fire them to action, Bonifacio wrote “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa” (Love for the Native Land) and “Katapusang Hibik ng Pilipinas” (Last Lament of the Philippines), both in 1896. In the last poem, which meant to conclude the allegorical dialogue earlier written by Flores and del Pilar, Bonifacio presents daughter Filipinas finally rejecting her cruel mother, España.

The first decades of the 20th century received the literary traditions constituted in the religious, secular, and radical poems of the preceding centuries. Balagtas, this time canonized not only as a great poet but as a true patriot, became the major influence in terms of both his techniques and his themes. His influence was felt in both the radical and romantic tendencies of 20th-century poetry.

The radical tradition that emerged in Balagtas and the revolutionary writing of the last decades of the 19th century vivified much of the poetry written against American colonization and its insidious effect on the people’s lives. This is seen in the works of such poets as Lope K. Santos, Pedro Gatmaitan, Iñigo Ed. Regalado, Julian Cruz Balmaseda, and Valeriano Hernandez Peña, in the first decade. Later, this way of seeing and utilizing poetry for political reasons characterized the poetry of most of the major poets writing in the 1920s and 1930s like Jose Corazon de Jesus, Amado V. Hernandez, and Benigno Ramos.

Finding increasing favor with a number of poets was the kind of writing that dealt primarily with such themes as romantic love, family, honor, and tradition. Ildefonso Santos, Cirio H. Panganiban, Florentino Collantes, Aniceto F. Silvestre, Emilio Mar. Antonio, Aurelio Angeles, Cresenciano C. Marquez Jr., as well as the radical writers already discussed, wrote romantic poetry with varying degrees of artistry and genius.

Romantic poetry, which by the 1930s had begun to use stereotyped imagery and language, drew reaction from younger writers, who were becoming increasingly open to modern literary influences from the United States and Europe. In 1940, Alejandro G. Abadilla published his poem “Ako ang Daigdig” (I Am the World), which shocked both established and young Tagalog poets because it did not use accepted meter, rhyme, and metaphors. With Abadilla, poetry was primarily the expression of the world of the individual poet, as defined by his unique language, rhythm, and imagery.

If Abadilla was conceded to be the “Father of Modern Tagalog Poetry,” Amado V. Hernandez appeared as the model for protest poetry. Hernandez’s “Isang Dipang Langit” (Stretch of Sky), 1961, and “Bayang Malaya” (A Free Nation), 1968, were acclaimed as works with political commitment.

The influences emanating from Abadilla and Hernandez would shape the works of younger poets who started writing in the 1960s. Among these younger writers who would initially follow Abadilla’s revolt and who were influenced by poets like T.S. Eliot, Federico Garcia Lorca, Ezra Pound, and the French symbolists were Rio Alma, Lamberto Antonio, Rogelio Mangahas, and Federico Licsi Espino Jr. Another group called the Bagay poets were influenced by the tenets of imagist poetry; among these were Rolando S. Tinio, Jose F. Lacaba, and Bienvenido Lumbera. Other modern poets were Manuel Principe Bautista, Teo S. Baylen, Gonzalo K. Flores, Manuel Car. Santiago, Pedro L. Ricarte, and Bienvenido Ramos.

The surge of rallies and demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s forced Tagalog poets to rethink the role of their art in the context of a society in turmoil. With new perceptions and influenced by Marxist thinking, the likes of Lacaba, Lumbera, Alma, Mangahas, Edgardo Maranan, Epifanio San Juan Jr., and Domingo Landicho started to create art to help achieve the “liberation of the masses” from a “colonial and feudal” system.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of younger poets of different concerns and sensibilities. The tradition of protest was still discernible in the published poems coming from various sectors of society such as workers, farmers, students, and professionals. A new voice made its presence felt in the poems of women writers like Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, Marra PL. Lanot, Aida Santos, Benilda Santos, Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, and Joi Barrios. Other contemporary voices expressing their themes both personal and social were Ramon Sunico, Mike Bigornia, Teo Antonio, Romulo Sandoval, Fidel Rillo, Danton Remoto, and Jesus Manuel Santiago.

The Linangan ng Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) is a poetry clinic that has produced Vim Nadera, Roberto Añonuevo, Rebecca Añonuevo, Michael M. Coroza, Jerry Gracio, Edgar Calabia Samar, Joselito de los Reyes, Louie Jon Sanchez, Enrique Villasis, and Charles Tuvilla. It aims to maintain the primacy of Tagalog above all other Philippine languages, particularly with the use of diacritical marks to guide their readers in the correct pronunciation.

On the other hand, militant poets continue the tradition of poetry reading in solidarity with socioeconomic multisectoral concerns and protest mass mobilizations in the name of nationalism and democracy. KM64 members perform poetry readings in bars, schools, picket lines, and streets. In a project called Tulagalag, the group posts its poems in public spaces. Kilometer 64 (KM64) Poetry Collective has published the anthology, 40: Mga Tulang Alay sa mga Martir na Kabataan (40: Eulogies for Martyrs of the Youth) 2004, and the chapbooks Tugmaang Matatabil (Garrulous Rhymes), 2008, by Axel Pinpin, and Mula Tarima Hanggang (From Tarima To), 2015, by Ericson Acosta. Pinpin and Acosta were political prisoners, the former detained in 2010 during the Arroyo regime, the latter in 2011 during Aquino III’s (Kilometer 64 2010; Ellao 2010; Olea 2013). Senior activist poet Gelacio Guillermo has gathered his poems, old and new, with his translations, into the book Mga Tula (Poems), 2013.

The turn of the 21st century saw the coming of more conceptual and experimental poetry. Vim Nadera experimented with typography in his Alit: dalit, galit, halit, malit, ngalit, palit at salit, 1991. High Chair, an independent collective, has published many poetry books, both in English and Filipino, which have stretched the boundaries of the Tagalog poetic tradition as exemplified by the poetry of Mesandel Arguelles and Allan Popa. Adam David has used pastiche and postmodern parody. His The El Bimbo Variations, 2008, which restricts itself to 99 reworkings of the first two lines of the Eraserheads song, “Ang Huling El Bimbo” (The Last El Bimbo), is an example of “constrained writing.” Angelo Suarez represents the generation of poets who publish free, downloadable e-books online. In his book, Circuit: The Blurb Project, 2013, he is the self-described “curator” of metapoems consisting of blurbs about blurbs.

The beginnings of the Tagalog short story should be traced to the prose narratives that were handed down orally through the generations. These stories, which were told on special feasts or ordinary situations, include the myths, legends both etiological and nonetiological, and the folktales, such as animal tales, fables, tales of magic, and trickster tales.

Colin recorded an ancient myth in 1663. In the beginning, there was only the sky and the water, for there was no land. One day a bird flew around, looking for a place where it could alight. Finding none, and tired of winging around, the bird thought of provoking a quarrel between the sea and the sky. The sea threw up huge waves against the sky, who was so upset at being threatened that it threw down islands to burden the sea with them, preventing it from mounting another attack. As the bird was growing tired, it was glad to find a place to rest. One day, a bamboo with only two nodules was washed ashore, hitting the bird on its feet. Angered, the bird started pecking the bamboo with its beak, until it cracked and opened. A man emerged from one section, a woman from the other section. They were, in effect, siblings, and the gods convened to discuss the case, after which the God of Earthquakes, after consulting the fish and birds, absolved the two and allowed them to marry. The first man and woman had many children, from whom came the various kinds and classes of people. The children were idle and useless. Angered, the father grabbed a stick to punish them. The children fled. Those who took refuge in the many chambers and corners of the house begot the chiefs or the datu of the race. Those who escaped outside became the ancestors of the free. A number fled to the kitchen and the lower parts of the house, and from them came the slaves. The others fled to faraway places, and from them came the other nations and races.

The Tagalog also have a number of legends falling under various categories: stories of origins, like the legend of the camia (white ginger) flower of Palanan, Rizal; heroic tales, like that of Apo Iro of Malabon, Rizal; religious accounts, like that of Santa Marta of Pateros, Rizal; stories about supernaturals, like that of Mariang Makiling in Laguna; and legends about places, like the legend of Sampaloc Lake in San Pablo, Laguna.

The legend of Santa Marta mixes an ancient fear of crocodiles with Catholic piety. In the town of Pateros long ago, the people were dismayed because the balut-laying ducks were devoured by a monster crocodile whenever the moon was full. Some people tried to catch the culprit, but the crocodile gobbled them up. One parish priest summoned the people to hear mass on the riverbank before the full moon rose to ask for the intercession of Santa Marta. The moon rose, and from the river mist the monster crocodile emerged. The people started to run, but the fearless priest shouted with all his strength: “Have faith, Santa Marta will deliver us!” Suddenly, music burst forth from the heavens, and a bright shaft of moonlight bathed the figure of Santa Marta on the back of the monster crocodile. There was a bright flash of lightning, followed by a loud clap of thunder, and then darkness. Santa Marta and the monster had disappeared, but along the riverbank, there was such a multitude of balut that the following day, Manilans were startled when the egg was selling for two centavos each. Since that time, each night in the month of February, Pateros’s duckraisers would celebrate the triumph of Santa Marta over the duck- and human-eating monster of long ago.

In the written tradition of the Spanish period, the prose narratives were the ejemplo or exemplum called halimbaua in Tagalog novenas. These short pieces narrated an anecdote from the life of a saint or from Christian apocrypha, which illustrated the topic of meditation for the day—e.g., hellfire, the love of God, the purity of the Virgin Mary—together with the pagninilay (meditation), the jaculatoria (short prayer), and dalit. The halimbaua constituted the prayer for the day, as may be seen in the devotional called Flores de Maria, which has been used in Bulacan for the Marian devotions for the month of May since the 1860s.

In the first decades of the American Occupation, another type of prose narrative gained immense popularity in newspapers and magazines like Muling Pagsilang, Taliba, Ang Mithi, Lipang Kalabaw, and Buntot Pague. Known as dagli and pasingaw, the sketch was a short account or a narrative that assumed a number of functions. In some cases, the dagli was an explicit expression of a man’s love for a particular woman; at other times, it became highly polemical, showing an anti-American or anticlerical bias. Among the more popular writers of the dagli were Patricio Mariano, Lope K. Santos, Carlos Ronquillo, Valeriano Hernandez Peña, Iñigo Ed. Regalado, and Francisco Laksamana. Early 20th century dagli have been compiled by Aris Atienza and Rolando Tolentino in Ang Dagling Tagalog: 1903-1936 (The Tagalog Short Story: 1903-1936), 2007. The past two decades of the 2000s has seen the resurgence of the dagli, now considered the Philippine equivalent of flash fiction, in the collections of Rolando Tolentino, Sakit sa Kalingkingan (Pain in the Pinky), 2005; Abdon Balde, 100 Kislap (100 Sparks), 2011; and Eros Atalia, Wag Lang Di Makaraos (Not to Be Unrelieved), 2011. The anthology Dadaanin (Streaking), 2011, edited by Alwin Aguirre and Nonon Carandang, consists of 100-word narratives, ranging from the most poignant love prose poems to some of the most powerful political statements in the Tagalog protest tradition.

The first real short stories, which are fictive in nature, appeared in the second decade. Rosauro Almario’s “Elias” published in Mithi in 1910, and Deogracias Rosario’s “Kung Magmahal ang Makata” (When a Poet Loves), published in Buntot Pague in 1914, are two of the early munting kasaysayan (short story) that manifested an understanding of the meaning of the craft of fiction. In these works, the short story rose as a distinct genre, different from the polemical and political dagli and from the short novel. The early short story usually centered on romantic love and idealized characters and often manipulated the plot to achieve “correct” endings.

Liwayway Magazine
Liwayway, 13 November 1931 issue, with cover art by Tony Velasquez (Photo courtesy of Dennis Villegas Collection)

The popularity of the romantic short story was assured with the publication of a number of magazines in the 1920s. The most important outlet, Liwayway, founded in 1922, became the home of Rosario, who eventually gained recognition as the father of the Tagalog short story, and fictionists like Regalado, Pedro Gatmaitan, Amado V. Hernandez, Godofredo Herrera, and Cirio Panganiban. Other magazines that also published short stories were Sampaguita, Republika, Bulalakaw, Hiwaga, Liwayway - Extra, and Mabuhay. An important anthology of the romantic short story was Pedrito Reyes’s 50 Kuwentong Ginto ng 50 Batikang Kuwentista (50 Golden Stories by 50 Master Fictionists), 1939.

Clodualdo del Mundo in his column “Ang Tao sa Parolang Ginto” (The Man in the Golden Lighthouse), begun in 1927, and Alejandro G. Abadilla in “Mga Talaang Bughaw” (Blue Records), begun in 1932, initiated the move to “improve” the Tagalog short story as a literary form. They did this by choosing the best stories published within the year. A group of short story writers also decided to give awards to the best stories. Among the awardees were Amado V. Hernandez, Rosalia Aguinaldo, and Deogracias Rosario. Abadilla gathered the best Tagalog short stories in the anthology Mga Kuwentong Ginto: Katipunan ng Pinakamahusay na Katha mula sa 1925 hanggang 1935 ng Dalawangpung sa Sining na ito’y mga Kilala o Pangunahin (Golden Stories: A Collection of the Finest Fiction from 1925 to 1935 from Twenty who are Renowned or Leading in this Art), 1935.

But the real breakthrough in the development of the Tagalog short story as an art form took place during World War II. In 1943, Liwayway conducted a contest to determine the best stories published during the year, and among the winners were Narciso Reyes, N. V. M. Gonzalez, Liwayway Arceo, and Macario Pineda. The best stories were published in the anthology Ang 25 Pinakamabuting Maikling Kathang Pilipino ng 1943 (The 25 Best Pilipino Short Stories of 1943), 1944. The critics’ comments and evaluation of the year’s best illustrated a definite preference for the story that exhibited the qualities of the modern short story as it had evolved in American literature. Thus, stories that showed a unified and controlled handling of character, plot, setting, symbol, language, and point of view were later valorized in the criticism of Agustin C. Fabian and Teodoro A. Agoncillo.

The modernist influence that manifested itself in the short stories published in Liwayway during the war survived into the postwar years in the texts written by Macario Pineda, Brigido Batungbakal, Epifanio Gar. Matute, Genoveva Edroza-Matute, Liwayway Arceo, Jose Flores Sibal, Serafin Guinigundo, Mabini Rey Centeno, and other fictionists who continued to publish in Liwayway, Bulaklak, Aliwan, Tagumpay, and in the short-lived Malaya, edited by Teodoro A. Agoncillo, and Daigdig, edited by Clodualdo del Mundo. Two important anthologies showcasing the modern short stories were Alejandro G. Abadilla’s Mga Piling Katha, Mga Kuwentong Ginto ng Taong 1947-1948 (Selected Works, The Golden Stories of the Years 1947-1948), 1948, and Teodoro A. Agoncillo’s Ang Maikling Kuwentong Tagalog 1886-1948 (The Tagalog Short Story 1886-1948), 1949.

The themes of the Tagalog short story from its inception until the 1960s hewed closely to traditional lines. The stories dealt with the conflict between tradition and modernity, with personal themes such as love and fidelity, with the problem of injustice and exploitation, and in some cases, with the reality of alienation in a world increasingly becoming materialistic. The techniques used varied—from the dazzling manipulation of point of view by Pineda, to the frenetic pace of Guinigundo’s narratives, to the sensitive, quiet characterization of Arceo and Edroza.

In 1964, a group of young writers published Mga Agos sa Disyerto (Streams in the Desert), with a view to “inundating” with life-giving waters the “barren” field of Tagalog fiction. The writers included in the anthology had first found recognition in Mga Bagong Dugo (New Blood), a column edited by Liwayway Arceo in Liwayway. In the stories collected in the anthology, Rogelio Sicat, Edgardo Reyes, Efren R. Abueg, Eduardo Bautista Reyes, Rogelio L. Ordoñez, and other fictionists signaled the appearance of a new breed of writers whose grasp of the craft of fiction had been deepened by their exposure to European and American writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Theodore Dreiser, and John Steinbeck. In 1972, Sigwa (Storm), an anthology of short stories that manifested the young writers’ various degrees of politicization, came out at a time when various questions were being raised on the correct and relevant role of literature in society. Included in this collection were the works of Ricardo Lee, Fanny Garcia, Norma Miraflor, Wilfredo Pa. Virtusio, Efren R. Abueg, Epifanio San Juan Jr., Domingo Landicho, Jose Rey Munsayac, and Edgardo Maranan. The Sigwa stories dealt with violence and injustice, and moved toward their eradication. The trend toward the fusion between modernism and commitment, which was defined in the 1970s, continued to be operative in the 1990s among writers like Mario Miclat, Fanny Garcia, Levy Balgos de la Cruz, Lualhati Bautista, Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, and Jun Cruz Reyes.

Tony Perez introduced more psychological and mythical themes to the short story. Perez’s Cubao Pagkagat ng Dilim (Cubao, After Dark), 1993, uses Philippine mythology as a metaphor for the psyche of modern Filipinos living in the city. On the other hand, Cubao Midnight Express goes against the grain of the traditional romantic love story by depicting love that occasionally borders on the pathological.

KATHA was a group of young fictionists who emerged between the late 1980s and early 1990s, some of whom were Rolando Tolentino, Luna Sicat-Cleto, Eli R. Guieb III, and Honorio Bartolome de Dios. It published four anthologies between 1989 and 1997: Engkuwentro (Encounter), 1989; Impetu and Habilin, 1990; and Alagwa (Break Away), 1997. De Dios’s own short story collection, Sa Labas ng Parlor (Outside the Parlor), 1997, explores homosexual themes. Mayette Bayuga’s short story collection, Virgintarian at Iba Pang Kuwento (Virgintarian and Other Stories), 1997, explores feminist issues of abuse and woman empowerment.

The late 1990s and up until the present have seen the rise of the “academization” of writing in the Philippines. As a result of the establishment of creative writing courses, short story writing moved away from the popular magazines and toward university and academic journals. Ang Labintatlong Pasaway (The Thirteen Deviants), 2013, is a short story anthology by academics and professors like Alvin B. Yapan, Allan Derain, and German Gervacio.

The origins of the novel in Tagalog can be traced to the metrical romances, which idealized characters and preached the triumph of good over evil; the conduct books like Modesto de Castro’s Pagsusulatan ng Dalauang Binibini na si Urbana at ni Feliza (Letters between Two Maidens, Urbana and Feliza), 1864, which presented “typical” characters but idealized in the service of the morality being endorsed; the didactic prose narratives, like Antonio de Borja’s Barlaan at Josaphat (Barlaan and Josaphat), 1712, which depicted the lives of the two saints; Father Miguel Lucio Bustamante’s Si Tandang Bacio Macunat (Old Bacio Macunat), 1885, a tratado which presented a disparaging view of education and the indio; and the novels in Spanish like Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), 1887, and El Filibusterismo (Subversion), 1891, which introduced realistic techniques into the country. These literary forms eventually shaped the four tendencies of the Philippine novel: the didactic, the romantic, the realist, and the radical.

Noli Me Tangere
Andion Fernandez as Maria Clara and Nolyn Cabahug as Crisostomo Ibarra in the opera Noli Me Tangere, 1987 (CCP Collections)

In the didactic novel, authors manipulated their material through stereotype characters. Coincidences, accidents, and natural calamities signified good and evil, and determined the twists and turns of plots. The predominant worldview presented is one whose code of morality unfailingly conforms to the established order.

Ang Kasaysayan ng Magkaibigang si Nena at Neneng (The History of the Friends Nena and Neneng), 1903, the first novel published in book form, echoes Urbana at Feliza in tone and temper. Written by Valeriano Hernandez Peña, often called the “Father of the Tagalog novel,” the novel is about the contrasting marital experiences of two friends. It was a primer on love, courtship, and marriage, and its themes and motifs were later repeated by other novelists.

Other works following the didactic strain are Hernandez Peña’s Pahimakas ng Isang Ina (A Mother’s Farewell), 1914, and Unang Pag-ibig (First Love), 1915; Roman G. Reyes’s Pusong Walang Pag-ibig (Heart without Love), 1910, about an evil husband and a saintly wife; Iñigo Ed. Regalado’s Sampagitang Walang Bango (Scentless Jasmine), 1912, a novel reaffirming traditional values; and Fausto Galauran’s Ang Monghita (The Nun), 1929, following the stereotype of nuns as brokenhearted women. The didactic mode is evident in these novels with narratives propagating beliefs and characters exemplifying values.

The romantic tradition in the Tagalog novel was largely influenced by the metrical romances and Francisco Baltazar’s Florante at Laura. The theme of romantic love, magic, a plot complicated with mistaken identities or coincidences, characters as idealized types, and didacticism are some of the elements and devices found in these romances, which influenced the shaping of the conventions for the 20th-century romantic novel in Tagalog.

Serialized in the magazines Ang Kapatid ng Bayan, 1898-1899, and Muling Pagsilang, 1901-1910, were two romantic-didactic novels: Lope K. Santos’s Unang Bulaklak (First Flower), 1900, and Hernandez Peña’s Rosa at Valero (Rosa and Valero), 1901, respectively, both love stories. During the first decade of the 20th century, novels in the romantic mode became the most popular literary fare. Novelists of the first generation who published their early works in the first decade were Santos, Hernandez Peña, Roman G. Reyes, Patricio Mariano, Juan Diaz Ampil, Faustino Aguilar, Iñigo Ed. Regalado, Francisco Laksamana, and Juan Arsciwals.

In the 1920s and the 1930s, the romantic novels written by second-generation writers such as Jose Esperanza Cruz, Antonio Sempio, Teodoro Virrey, and Susana de Guzman dealt with suffering mothers, abandoned children, tragic love stories, and the plight of provincianos (rural folk) in the city. Serialized in magazines such as Liwayway, 1930-present, and sometimes even made into movies, these novels used conventions such as a series of interweaving narratives designed to reach a periodic climax at the end of a chapter, black and white characterization, and language that resorts to formulaic and stock phrases.

The romantic tradition continued to flourish for many decades. Fausto Galauran’s Bulaklak ng Bayan (Flower of the Country), 1930, told the story of the prostitute with a golden heart. Lazaro Francisco’s Ama (Father), 1929, and Faustino Aguilar’s Lihim ng Isang Pulo (Secret of An Island), 1926, dealt with class conflicts but resolved problems through passive acceptance of the system. Pure romance survived in Susana de Guzman’s Pag-ibig na Walang Kasal (Love without Marriage), 1947, and Galauran’s Ang Hatol ng Langit (Heaven’s Verdict), 1947.

Several didactic-romantic novels also combined fantasy, legend, and romance. Macario Pineda’s Ang Ginto sa Makiling (The Gold in Makiling), 1947, emphasized the virtues of simplicity and love for others through the retelling of the Mariang Makiling story. Nemesio Caravana’s Prinsesang Kalapati (Princess Dove), 1962, and Palasyo sa Ulap (Palace in the Clouds), 1967, revolved around princes and princesses, magic spells, and sword fights.

In contrast to the romantic tradition, a scientific rather than an idealistic worldview provides the framework of the realist tradition in the Tagalog novel. The individualizing traits of characters are emphasized, the root causes of social problems are traced, the structures of power are identified and analyzed, and the defeat of the individual against overwhelming social forces is inevitable.

Although romantic conventions are found in Jose Rizal’s two novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, the realist tone remains predominant in them. Written in Spanish and influenced by the realism of Galdos, Balzac, and Zola, Rizal paid careful attention to details, painted satirical portraits of characters, depicted the problems of society through subplots, and traced the country’s ills to the greed of the friars and the abuse of the military.

The realistic genre in the Tagalog novel is introduced in Gabriel Beato Francisco’s Cababalaghan ni P. Bravo (The Miracle of Father Bravo), 1900, which incorporates the conventions of the historical chronicle, documentary narrative, biography, and journalistic report while using the motifs of the metrical romance. Similarly, Francisco’s trilogy spanning three generations of a family— Fulgencio Galbillo, 1907; Capitan Bencio (Captain Bencio), 1907; and Alfaro,1909—documents the details of colonial rule and clerical abuses. The “documentary” and “expository” tendency is repeated in Faustino Aguilar’s Pinaglahuan (Eclipsed), 1907, which critiques the conditions of Philippine society at the beginning of American rule. Using the poor-boy-rich-girl plot, Aguilar discusses the concept of class struggle and historical forces that determine social change. Through substantiating details, complex character portraits and rich symbolism, the novel tells of the exploitation of workers by capitalists, the feudal family system, the blindness of religious belief, and the subservience of the Filipino ruling class to American civil officials and military personnel.

Similarly, Iñigo Ed. Regalado’s Madaling-Araw (Dawn), 1909, reveals a story not only of several pairs of lovers but of the complex interrelations of issues and people. It is Regalado’s anticlerical and anticolonial sympathies that give the novel its narrative power and direction in spite of the seeming looseness of the structure.

Other novels that followed the realist tradition are the political allegory Ang Singsing ng Dalagang Marmol (The Ring of the Marble Maiden), 1912, by Isabelo de los Reyes; and Lalaking Uliran o Tulisan (An Exemplary Man or an Outlaw), 1914, and Isa Pang Bayani (One More Hero), 1917, both by Juan Arsciwals. In Arsciwals’s narratives, the “Tulisan” is a direct allusion to Filipino revolutionaries branded as bandits during the American colonial period, while the “Bayani” is a factory worker imprisoned for killing a treacherous union leader.

In the 1930s, among the significant realistic works are Franco Vera Reyes’s Bagong Kristo (New Christ), 1932, which denounces government corruption and foreign control and suggests civil disobedience; Servando de los Angeles’s Ang Huling Timawa (Last Freeman), 1929, which has feudalism as its context; and Antonio Sempio’s Nayong Manggagawa (Workers’ Village), 1939, which tells the story of a ruthless rich man who changes when his workers save his life. In all of these novels, realism is manifested by discussing the problematics of different periods of Philippine history.

The realist tradition in the Tagalog novel grew as modernism influenced the development of many younger writers after World War II. Now more attention was given to fictive elements of language, point of view, narrative, and imagery. Devices perfected by Western authors such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck were employed.

The modern realist temper can be seen in Macario Pineda’s Langit ng Isang Pag-ibig (One Love’s Paradise), 1947, and Sa Lupa Tulad sa Langit (On Earth As in Heaven), 1950, both emphasizing the positive gains of modernization in barrio life; Alejandro G. Abadilla and Elpidio P. Kapulong’s Pagkamulat ni Magdalena (Magdalena’s Awakening), 1958, which highlights the primacy of the individual; Agustin Fabian’s Timawa (Freeman), 1953, where the hero is an ordinary man stripped of idealistic tendencies; and Liwayway Arceo’s two novels Ayoko sa Iyo (I Don’t Want You), 1962, and Ikaw Ay Akin (You Are Mine), 1962, noted for their unified plot and insightful depiction of the female psyche.

In the next decades, and as social and economic conditions deteriorated, novels showed a stronger tendency toward social realism tempered by the moralistic tradition. Lazaro Francisco’s Maganda Pa ang Daigdig (The World Is Still Beautiful), 1957, and Daluyong (Tidal Wave), 1967, dramatized tenancy problems. Fausto Galauran’s Marurupok na Bantayog (Fragile Monuments), 1965, and the unpublished Lagablab ng Kabataan (Fire of Youth), 1970, are critiques of the unjust political system. Andres Cristobal Cruz’s Ang Tundo Man May Langit Din (Tondo Has a Heaven Too), 1959, uses Tondo as a microcosm of the nation. Rogelio Sicat’s Dugo sa Bukang-liwayway (Blood at Daybreak), 1965, attacks the tenancy system. Mario Cabling’s Paggising ng Kahapon (When Yesterday Awakens), 1966, presents education as a solution to social problems. The perils of the city are narrated in Edgardo Reyes’s Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (In the Claws of the Light), 1967. Efren Abueg’s Dilim sa Umaga (Darkness in the Morning), 1960, depicts activism of the 1960s.

Psychological realism, as well as social realism, also influenced the work of those writing domestic melodrama. The psychological dimension is added to the domestic formulas of Mercedes Jose’s Tatsulok (Triangle), 1966, and Ina… Ina… (Mother… Mother…), 1971, and the didactic framework of Rosario de Guzman Lingat’s Kung Wala na ang Tag-araw (When Summer Is Over), 1969. Both writers also produced protest novels such as Jose’s Madilim ang Langit sa Bayan Ko (The Sky Is Dark over My Country), 1970, and Lingat’s Ano Ngayon, Ricky? (What Now, Ricky?), 1971. Liwayway Arceo traced the causes of poverty in Canal de la Reina,1972.

The radical tradition goes beyond the depiction of social forces, as influenced by the works of Rizal. The writers of this mode, many of whom were influenced by Marxist theory, produced works which stipulated social change accomplished through the organized action of the oppressed classes.

Banaag at Sikat
Tanghalang Pilipino’s Banaag at Sikat, 2010 (Gibbs Cadiz Collection)

Lope K. Santos’s Banaag at Sikat (Glimmer and Light), 1906, was written with the intent of introducing socialism to Filipino laborers. Its main characters, the journalist Delfin, the capitalist’s daughter Meni, the landowner’s radical son Felipe, and the laborer’s daughter Tentay embody different social classes as well as new ideas and concepts in a society undergoing transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy.

Amado V. Hernandez’s Mga Ibong Mandaragit (Birds of Prey), 1960, and Luha ng Buwaya (Crocodile Tears), 1962, both advocate organized action as a solution to tenancy and labor problems. Rogelio Ordoñez and Dominador Mirasol’s Apoy sa Madaling Araw (Fire at Dawn), 1964, and Mirasol’s Ginto ang Kayumangging Lupa (Gold Is the Brown Earth), 1975, see revolutionary change as the answer to social oppression.

Political struggles during the martial law years are depicted in Jun Cruz Reyes’s Tutubi, Tutubi, ’Wag Kang Magpahuli sa Mamang Salbahe (Dragonfly, Dragonfly, Don’t Let the Bad Man Catch You), 1987, and Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada ’70, 1976. The feminist perspective found in Dekada ’70 can also be seen in Bautista’s Bata, Bata . . . Pa’no Ka Ginawa? (Child, Child…How Were You Made?), 1983, and ’Gapo (Olongapo), 1988.

The underground political movement produced three novels: Maso de Verdades Posadas’s Hulagpos (Breaking Free), 1970, Humberto Carlos’s Sebyo, 1990, and Ruth Firmeza’s Gera (War), 1991. Using pseudonyms, the writers of these three novels stressed the inevitability of armed revolution.

In 1998, the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize was held to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Philippine independence. The first prize winners in the novel category were Jun Cruz Reyes’s Etsa-Puwera (Outsiders), 2000, which depicts an alternate Philippine history from the point of view of the marginalized sector, and Jose Rey Munsayac’s Ang Aso, ang Pulgas, Ang Bonsai, at ang Kolorum (The Dog, the Flea, the Bonsai, and the Colorum), 2000, a historical novel about the resistance of the remnant revolutionaries during the American occupation. Etsa-Puwera is in the postmodern mode, whereas Ang Aso, ang Pulgas, ang Bonsai, at ang Kolorum is in the realist mode. Nonetheless, both novels are rooted in the Philippine radical tradition of the novel.

Ellen Sicat and Luna Sicat-Cleto would write heavily autobiographical novels. Ellen Sicat’s Paghuhunos (Molting), 2001 and Unang Ulan ng Mayo (First Rain of May), 2009, depict the life of a woman married to a writer and the aftermath of his death. Luna Sicat-Cleto’s Makinilyang Altar (Typewriter Altar), 2002, tells the life of a woman writer and her relationship with her writer-father. Sicat-Cleto’s Ang Mga Prodigal (The Prodigals), 2010, is about the life of an OFW in Dubai.

More experimental novels in the first decade of 2000 include Alvin B. Yapan’s Ang Sandali ng mga Mata (The Moment of the Eyes), 2006; Edgar Calabia Samar’s Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog (Eight Muses of the Fall), 2009; and Sa Kasunod ng 909 (After the 909), 2012; Allan Derain’s Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag (The Holy Book of the Insignificants), 2013; and Ramon Guillermo’s Ang Makina ni Mang Turing (Mang Turing’s Machine), 2014. These novels have metafictional elements, fantasy, and meditations on history.

The four strands of the novel tradition—the didactic, the romantic, the realist, and the radical—interweave, as the writers continue the traditions that began during the Spanish colonial period while responding to the character of their own times. Moreover, factors such as the rise of the cinema and television, the dominance of the novel in English after World War II, and the political turn of events shaped the novel in Tagalog.

Sanaysay, the Tagalog term for the essay, was coined by Alejandro G. Abadilla in 1938. Genoveva Edroza-Matute classifies the sanaysay into two types according to tone—the palagayan or impormal (informal essay) and the maanyo or pormal (formal essay)—whereas Abadilla offers 13 types according to subject matter: critical, satirical, political, social, historical, philosophical, didactic, spiritual, biographical, inspirational, reminiscent, literary, and humorous.

Tomas Pinpin’s preface to his book Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang Uicang Castila (A Book for the Tagalog Who Study the Spanish Language), 1610, is probably the first essay in Tagalog and the first essay written by a Filipino. Two collections of didactic essays are Father Modesto de Castro’s Platicas Doctrinales (Sermons on Doctrine), 1864, consisting of 25 sermons; and Urbana at Feliza, 1864, consisting of essays in the epistolary form.

Ang Kababaihan ng Malolos
Scene from Sari and Kiri Dalena’s docudrama Ang Kababaihan ng Malolos, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Nicanor G. Tiongson)

In the 19th century, expository and exhortatory essays were written by those involved in the reform movement or the Katipunan. Marcelo H. del Pilar’s “Kadakilaan ng Diyos” (God’s Magnificence) asserted that God can be found in the miracle of nature, not in the theology of books. Jose Rizal’s letter, “Sa Mga Kababayang Dalaga ng Malolos” (To My Young Countrywomen of Malolos), 1889, urged women to continue their struggle for knowledge and freedom. Andres Bonifacio’s three essays—“Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog” (What the Tagalog Should Know), 1896; “Katungkulang Gagawin ng mga Anak ng Bayan” (Duties to Be Done by the Sons and Daughters of the Country); and “Katipunang Mararahas ng Mga Anak ng Bayan” (The Revolutionary Organization of the Country’s Children)—were works meant to rally the people to arms. Emilio Jacinto produced clear, precise, and forceful essays as seen in “Pahayag” (Statement) and “Sa mga Kababayan” (To My Fellow Filipinos), and in his books Liwanag at Dilim (Light and Darkness), 1896, a collection of essays explaining to the masses the meaning of the basic concepts of freedom, democracy, leadership, honor, and justice; and Kartilya ng Katipunan (Scriptures of the Katipunan), circa 1896, a set of guidelines for revolutionary action.

Journalistic, formal, and informal essays that were either informative or polemical in intent were produced during the first decades of American colonial rule. Carlos Ronquillo wrote on Philippine folklore in El Renacimiento. Sofronio Calderon’s “Dating Pilipinas” (Ancient Philippines) is on prehispanic culture. Lope K. Santos expressed his antifeudal and antiobscurantist sentiments in Hindi Talaga ng Diyos (Not God’s Will). Julian Cruz Balmaseda wrote his long essays on Tagalog poetry in Ang Tatlong Panahon ng Tulang Tagalog (The Three Periods of Tagalog Poetry), 1938, and on Tagalog drama in Ang Dulang Pilipino (The Filipino Drama), 1947, while Iñigo Ed. Regalado did his essay on the Tagalog novel Ang Pagkaunlad ng Nobelang Tagalog (The Development of the Tagalog Novel), 1948.

During the 1940s and the 1950s, the critical essay, specifically literary criticism, developed in the hands of writers like Clodualdo del Mundo, Alejandro G. Abadilla, Ildefonso Santos, Juan C. Laya, Teodoro A. Agoncillo, and Rufino Alejandro. Liwayway Arceo, Brigido Batungbakal, Genoveva Edroza-Matute, Macario Pineda, Amado V. Hernandez, Salvador R. Barros, and Pablo R. Glorioso wrote formal and informal essays.

Collections of essays published after World War II consisted of works using a variety of forms and themes. A landmark anthology is Mga Piling Sanaysay (Selected Essays), 1950, a collection of representative essays written between 1945 and 1950, and edited by Alejandro G.Abadilla. May Awitang Bakal (The Steel Has a Song), 1976, edited by Jess Calixto, contains writings of the working class. Manifestoes, personal essays, journal entries, and reflections by political detainees comprise Pintig 1 (Heartbeat 1), 1979, and Pintig 2 (Heartbeat 2), 1985, both anthologies of prose and poetry from Philippine prisons. Several essayists also came out with individual anthologies. Two collections containing informal essays published in newspaper and magazine columns are Mga Sanaysay (Essays), 1956, by Gemiliano Pineda and Pintig (Beat), 1969, by B. S. Medina Jr. In Rebanse: Sanaysay at Kuwento (Return Bout: Essays and Stories), 1991, Lamberto Antonio recounts episodes in his life.

Formal and informal essays are contained in Edroza-Matute’s Ako’y Isang Tinig (I Am a Voice), 1952; 15 Piling Sanaysay: Kasaysayan, Pag-aaral at Pagsulat ng Sanaysay (15 Selected Essays: A History, Study, and the Writing of the Essay), 1984; and Maiikling Kuwento at Sanaysay (Short Stories and Essays), 1988. Rene Villanueva’s Personal: Mga Sanaysay sa Lupalop ng Gunita (Personal: Essays from the Realm of Remembrance), 1999, is a collection of memoir pieces centering on his childhood.

The personal essay has found a venue in Internet websites, weblogs or blogs, and social media. Vlad Gonzales’s Isang Napakalaking Kaastigan (One Huge Awesomeness), 2008 and A-Side/B-Side, 2009, are collections of his blog entries, which are reflections on music and reminiscences about his childhood. Sagad sa Buto (Cut to the Bone), 2010, by Romulo P. Baquiran Jr., is a collection of his blog entries that are musings on his fractured leg bone and consequent hospitalization. Joselito de los Reyes’s Istatus Nation (Status Nation), 2014, and Titser Pangkalawakan (Galaxy Teacher), 2015, are collections of his social commentary that he posted on Facebook.

Anthologies of criticism are Aurora Batnag’s Panunuring Pampanitikan: Mga Nagwagi sa Gawad Surian sa Sanaysay (Literary Criticism: Winners of the Gawad Surian for the Essay), 1984; and Patricia Melendrez-Cruz and Apolonio Chua’s Himalay: Kalipunan ng mga Pag-aaral kay Balagtas (Gleanings: An Anthology of Studies on Balagtas), 1988, and Himalay: Kalipunan ng mga Pag-aaral kay Jose Rizal (Gleanings: An Anthology of Studies on Jose Rizal), 1991. The Filipinas Institute of Translation publishes the Sawikaan and Ambagan series, 2004-2014, which are collections of essays about language and culture.

Among the anthologies of critical essays by individual authors are Mula Sa Parolang Ginto (From the Golden Lighthouse), 1969, by Clodualdo del Mundo; Ang Makata sa Panahon ng Makina (The Poet in the Machine Age), 1972, and Kung Sino ang Kumatha kina Bagongbanta, Ossorio, Herrera, Aquino de Belen, Balagtas, atbp. (On Who Authored Bagongbanta, Ossorio, Herrera, Aquino de Belen, Balagtas, et al.), 1992, both by Virgilio S. Almario; Mga Sanaysay sa Panunuring Pampanitikan (Essays in Literary Criticism), 1975, by Epifanio San Juan Jr.; Abot Tanaw: Sulyap at Suri sa Nagbabagong Kultura at Lipunan (Horizons: A Glimpse and Analysis of a Changing Culture and Society), 1987, by Bienvenido Lumbera; and Pagsalunga (Against the Current), 1992, by Rogelio Sikat. Collections of literary analyses and cultural studies on Philippine texts are Rolando Tolentino’s Richard Gomez at ang Mito ng Pagkalalake, Sharon Cuneta at ang Perpetwal na Birhen at Iba Pang Sanaysay ukol sa Bida sa Pelikula bilang Kultural na Texto (Richard Gomez and the Myth of Masculinity, Sharon Cuneta and the Perpetual Virgin, and Other Essays about Film Heroes as Cultural Texts), 2000; Sa Loob at Labas ng Mall Kong Sawi, Kaliluha’y Siyang Nangyayaring Hari (Inside and Outside my Destitute Mall, Betrayal Reigns Supreme), 2001; Pag-aklas, Pagbaklas, Pagbagtas (Revolt, Demolish, Traverse), 2009; and Almanak ng Isang Aktibista (Almanac of an Activist), 2011.

Ligaya Tiamson-Rubin’s Sining at Kultura sa Bayan ng Angono (Art and Culture in the Town of Angono), 1992, discusses the customs and practices of her native Angono, Rizal. The autobiographical Sa Tungki ng Ilong ng Kaaway: Talambuhay ni Tatang (At the Tip of the Enemy’s Nose: The Autobiography of Tatang), 1988, is an example of testimonial literature. Tony Perez’s Cubao 1980 at Iba pang mga Katha (Cubao 1980 and Other Works), 1992, includes three poignant letters shattering stereotype notions of homosexuality and affirming gender liberation. Lualhati Abreu’s memoir, Agaw-Dilim, Agaw-Liwanag (Dusk, Dawn), 2009, humanizes the underground movement in the throes of internal struggle as it continues to redefine the concept of revolution amidst a stream of historical changes. Other essayists of this generation include Soledad Reyes, Tomas F. Agulto, Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, Jun Cruz Reyes, Ricardo Lee, Fanny Garcia, Domingo Landicho, Virgilio Vitug, Rosario Torres-Yu, Joi Barrios, and Glecy Atienza.

Alternative venues outside university presses and commercial publishers include Komikon and Better Living through Xeroxography (BLTX). Starting and previously published writers alike resort to BLTX and similar press expositions to showcase, sell, and propagate works that offer forms and concerns that corporate institutions might deem un-marketable. In 2015, BLTX expos were held simultaneously in Cubao, Baguio, and Davao.

Performing Arts

Two kinds of native instruments dating from precolonial times are gongs, described by early Spanish chroniclers as basinlike instruments of metal that sounded like bells, and the coryapi or kudyapi, a type of guitar with two or more copper strings. By playing the kudyapi, the natives could carry on a conversation and make themselves understood.

Marikina Rondalla
Marikina Rondalla, Dayaw Festival, Rizal Park, 2000 (CCP Collections)

A few instruments dating back to either the precolonial or early colonial period have been preserved by the Tagalog: the tugtugan, a goblet-shaped drum from Batangas; the kalutang, percussion sticks used in Marinduque; the kalaste, bamboo clappers; the kalatong, bamboo-tube drum; the barimbaw, bamboo mouth harp; and the guimbal, the native drum.

Traditional instruments borrowed from the Western tradition introduced by Spain are the organ, the arpa or diatonic harp, the guitara or guitar, and the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments of the 19th-century orchestra. Groups that evolved from Western-type ensembles introduced in the previous century are the musikong bumbong, the native “brass” band, which uses bamboo instead of brass instruments; the rondalla, which consists of plucked string instruments such as the bandurria, bandolina, laud, and guitar; the banda, which is the Western-type brass band, both marching and symphonic; and the orquesta, the Western-type orchestra.

During the American colonial period, the banda proliferated in many Tagalog provinces, partly because of the success of the Philippine Army Band under Col Walter Loving. Important town bands have been formed in Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija; Malolos, Bulacan; Malabon, Taytay, and Angono, Rizal; and Pakil, Laguna.

The first symphony orchestra was the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO), founded in 1932. For a long time, the MSO was the only orchestra until it ceased to play in the mid-1980s. Today, the most active professional orchestras are the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Manila Chamber Orchestra.

As new instruments were developed in the United States, they came to the Philippines and were adopted by Tagalog composers. The electric guitar and the synthesizer are two of the American “inventions” of the 1950s and 1970s that have become part and parcel of the Filipino musician’s instruments.

A recent development in contemporary Philippine music is the “rediscovery” of ethnic instruments, motifs, and rhythms. Groups such as Penpen, Grupong Pendong, and Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad incorporate indigenous wooden, bamboo, brass, and stringed instruments from the different indigenous cultural communities into their repertoire to create music that is Filipino in content and sound.

Folk songs, ballads, and sung poems called awitin general are an integral part of the oral tradition of the Tagalog. In theme and content, they may either be secular, with references to nature, people, objects, places, personal emotions and relationships, private moods, and the like; or religious, with focus on God, biblical characters, doctrinal teachings, and devotional feelings. Songs are either narrative, in which case they are ballads which tell a story, or non-narrative and situational.

Among the ancient Tagalog, several types of songs were found, among them the balayang, a ballad sung during a wedding feast; the kumintang, a type of music and song, originally used as a battle or victory song of the warriors of Kumintang, later a matrimonial ballad sung by men during the wedding and a courting song and dance accompanied by a guitar; the kundiman, a love song said to have been derived from kung hindi man (if it is not to be); the dalit, a kind of hymn; the diyuna, a household song sung while doing chores around the house which later developed into a wedding song; the indulanin, also called indolanin or dulanin, a street song sung by common folk when entering or leaving a settlement, or a love song or wedding song sung on the streets while taking a walk; the suliranin, a sad song sung by pilgrims during the hot season; the talindaw, a dramatic song sung during certain local activities, similar to the diyuna; and the uyayi, a lullaby or cradle song, also called alo, aloy, and indayanin.

In some cases, only the names of these songs have come down to us; the actual texts no longer exist. In other cases, the forms have come down to us, transformed by several centuries, such as the uyayi; the kundiman, which lives on in love songs old and new; the kumintang, which survives not as song but as a plucked style of guitar playing associated with awit performances; the awit, which is used for chanting metrical romances; and the dalit, which is still sung in some Tagalog communities at wakes or novenas. Some of these song types, expressive as they are of a native tradition or sensitivity, have been used from time to time to evoke deeply felt patriotic sentiments in times of national crises.

Other songs and ballads which have become an integral part of the life of a Tagalog, whether child or adult, are “Magtanim ay Di Biro” (“Planting Rice Is Never Fun”), “Paruparong Bukid” (Country Butterfly), “Bahay Kubo” (Nipa Hut), and “Doon Po sa Amin” (In Our Town).

The coming of Christianity created two kinds of vocal repertoire: one directly used in the liturgy and the other created outside the church albeit still in relation to the liturgical calendar.

Religious music for the Catholic liturgy was composed and performed by musicians who were trained in the colegios de tiples, such as those established by the Franciscans in Lumban, Laguna, and those in San Agustin and the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. These musicians, like Marcelo Adonay of Pakil, Laguna, created masses and hymns, which hewed closely to traditional church music.

The more popular religious music created during the colonial period, however, related to the various rituals and activities of the new Christian faith. The Flores de Mayo and its songs for the offering of flowers to the Virgin; the Santacruzan and its “Dios Te Salve, Maria”; the panunuluyan and its sung dialogues, the pastores and its villancicos (carols), the osana and its “Hossana,” the salubong and its “Regina Coeli” (Queen of Heaven); the pasyon, sinakulo, awit, and korido and their respective chants; the nobena and its dalit or awit and the song for dead children called angelitos are all based on the teachings and traditions of the Roman Catholic church although reflecting a native ethos and style that make them authentic expressions of native religiosity and sensibility.

Aside from religious music, secular music also flourished during the Spanish colonial period. European forms were introduced like the marchas and paso dobles,as well as dance music like the valse, habanera or danza, jota, fandango, polka, mazurka, chotis, and rigodon. Filipino composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries used these forms for their own original compositions, as seen in Jose Estella’s “Marcha Germinales”; Dolores Paterno’s danza “La Flor de Manila” (The Flower of Manila) and the “Jota Gumaqueña”; Antonino Buenaventura’s “Pandangguhan”; and the folk “Polkabal” and “Mazurka Mindoreña.”

During the revolution against Spain, music played an important role. Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio requested Julio Nakpil to write the lyrics and music for a national anthem, “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan” (Noble Hymn of the Tagalog Region), but it was Julian Felipe’s “Marcha Magdalo” (Magdalo March), commissioned by Emilio Aguinaldo, that became the national anthem. The kundiman, an old song expressing lofty sentiments about love, suffering, or heroism, and cast in a melancholy mood, fired the revolutionaries’ love for the beloved Inang Bayan, as seen in “Jocelynang Baliwag” (Jocelyn of Baliwag), circa 1896.

The native folk song forms inspired several generations of composers who aspired to create “Filipino” music. In the 1920s and 1930s, composers Nicanor S. Abelardo, Francisco Santiago, Bonifacio Abdon, and Constancio de Guzman stylized the folk kundiman, writing it in two or more parts. Cast in the minor and major modes, the kundiman as art song is exemplified by Santiago’s “Anak Dalita” (Child of Woe), 1917; Abelardo’s “Nasaan Ka, Irog?” (Where Are You, My Love?), 1924, and “Mutya ng Pasig” (Muse of the Pasig), 1926; Abdon’s “Kundiman,” 1920; and Constancio de Guzman’s “Bayan Ko” (My Country), 1928. In 1962, Felipe Padilla de Leon also used the kundiman for “Kay Tamis Mabuhay” (How Sweet It Is to Live), the patriotic song of Maria Clara in his opera Noli Me Tangere.

The danza or habanera was used in compositions like Antonio Molina’s “Hatinggabi” (Midnight), 1913; Nicanor S. Abelardo’s “Bituing Marikit” (Beautiful Star), 1926; and Constancio de Guzman’s “Babalik Ka Rin” (You Will Come Back), circa 1950; while the balitaw was employed by Francisco Buencamino’s “Ang Larawan” (Portrait), 1943; and Santiago Suarez’s “Bakya Mo, Neneng” (Your Wooden Clogs, Neneng), circa 1946.

As nationalist composers created music consciously derived from older musical traditions, the American colonial regime brought in the music of American variety shows. These were popularized in the bodabil, a popular musical variety show, as well as on film, radio, and television. Some of these forms were used by Tagalog composers for their own compositions, which merged the new musical beat, Tagalog lyrics, and homegrown humor. Examples are “Balut” (Duck’s Egg), an original Filipino jazz song performed by bodabil singer Katy de la Cruz; “Hahabol-habol” (In Pursuit), a rock ‘n’ roll song popularized by Bobby Gonzales; and “Pitong Gatang” (Seven Gantas), a yodeling number done by Fred Panopio.

The post-World War II years inherited the nationalist temper of the first decades of the century. Influenced by Western musical idiom and classical techniques, many Filipino composers managed to weave traditional folk themes, and even folk melodies, into their works. Concertos, symphonies, overtures, symphonic poems, suites, operas, art songs, choral pieces, chamber music, ballet scores, and incidental music were composed. Some of the important works of this period are Antonino Buenaventura’s By the Hillside, 1941, and Mindanao Sketches, 1947; Lucio D. San Pedro’s symphonic poem Lahing Kayumanggi (Brown Race), 1962, and Suite Pastorale, 1956; and Felipe Padilla de Leon’s two operas: Noli Me Tangere, 1957, and El Filibusterismo, 1970. Compositions that have adapted techniques of avant-garde music are Lucrecia R. Kasilag’s Toccata for Percussions and Winds, 1960; Jose Maceda’s Udlot-Udlot (Fluctuation), 1975; and Ramon P. Santos’s Ading, 1978.

The dichotomy between the romantic tradition, exemplified by Lucio San Pedro, and the modernist, exemplified by Ramon Santos and Jose Maceda, has become even more distinct in contemporary classical music. Till his death in 2004, San Pedro persisted in composing music in the romantic style, as in his “Polkalina,” 1998, for the rondalla, and “Romance,” 1998, for the violencello and piano. Both works were composed in the bucolic setting of Angono, Rizal. On the other hand, Ramon Santos’s L’Bad, 1995, takes the basic unit of Yakan music called lebad and develops this into a 16-minute orchestral piece for standard Western instruments. Maceda’s melding of a concept and a technology with which to produce a concert piece is the basis for his avant-gardism, such as his Udlot-udlot for Six Performers, 1997, and Sujeichon, 2002. What all these composers have in common is what has been described as their “creative nationalism” (Baes 2014, 174).

Scene from Chino Toledo’s two-act opera San Andres B
Scene from Chino Toledo’s two-act opera San Andres B, 2013 (CCP Collections)

Standing between these polarities are Chino Toledo and Ryan Cayabyab, whose works have a stronger audience appeal, in a style that one might call the “national popular.” Both have adapted the Catholic mass for chorus and orchestra: Cayabyab’s Misa was performed in its entirety in a concert called Madz about Ryan, 1998. Toledo’s Misa Sama-Sama (Mass All Together), for chorus and percussion, was composed and performed in installments from 2012 to 2014. His other works are Mga Sulyap sa Simbahan ng Quiapo mula sa Kalye Echague (Glimpses of the Quiapo Church from Echague Street), 2004, and the two-act opera San Andres B, 2013. The music for other operas since the 1990s has been composed by Jerry Dadap for Lorenzo Ruiz, Escribano (Lorenzo Ruiz, Scrivener), 1994; Ed Parungao for Rizal: Mga Huling Araw (Rizal: The Last Days), 1995; Jeffrey Ching for Rizal, 1997; Reynaldo Paguio for Mayo, Bisperas ng Liwanag (May, Eve of Light), 1997, which is adapted from Nick Joaquin’s short story, May Day Eve; and Ryan Cayabyab for Spoliarium, 2003, about Juan Luna’s masterpiece of the same title.

In 2005, Toledo opened a school for composers of art music, Music Underkonstruction Orchestral Reading Project. The group’s compositions are premiered by the Metro Manila Chamber Orchestra (MMCO). The Manila Sound Lab, on the other hand, founded by Jonas Baes in 2008, pushes the experimentation even further.

Among sarsuwela composers, Bato sa Buhangin (Boulder in the Sand), 2005, was written as a tribute to film music composer Ernani Cuenco of Barangay Tikay, Malolos, whereas postmodern music was composed by Joy Marfil for Basilia ng Malolos (Basilia of Malolos), 2007.

Contemporary vocal music is dominated by popular or pop music, whose musical idiom runs along the whole range of rock, jazz, disco, ballad, reggae, folk, country Western, hiphop, and rap. This music—which is heard on radio, television, and film—uses Filipino, English, and Taglish (a hybrid of the two). Starting in 1973, original pop music, later called OPM or original Pilipino music, was created by lyricists and composers using various forms: Pinoy rock, which merges the rock instruments and style with Filipino lyrics, exemplified by “Ang Himig Natin” (Our Music), 1973, by the Juan de la Cruz Band, “Laki sa Layaw (Jeproks)” (Spoiled Brat), 1977, by Mike Hanopol, and “Bonggahan” (Razzle-Dazzle), 1977, by Sampaguita; Pinoy folk, sung to the accompaniment of a guitar, depicts local life as in “Handog” (Offering), 1978, by Florante, “Anak” (Child), 1977, by Freddie Aguilar, and “Masdan Mo ang Kapaligiran” (Take a Look at the Environment), 1978, by Asin; Pinoy ballad, which speaks of romantic love in light melodies as typified by “Ngayon at Kailanman” (Now and Forever), 1977, by George Canseco, “Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal?” (How Much Do I Love You?), 1979, by Ernani Cuenco, and “Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas” (Wishing It Would Never End), 1985, by Willy Cruz; Pinoy disco, which is meant principally for dancing such as “Annie Batungbakal,” 1979, of the Hotdogs, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Sing It and I Will Dance To It), 1978, of the VST & Co, and “Katawan” (Body), 1979, of the Hagibis; Manila sound, which uses colloquial Filipino and Taglish, such as “Pumapatak ang Ulan” (Raindrops Are Falling), 1976, by the Apo Hiking Society, and “Manila,” 1975, by the Hotdogs; Pinoy folk ethnic, which uses ethnic instruments and forms, such as “Agila” (Eagle), 1982, by Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad; and Pinoy rap, as exemplified by “Mga Kababayan Ko” (My Fellow Filipinos), 1990, by Francis Magalona.

With the rise of the protest movement against the Marcos regime from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, protest songs proliferated. Performed in rallies and symposia, these songs adopted all forms such as folk, rock, and march to convey social commentary. Songs with a nationalist vein include “Tayo’y mga Pinoy” (We Are Filipinos), 1978, by Heber Bartolome; “Babae” (Woman), 1979, by Inang Laya; “Manggagawa” (Worker), 1986, and “Pagbabago” (Change), 1988, by Patatag; and “Lina,” 1977, by Jess Santiago. Constancio de Guzman’s 1928 kundiman, “Ang Bayan Ko” (My Country), became the national anthem of the protest movement.

The protest tradition continues with rock bands such as The Eraserheads, whose first album, Cutterpillow, 1995, includes “Ang Huling El Bimbo” (The Last El Bimbo), about a youth’s first love, and “Yoko” (Don’t Like), which protests compulsory military training in schools. A subsequent album, Sticker Happy, 1997, includes “Spoliarium,” which alludes to a rape case whose victim never saw justice because of the perpetrators’ political connections; and “Para sa Masa” (For the Masses), which is a call for the masses to rise above the system oppressing them.

Filipino musicians defy genre categories because of their tendency to experiment, transform, and collaborate with one another. The song “Five Years” from the album Oracle, 1995, by the Sugar Hiccup band, demonstrates early signs of local “gothic” music, but the band itself was not gothic because it explored other styles.

Francis Magalona’s Meron Akong Ano (What Do I Have), 1993, and Free Man, 1996, fused rap with rock to produce patriotic songs like “Three Stars and a Sun.” In 2006, members of various bands formed a collective called Barangay Tibay, which produced hardcore and hiphop albums and concerts. In 2009, the band called Kamikazee produced an album, Long Time Noisy, which included “Meron Akong Ano” as a tribute to Magalona, who died of leukemia in the same year.

Frontliners for hard rock or heavy metal include Razorback, Wolfgang, and Dahong Palay; for death metal, Skychurch, Valley of Chrome, Imbue no Kudos, COG; for goth, The Late Isabel and Oremuz; for nu metal or hardcore, Queso, Greyhoundz, Slapshock, and Wilabaliw; for punk, The Wuds, Yano, The Jerks, Philippine Violators, Agaw Agimat, and Tribal Fish; for ska, Brownbeat All Star, Sunflower Day Camp, and Pu3ska; for reggae, Tropical Depression, Brownman Revival, Coffee Break Island, The Chongkeys, and Peacepipe; for funk, P.O.T and Kapatid; for progressive rock or metal, Fuseboxx and Eternal Now; for rap metal, Dicta License, which is influenced by Rage Against the Machine; and for world music, Talahib, Pinikpikan, Kalayo, Humanfolk, Ang Bagong Lumad, and Kontra-Gapi. Some other notable bands are Rizal Underground, Siakol, Afterimage, Teeth, The Youth, Cambio, The Pin-up Girls, Giniling Festival, Kikomachine, Purple Chickens, Chicosci, Urbandub, Typecast, Radioactive Sago Project, Sandwich, Juan Pablo Dream, Neruda, the Out of Body Special, and Imago.

Personal horror and societal terror are themes that have aroused Filipino musicians’ creativity. Some use rebellious images to brand themselves as radical, but others actually engage in the parliament of the streets. “Tatsulok” (Triangle), composed by Buklod and sung by Bamboo, uses the image of the social pyramid as the root of armed revolution and calls for the inversion of the triangle to end the war. This is the same call made in rallies by such performers as frontmen Chickoy Pura of The Jerks, Bobby Balingit of The Wuds, and Eric “Cabring” Cabrera of Datu’s Tribe, all of whom were icons of dissent of the 1990s.

The Jerks’ album Haligi ng Maynila (Manila’s Pillar), 1997, includes “Sayaw sa Bubog” (Dance on Glass Shards), which exposes the superficial social changes after the EDSA Revolt. In “Reklamo Nang Reklamo” (Always Complaining), they criticize colonial mentality. The title song, “Haligi ng Maynila,” pays tribute to the city’s worker as the solid foundation on which the city stands.

Formed in 1983, The Wuds derived their name from British rock band Jethro Tull’s album Songs from the Wood. The Wuds, a punk rock band, fuses the antimaterialistic philosophy of Hare Krishna with the antisocial attitude of punks. Their first album, A.R.M.S.T.A.L.K., 1985, is considered a milestone in the punk scene. Balingit formed the musical group Planeta ng Ngiti, which also engages in performance art. Anthems for the punk movement might be found in The Wuds’s album At Nakalimutan ang Diyos (And God Was Forgotten), 1994, which includes “Taong Hayop” (Animal Man) and “Pwesto” (Post), both of which rage against greed and corruption in the government. “Inosente Lang ang Nagtataka” (Only the Naïve Is Dumbfounded), from Oplan Kahon (Oplan Box), 1994, was covered by Rivermaya in their album Isang Ugat, Isang Dugo (One Root, One Blood), 2006. An anti-authoritarian feature in their songs is their deliberate use of grammatically wrong English, also known as “carabao English,” in defiance of the popular attitude toward English being the language of the educated.

Other bands singing of Philippine crises are Yano, which criticizes the educational system in their song, “State U,” and the electoral system in “Trapo,” literally “rag” but also a portmanteau of “traditional politician”; Dicta License, whose “Alay sa mga Nagkamalay noong Dekada Nobenta” (A Gift for Those Who Were Born in the Nineties) and “Ang Ating Araw” (Our Day) call the Generation X to action; and Kamikazee, which takes a stand against the pork barrel scandal of 2013 and criticizes legislators indifferent to nationwide poverty in the song “Wala” (Nothing).

Songs of resistance travelled from Manila and Quezon City to UP Los Baños (UPLB), Laguna during a concert organized by Artists for the Removal of Gloria (ARREST Gloria), which held President Gloria Arroyo accountable for the “Hello Garci” electoral fraud scandal, among her other crimes against the Filipino people. The ARREST Gloria Concert on 30 November 2005 commenced with actors Pen Medina and Soliman Cruz dressed, respectively, as Bonifacio, whose 142nd birthday was being celebrated, and Rizal, the national hero who hailed from Laguna. Performers included Cynthia Alexander, Dong Abay, The Wuds, Radioactive Sago Project, The Brockas, Agaw Agimat, Kwatro Beinte, Blazing Bulalakaws, Kilometer 64, Traumaligno, ARTIST Inc., Kulturang Ugnayan ng Manggagawa at Uring Anakpawis sa Timog Katagalugan (KUMASA-TK), UPLB Umalohokan Inc., Anino Shadow Play Collective, and Southern Tagalog Exposure (STEX).

Hailing from UPLB in the late 1990s, Datu’s Tribe, defiant of genre classification, is known for its politically charged humor and the common citizen’s narratives of daily trials. Such accounts expressed through singing or rapping are accompanied by heavy music, with serious and critical themes peppered with sardonic remarks. In the song “Demolition Squad,” Cabring Cabrera, vocalist of Datu’s Tribe, sarcastically enjoins the government to “fight poverty by killing the poor.” Another song, “Feelings,” pokes fun at cheesy mainstream love-themed soundtracks infesting the airwaves while social violence persists. These tracks are included in the album Whoa Pilipinas!, 2007, which parodies the Tourism Department’s slogan, “Wow! Philippines.”

Besides The Jerks, The Wuds and Datu’s Tribe, other performers at rallies in the Tagalog regions are Musikang Bayan, Tambisan sa Sining, Talahib, Musicians for Peace, KUMASA-ST, and The Peoples’ Choral. The Axel Pinpin Propaganda Machine is a spoken word group, whose vocalist is poet Axel Pinpin, secretary general of Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK). Spoken word poetry, generally associated with hiphop, is composed specifically for onstage performance.

Some people’s organizations have their own cultural performing groups, such as Gabriela’s Sining Lila, whose jingles center on women’s issues and national concerns. “DAP Noynoy-Abad Romance” appropriates Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to criticize the Disbursement Acceleration Program also known as the presidential pork barrel. LAPIS (League for Authors of Public Interest Songs), whose founding members include Gary Granada, Tres Marias (Cooky Chua, Bayang Barrios, Lolita Carbon), and Chikoy Pura, are among the many NCR-based artists who stood with the lumad (indigenous people) of Surigao del Sur when the Philippine Army attacked ALCADEV, an alternative school for the lumad community. In 2015, LAPIS launched its music video Bayan Muna (People First), which calls for national sovereignty and societal change.

In the 1990s, bars such as Mayrics and Club Dredd were the favorite venues for band gigs. Since 2001, music festivals such as the annual Pulp Summer Slam have provided occasions for foreign and homegrown rock and metal bands to congregate. Peoples’ organizations and their mobilization programs serve as venues where minds meet. The rock band Yano was formed after Dong Abay met Eric Gancio, Larry Mapolon, and Onie Badiang at the political concert Patatag in 1992. The Gazera hiphop group was formed in 2008 through Musicians for Peace, which is a group of music practitioners and enthusiasts, and the UGATLahi Artist Collective, which are the creators of the colossal and intricate effigies that are set on fire at protest mobilizations at Mendiola or at the Batasan, on the day of the president’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), or other dates relevant to the labor, agriculture, and education sectors.

The theme of bureaucratic corruption among legislators, to which the president has turned a blind eye, has been among cause-oriented musicians’ concerns. “Sarsa Platoon,” from Datu’s Tribe’s debut album Galit Kami sa Baboy (We Are Angry with Pigs), 1995, was still relevant in 2013, when the pork barrel scam with frontwoman Janet Napoles became public knowledge through mass media. Radioactive Sago Project’s “Gusto Ko ng Baboy” (I Like Pigs) from Tanginamo Andaming Nagugutom sa Mundo Fashionista Ka Pa Rin (Sonuvabitch, While So Many People in the World Starve, You’re Still a Fashionista), 1999, builds up to a revelation of the numberless pigs in the country, ranging from those in the entertainment industry to those in government service.

The album Tayo ang Bosses (We Are the Bosses), 2015, satirizes President Benigno Aquino’s slogan, “Kayo ang Boss ko” (You are my bosses), and plays on the word “boses” (voice); thus, “We Are the Voices.” The nine-track album consists of protest songs by Sining Bulosan, Ericson Acosta, Sining Lila, SIKLAB, Karatula, Tambisan sa Sining, TaBaKK, Goons N’ Guns, and the Wuds.

The parliament of the streets meets street culture through TaBaKK (Tanghalang Bayan ng Kulturang Kalye), a network of musicians consisting of rappers and instrumentalists. TaBaKK members collaborated with Luisita Watch and Molotov Pilipinas for the HLMX Trilogy, which is about a community’s struggle for land reform in Hacienda Luisita. The trilogy includes 5 Year Plan’s “Pagbawi” (Retrieving), Goons N’ Guns’s “Luisita’s Cry” (composed by Pink Cow, which is a pun on pingkaw, “crooked arm”), and Gazera’s “Kung Puntod Na ang mga Bukirin” (When the Fields Have Turned to Graveyards), which is based on Axel Pinpin’s poem of the same title.

The first Filipino fliptop league was founded in 2010 by Anygma (Alaric Yuson). Fliptop or rap battle involves trash talk, with the rappers dissing each other with vulgar words, breaking all the rules of political correctness, bragging, and other such ways of defeating each other. Fliptop rappers are called “battle emcees.” When an emcee stutters or goes blank for seconds, this is called a “choke.” Two types of fliptop are freestyle and old school. Freestyle, the more common, is performed acapella; old school is accompanied by beats and/or DJs, also used in tryouts. Tag-team battles are called “Dos por Dos”; five-member battles, “5-on-5.” Battle emcees may rap impromptu or may deliver their punches and verbal offensives from prepared, written scripts. There are three rounds, with each round having a time limit of two minutes per emcee. Five to seven judges decide who wins. Most fliptop battles are uploaded in their official YouTube channel, which has built up a fanbase of more than 1.4 million subscribers. As of 2016, the most viewed video was the tag-team battle of Loonie/Abra versus Shehyee/Smugglaz, with 23 million hits.

Fliptop has revived mainstream interest in Pinoy hiphop, which thrived in the 1990s through Andrew E, Michael V, Francis M, Hardware Syndrome, Mastaplann, Urban Flow, and Death Threat. Death Threat’s “Gusto Kong Bumaet” (I Wanna Be Kind) tells of the odds against the urban poor becoming better persons, and its “Ilibing ng Buhay ang mga Sosyal” (Bury the Rich Alive) curses the affluent class that shows off its status symbols. Among Death Threat’s members was Gloc-9, who became a multi-awarded solo rapper. His songs and albums express such nationalist concerns as migration, election, and social injustice. Fliptop battle emcees who have released their own albums and music videos are Abra, Loonie, Smugglaz, Dello, Zaito, Bassilyo, Batas, Shehyee, Target, and Kjah.

A popular fliptop emcee is BLKD—read as balakid, the Tagalog word for “obstacle”—a member of Goons N’ Guns. BLKD collaborated with DJ UMPH for the album Gatilyo, 2015, which includes the track, “Gastador”—literally “spenders,” but here referring to plunderers of the national treasury—which warns corrupt politicians that they will soon end up as lechon (roasted pigs). BLKD’s rap songs are calls to action against the system that creates and perpetuates social injustice. Gatilyo is consistent with BLKD’s rap battle persona that once had a purpose of “educating” the fliptop crowd and raising the quality of battle rapping from decadent generic dissess to multilayered references to math, science, popular culture, the crises of Philippine society, and collective action to freedom.

Tagalog ethnic dances identified by Spanish chronicles are the tagayan, the kumintang, and the war dance. The tagayan was a debate or contest in poetry or dance, probably done during drinking sessions as the name implies. The kumintang, also a type of song, was originally a Batangas dance that inflamed the spirit of combatants going off to war. In the 19th century, it featured musicians playing instruments and singing lyrics, which are then mimed by a man and a woman. In the dance, the man tries to win the woman’s heart, running around her while making movements of courtship that were sometimes explicit. In the end, because the girl continues to ignore him, he pretends to fall sick on a chair. The girl is finally touched, she turns to help him, and they dance together again. Only the hand-and-wrist movement of the kumintang survives today. Finally, the war dance was performed by a male, who held either a towel or a spear and a shield, made movements with his hands and feet, now slow, now fast, attacking and retiring, inciting and pacifying, making expressions of body and face that were warlike and passionate.

Spanish colonization led to new developments in Philippine dance. The friars and other Spaniards, who figured prominently in the celebration of fiestas, were active in the promotion and teaching of the new dances from Europe, Cuba, and Mexico, such as the jota, fandango, habanera, malagueña, curracha, zapateado, jarabes, and rigodon.

By the time the Spanish era ended, the Tagalog had evolved their own versions of European dances, adapted to native traditions and occasions. These lowland Christian dances, also called “folkdances,” were recorded from the 1930s to the 1960s by Francisca Reyes-Aquino and may be roughly divided into religious dances or dances performed as a prayer during religious feasts or for Christian saints; and secular dances, which may focus on courtship, harvesting and pounding rice, the social and festival dances of the upper and lower classes, and the mimeticdances.

Two dances that seem to relate to an ancient system of beliefs now lost are the saraw and the sanghiyang.The saraw or sa araw (to or for the sun) of Batangas, today danced by any number of couples, seems to derive from an ancient custom of sun worship among the Batangueños. On the other hand, the sanghiyang of Alfonso, Cavite has participants going into a trance as they speak to spirits of the dead while other people walk barefoot on live coals.

Other religious dances are performed on the important feasts of the Catholic liturgical calendar. The bate (“to greet”) is a dance of the flags dramatizing the meeting of the Risen Christ and the Virgin on Easter Sunday, and celebrating the Resurrection. It is performed by a male and a female in Marinduque, by young girls in Parañaque, Rizal, and by the tenienta (female lieutenant) and then the capitana (female captain) in Angono, Rizal. The subli of Bauan, Batangas is performed in May as laro (game) and panata (devotion) to the Santa Cruz of Bauan. It is song, poetry, music, and dance performed by women doing refined movements called the talik and men doing energetic and naughty movements called patumbok. The bulaklakan is a garland dance usually performed in May, also in honor of the Santa Cruz. Young women dance their way to the church, holding arches of wire or rattan covered with flowers. Also in May, the sayaw sa Obando are balitaw and balse performed by couples who are praying for a child or a partner from Santa Clara, San Pascual, or the Nuestra Señora de Salambao.

Subli performers in Bauan, Batangas
Subli performers in Bauan, Batangas, 1990 (CCP Collections)

In Malolos, Bulacan, dances in balitaw tempo may also be performed by women and men holding leaves as they dapit (fetch) the image of the patron saint on a carro from the camarera’s house, in procession to the church or to the pagoda (fluvial float). Similarly, balitaw or balse may be played to accompany devotees dancing for the image of the Resurrected Christ on Easter Sunday or on Ascension Day. A mimetic dance is the maglalatik or magbabao of Biñan, Laguna, performed by two groups of men, the first in red pants, the second in blue. On their chests, backs, waists, and knees, coconut shell-halves have been attached with strings. The dancers click the shells they hold against those on their bodies and each other’s bodies to reenact a battle.

Of the secular dances, the most numerous are those depicting courtship. Sayaw sa pag-ibig (dance of love) of Bulacan is performed while young men and women relax during the planting season. Through the dance, a young man makes his feelings known to the girl of his choice, who in turn expresses her reaction to such a plea in the way she ends the dance. The katsutsa of San Pablo, Laguna dramatizes the rivalry between two young men for the same girl, who attends to both so that no one would be jealous of the other. The balitaw of the Tagalog is similar to that of the Visayans, except that in the Tagalog version, the dancers do not sing but rather mime a courtship that may end with the girl giving the boy a flower, signifying her acceptance of his love. The punyal ni Rosa (Rosa’s dagger) from Paete, Laguna is an unusual courtship dance, named after a young woman who was supposed to have killed herself rather than lose her honor to a desperate man. The huricuti of Quezon province features a man dancing around by himself as he looks for the woman he wishes to dance with. Once he has chosen her, he stops in front of the woman and puts his hat on her head. The girl has to dance as required by etiquette. The lulay, the nickname of Eulogia, is a dance from San Pablo, Laguna where a girl and a boy sing verses to each other alternately as they enact movements of courtship.

When the engagement is made between a young man and a woman, a dance from Malolos, Bulacan, called disposoryo, celebrates the engagement rites or balaihan. Here, relatives of the groom dance on the eve of the wedding as they bring the food for the wedding feast and the picture of the Holy Family to the house of the bride. Other courtship dances are the magkasuyo (sweethearts) of Quezon, and the magkatipan (betrothed), both performed at social gatherings.

As in ancient times, the harvesting of rice occasions a celebration among the Tagalog. The kasaganaan (prosperity) is a dance performed by workers and farmhands who helped in the harvesting of a rice field. After feasting on roasted pig and imbibing tuba and lambanog (fermented coconut water) or basi, couples may dance a lively jota, pandanggo, or kuratsa to honor the host, who may shower coins on the dancers and the children. In the hermana mayor of Nueva Ecija, the dancers—playing the roles of fishers, artisans, and farmers—carry the image of the Virgin Mary in procession to the house of the hermana mayor (female major sponsor), and offer the hermana gifts because she will be the main sponsor of the next town fiesta. The libad of San Mateo, Rizal is another dance performed by farmers after the harvest, while the katlo (the third) of Bulacan is performed during the harvest season to the rhythm of the pestles striking the mortars.

Some social dances are performed specifically to welcome or honor guests. The panchita, named after a girl who was considered the best dancer in San Narciso, Quezon, was performed to honor high officials of the government and clergy during the Spanish period. The alay (offering) is a song or dance offered to the guest as a gesture of welcome. The papuri (praise) of Quezon province is danced by young men and women to honor an important guest. The putong or putongan (coronation) of Marinduque is a celebration held on the occasion of one’s birthday. The honoree is made to sit between two girls dressed as angels and holding candles, as the performers sing and dance in front of him or her. The climax of the asalto is when the honoree is crowned with flowers.

Social dances that are performed for all special occasions like Christmas, birthdays, visits, and town fiestas may be divided into those of the elite and those of the poorer classes. Social dances of the rich were usually performed to the accompaniment of a small orchestra in the big sala of the bahay na bato. Mostly European in derivation, these include the jota gumaqueña of Gumaca, Quezon which was supposed to have been introduced by the musician Hermenegildo Omana; the a la jota of San Pablo, Laguna, which is fast and lively; the jotabal of Gumaca, Quezon, which combines the jota with the valse; the polka sa nayon of Batangas, which is usually performed during town fiestas and big affairs; the polka of Quezon province, which is one of many versions of the polka in the country; the mazurka mindoreña, which was popularized among the elite by Antonio Luna of Mindoro; the estudiantina of Unisan, Quezon performed at balls by young men and women who have come home from the private schools they attended in Manila; the putritos of Atimonan, Quezon; the malagueña of San Pablo, Laguna, a lively dance brought to the Philippines from Malaga, Spain; and the rigodon, a formal square dance.

Video: Pandanggo sa Ilaw Folk Dance - in Choral Music Version [Oasiwas Dance and Alitaptap]

Among the ordinary folk, social dances tend to be livelier, energetic, and humorous. The pateado of Balimbing, Marinduque combines lively pandanggo movements with acrobatics. The male dancer may walk on his hands with his feet dragging on the floor or bend backward to pick up a hat with his head. The culebra (snake) of Meycauayan, Bulacan has dancers in a row winding in and out in the cadena (chain) figure. And the sayaw sa palaton (dance on plates) of Biñan, Laguna has a couple singing as they dance on nine porcelain plates laid out on the floor. Other social dances are the lerion of Parang, Marikina, Rizal which is danced to the popular song “Leron-Leron Sinta” (Leron-Leron Beloved); the himig sa nayon (country melody); the lanceros of Pagsanjan, Laguna, which is a square dance probably brought over by the Americans; the balse of Marikina, Rizal, which was performed in the yard of the hermana who sponsored a lutrina, a procession to ask for deliverance from pestilence and drought; and the kunday kunday.

Dances that imitate animals or insects are the alitaptap (firefly) of Batangas; the sinalampati where dancers move like pigeons; the itik-itik, which represents lively young ducks; and the makonggo of Santa Maria, Bulacan, where a single male mimes the movements and expressions of a monkey. The kaninong anak ito? (whose child is this?) is sung and danced by children, who pretend to hold a baby whom they have picked up from the grass playing with an owl.

The American colonial period introduced many types of dances into Tagalog culture. The first and most popular were the social dances propagated through bodabil, and later through radio, film, and television. These include the tapdance, clog, fox-trot, cakewalk, charleston, big apple, slow drag, boogie woogie, rock ‘n’ roll, swing, twist, soul, and boogaloo, and the Latin beats like the mambo, cha-cha, pachanga, tango, rhumba, and appalachicola. Dancers who popularized these dances in popular culture include Bayani Casimiro, dance duo Nestor de Villa and Nida Blanca, and the husband-and-wife team Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran. American popular music as seen in the “Top 40” continues to dominate the music shops, stage, and airwaves in the Philippines.

Classical ballet was first performed in Manila in 1915 but was not taught until Luva Adameit came to settle in Manila in the 1930s and mentored the first batch of students, which included Leonor Orosa-Goquingco and Rosalia Merino-Santos, who both became major dancers and teachers-choreographers. Significant were the original works in this idiom, such as Noli Dance Suite, 1955, by Leonor Orosa-Goquingco and Of Cocks and Kings, 1958, by Rosalia Merino-Santos.

With Alice Reyes and her company, modern dance blossomed, producing works like Amada, 1970, and Itim Asu (Black She-wolf), 1979, by Alice Reyes; Ang Sultan (The Sultan), 1973, by Gener Caringal; Sisa,1978, by Cora Iñigo; Balimbing (Star Fruit/Many Faces), 1987, and Siete Dolores (Seven Sorrows), 1988, by Denisa Reyes; Ensalada (Salad), 1981, and Mutya ng Pasig (Muse of the Pasig), 1983, by Edna Vida.

Four ballet companies of Manila, each representing a leading school of thought in Philippine dance, are Philippine Ballet Theater (PBT), Ballet Philippines, Ballet Manila, and Dance Forum. PBT and Ballet Philippines are the resident dance companies of the CCP. PBT hews to classical ballet choregraphy but is not averse to using popular culture for its content. This practice is exemplified in Tribute to Maestro Lucio San Pedro, 2001, Playing Maestro Ryan, 2005, which both refer to classical and contemporary composers. Denisa Reyes’s Darna, 2003, centers on a Filipino female pop icon and superhero. Gener Caringal’s Isang Bagong Bituin (A New Star), 2004, derives its storyline from the telenovela genre and is danced to movie theme songs that have become smash hits across the generations.

Ballet Philippines, aside from its neo-ethnic repertoire, has developed avant-garde programs while adhering to Philippine material, such as national heroes and related topics. Paul Morales’s intertextual choreography weaves in pop culture and includes the collaboration of theater artists and musicians, as in Crisostomo Ibarra, 2011, and Rock Supremo, 2013.

Lisa Macuja’s Ballet Manila performs at Aliw Theater and Star Theater, which are both next to the fairgrounds called Star City. Thus, although its repertoire is primarily classical ballet, it makes deliberate attempts to blend with the ambience of its neighborhood. The series Ballet and Ballads has the company dancing to pop songs performed live by the singers themselves, such as Lani Misalucha. Ballet dancers and circus performers interact in Circus D’Ballet.

Contemporary dance in the Philippines is represented by Myra Beltran, who founded Dance Forum in 1995. The nature of the genre encourages the breaking of convention and self-reflexive choreography. The Contemporary Dance Network Manila, which creates an “urban aesthetic,” has produced collaborative programs among its individual and company members, such as Moving Dance @ LRT Dance Express, 2010, and RE: Rosas ng Maynila @ BGC (RE: Roses of Manila @ BGC), 2014, “BGC” standing for Bonifacio Global City.

A truly multisectoral and collective dance genre is the flash dance mob. This has been performed yearly since 2012 for a global crusade called “One Billion Rising” (OBR). In the Philippines, the project is organized and led by women’s groups and feminist leaders, such as the Gabriela, Monique Wilson, and Sister Mary John Mananzan. On 30 November, its first year, simultaneous dance numbers were performed nationwide. In Manila, the flash mob dance was held at the Liwasang Bonifacio. The participants performed militant choreography, consisting of marching steps, raised clenched fists, and martial arts moves, to the music of the project’s theme song, “Isang Bilyong Babae ang Babangon” (One Billion Women Will Rise).

In 2014, the global theme of “rising for justice” was interpreted in the Philippines with programs that called for action against the social and political illnesses, exacerbated by natural calamities; corruption in government and in the educational system; the plunder of the national coffers by public officials; trafficking in children and women; and other such forms of physical and institutional violence. Flash dance mobs were held simultaneously in Metro Manila: Quezon City, the Payatas dumpsite, Taguig, Pasig City, Tondo, the Mehan Gardens, and the Japanese Embassy. In Calatagan, Batangas, peasants and fisherfolk danced in protest against mining and exploitative labor practices.

Folk dance continues to thrive because of unflagging audience interest, support from cultural institutions, and the regularity of fiestas and special days that occasion folk dancing. CCP’s yearly dance festival specifically for folk dancing is “Sari-Saring Sayaw, Sama-Samang Galaw: Mga Tradisyon at Interpretasyon” (Different Dances, Combined Movements: Traditions and Interpretations) which has encouraged schools and rural communities to form folk dance troupes. The Lahing Batangan Dance Troupe of the University of Lyceum, Batangas City, has among its multiregional repertoire the folk dance heritage of its province in “Pamana: Mga Sayaw Pilipino para sa Batangueño” (Heritage: Filipino Dances for the Batangueño). The Kalilayan Folkloric Group has the folk dance and music tradition of Catanauan, Quezon province, its centerpiece being “Las Flores a Maria la Madre Nuestra” (Flowers for Mary, Our Mother), a religious tradition called Flores de Mayo. The Sining Kumintang ng Batangas performs yearly at its province’s Sublian Festival, which is held in honor of the Mahal na Poon Santa Cruz.

The Tagalog theater had its beginnings in the rituals—mimetic dances and mimetic customs of the ethnic Tagalog—some of which survived in various transformations through the colonial periods to the present. In the rituals, a catalonan or shaman takes the role of the anito and, while entranced, partakes of the sacrificial offering—a chicken or a pig—which represents the life of the supplicant. This ritual called pag-aanito is held to bless the important passages in the life cycle such as the birth or baptism of a child, the circumcision or initial menstruation of adolescents, wedding, sickness, and death; and to invite good luck for tribal activities such as hunting, fishing, rice planting and harvesting, and going to war.

To heal those who were gravely ill, the Tagalog of the 17th century first transferred the sick into a newly built house and laid the person out on a mat beside the sacrificial pig/turtle/servant. The catalonan then danced to the sound of gongs, went into a trance, and while entranced slew the animal. The catalonan then gathered the pig’s blood in a bowl and with it anointed the cheeks and forehead of the sick person and of all those present. The animal was cleaned and taken back to the catalonan, who then opened it up to divine from the entrails whether the person would live or die. The ritual ended with the pig being cooked and eaten, as everyone drank.

The mimetic dances imitated animals, as seen in makonggo and sinalampati, or showed tribal activities like courtship and wedding, fishing, rice planting, and going to war. Examples are the war dance and the kumintang already described.

Duplo performed in Malolos, Bulacan
Duplo performed in Malolos, Bulacan, 1990 (CCP Collections)

Mimetic customs were and are associated with courtship, weddings, and wakes. A custom that uses a courtship motif is the duplo, a game played since the 19th century during the wake for the dead. Presided over by a hari (king) who acts as arbiter and “executioner,” the debate, which uses the verse called plosa (dodecasyllabic quatrains), involves male participants called belyako and female participants called belyaka sitting separately in a row on the right and left of the king, respectively. In a free-wheeling and light-hearted tone, the belyako express their admiration for the belyaka who either politely decline the attention or are defended by other belyako. Excitement is generated by the wit and felicity of expression of the participants who may launch their offensives or parry blows with quotations from the pasyon, awit, riddles, proverbs and aphorisms, and allusions to issues, events, and personalities of the past or the present.

In 1924, the duplo was transformed into the balagtasan, a formal debate analyzing the pros and cons of two symbols or ideas: gold or iron, capital or labor, the woman of yesterday or the woman of today. Two poets took opposite sides, taking turns in presenting their prepared arguments in verse, and then going into an extemporaneous exchange during the rebuttal. A lakandiwa acted as moderator. Most important poets were Jose Corazon de Jesus, who was crowned King of the Balagtasan, Florentino Collantes, Amado V. Hernandez, Emilio Mar. Antonio, Epifania Alvarez, and Crescenciano C. Marquez. There were also balagtasan serialized in magazines and later performed on radio and television.

Other traditional games that are mimetic are the bulaklakan, the juego de prenda, and the kulasisi ng hari, most of which, like the duplo, are performed during wakes. Mimetic too are the metaphorical exchanges between the spokespersons of the girl and the boy who are tasked with defining the dowry during the pamamanhikan.

Arakyo in Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija
Arakyo in Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija, 1990 (CCP Collections)

More than three centuries of Spanish rule introduced dramatic forms, which attracted the natives to the pueblos of the Spanish colonial government, propagated the religion and culture of Spain, and disseminated values that ensured the perpetuation of Spanish rule in the islands. Most important of these forms is the komedya, later also known as moro-moro. This play in dodecasyllabic or octosyllabic quatrains could depict religious topics, like the Haybing of Taal, Batangas, which talks of the miracle wrought by the Virgin of Caysasay on a Chinaman; the San Sebastian of Lipa, Batangas, which narrated the life of the town’s patron saint; and the arakyo of Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija and the elena or tibag of Malolos, Bulacan, which all depict the search for the cross by Santa Elena and Constantino. Most komedya, however, would dramatize secular subject matter, like the love between princes and princesses of one Muslim kingdom in Orosman at Zafira, circa 1850, by Francisco Balagtas of Bulacan and Bataan; or the conflict between the Moors of Turquia, Persia, or Arabia, and the Christians of España, Portugal, Francia, Alemania, Italia, and other kingdoms of the Middle Ages, such as in Gonzalo de Cordoba y Zulema de Granada, circa 1888, of Dongalo, Parañaque. Most of the secular komedya were derived from the awit and korido that were propagated by word of mouth or written down and sold in librito (booklet) form, together with prayer books, outside the Church after Sunday Mass.

Sponsored by hermanos and hermanas during the town fiesta, the komedya was performed for three days and nights in the town plaza, on a stage with sets depicting the interior or exterior of European/Middle Eastern palaces. Costumes were red for the Moors, and black, blue or green for the Christians. A band accompanied the elaborate marchas and pasodobles for exits and entrances, and the torneo (tournament) and choreographed batalla (battle) between individuals or armies. Magia (magic) or artipisyo (artifice) were used to depict miracles or enchanted occurrences.

In the 19th century and in the decades before World War II, the komedya have been written and performed by local groups or by itinerant commercial groups like those of Tondo or in major towns of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon. Today, the komedya is still performed in Lucban and Pililla, Quezon; Cavinti, Paete, Lumban, and Pakil, Laguna; Las Piñas and Parañaque, Rizal; and Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija. In most of these towns, the komedya continues to affirm pro-European, anti-Muslim, and authoritarian values.

Related to the komedya are the dances called moros y cristianos, which depict embassies sent between Christian and Muslim Kingdoms, the battle between the kingdoms, and the defeat and baptism of all Moors. Now gone, these dance dramas used to be performed on the streets of Manila during holidays in the 19th century. A survival of this tradition are the bakahan of San Antonio, Laguna, which enacts the battle between Michael the Archangel and the Hudyo (Jew) on Good Friday; the mardicas of Ternate, Cavite; and the maglalatik of Biñan, Laguna, which shows the Moors and Christians fighting for the latik.

Sinakulo in Cainta, Rizal
Sinakulo in Cainta, Rizal, 2016 (Samahang Nazareno, Inc.)

The second major drama with Spanish influence is the sinakulo, also known as the pasion y muerte or centurion. The sinakulo began as a dramatization of the 1814 Pasyong Genesis, the most popular pasyon to this day. Later, scenes and dialogue were added from other Tagalog pasyon, from the novel Martir sa Golgota (Martyr of Golgotha), from religious awit and korido, from other sinakulo, and from popular magazines like Liwayway.

The sinakulo is usually staged in an open public space for eight nights, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday; a portion of it—usually from the agony in the garden to the crucifixion—may also be performed during the day on Good Friday. Supported by the community, most sinakulo groups are composed of actors from the barrio who join in fulfillment of personal vows or as penance. These simple folk learn to act the roles of the banal (holy) or Hudyo (considered “bad”). The banal chant slowly, march to punebre beat, and act meek and humble, while the Hudyo declaim verses or adopt a fast chant, march to lively paso doble, and are boisterous, violent, and ill-mannered. Settings of scenes are established by telones (backdrops), which may show an outside scenery, mountains, the interior or exterior of houses, and palaces.

Today, groups like the Samahang Nazareno Inc. of Cainta, Rizal have begun to use prose dialogue and more “historical” costumes. Even with these innovations, however, the traditional sinakulo continues to underscore values of passivity and blind obedience. The sinakulo continues to be performed in towns of Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna.

Prevalent among the Tagalog towns are the playlets that embellish the rituals of the Catholic liturgy, or dramatize more fully the events narrated by the liturgy, especially those connected with Christ’s birth, passion, death, and resurrection.

The most important of the Christmas playlets are the panunuluyan or panawagan of Bulacan, Rizal, and Cavite, also called maytinis in Kawit, Cavite, which reenacts the search for an inn in Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph on Christmas eve and culminates in the birth of Jesus when the “Gloria” of the midnight mass is intoned; the pastores, which used to feature the adoration of the “shepherds” at midnight mass in Malolos, Bulacan and Bacoor, Cavite; the estrella of Angono, Rizal, where a contingent of star-shaped parol (Christmas lanterns) accompany the tinienta (lieutenant) as she and her escort of acolytes bring the image of the baby Jesus from the church door to the belen (creche) in front of the altar; and the Tatlong Hari of Gasan, Marinduque, which dramatizes the search for the Christ Child by the Three Kings and Herod’s beheading of the innocents.

Lenten playlets include the osana found in most towns of the Tagalog area, which reenacts Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with the priest, representing Christ, going to each of the four kubol or balconies to hear young girls sing “Hossana Filio David” and receive their shower of flowers; the via crucis of Paete, Laguna, where the dramatization of the way of the cross features lifesize images of the Virgin and Veronica, whose hands move when they meet Christ’s image; the paghuhugas, done in all parish churches on Holy Thursday, which highlights the washing of the feet of the apostles by the priest, representing Christ; the huling hapunan of Marinduque, which is an actual supper where the priest and the apostles eat a meatless meal, while singers chant the appropriate episode in the pasyon; the siete palabras, which reenacts the agony of Christ on the cross from 12 noon to 3:00 pm through an image of the crucified Christ whose head moves amidst “thunder and lightning,” as each of the seven words is spoken; the salubong, popular in many towns of all Tagalog provinces, which shows the meeting of the images of the Virgin Mary and the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday morning under a four-post structure called the galilea, from whose “heaven” a little angel descends and sings the “Regina Coeli”; and the moriones of Marinduque towns, which tells the story of Roman soldier Longinus, who witnesses the resurrection, tells everyone about it, and is captured and beheaded by soldiers sent by Pilate and the Pharisees.

Two forms introduced into the Philippines from Spain in the 19th century flourished among the Tagalog only in the first half of the 20th century: the drama and the sarsuwela.

The drama is a play in prose or verse, usually in one act, which tackles an issue of Filipino contemporarylife such as divorce, gambling, and other social vices, in the framework of a love story. The drama may assume either one of three forms: tragic, comic, or symbolic. The tragic is typified by Veronidia, 1919, by Cirio H. Panganiban, which concerns the murder of a divorcee who wants to visit her first husband who is dying. These types of drama live on today in radio and television drama anthologies. The comic drama is represented by Sino Ba Kayo? (Who Are You?), 1943, by Julian Cruz Balmaseda, whose humor derives from misunderstandings due to mistaken identities. Lastly, the symbolic is exemplified by the revolutionary plays from 1900 to 1905, which allegorized the usual love story to comment on contemporary political situations. Tanikalang Guinto (Golden Chain), 1902, by Juan Abad is about Liwanag (Philippines) and Kaulayaw (Revolutionaries) who wish to get married (proclaim independence) but are prevented from doing so by Maimbot (the United States) and Nagtapon (Filipino collaborators).

Usually in three acts with song and dance between colloquial dialogue, the sarsuwela also used the love story between principal (the young sweethearts) and secondary (servants, old people) characters to expatiate on social issues, such as usury and rural credit banks, as in Sa Bunganga ng Pating (At the Mercy of Sharks), 1921, by Julian Cruz Balmaseda and Leon Ignacio; husbands whose husbandry is wasted on cockfighting, as in Ana Maria, 1919, by Severino Reyes and Antonio Molina; corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, as in Paglipas ng Dilim (After the Darkness), 1920, by Precioso Palma and Leon Ignacio; and rich old men who try to buy love, as in Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden), 1919, by Hermogenes Ilagan and Leon Ignacio.

Both drama and sarsuwela may be staged gratis or for a fee in urban teatros or provincial stages during fiestas. Both use telones to indicate the inside or outside of a rich or a poor person’s house, as well as a telon de boca (front curtain) and a telon de fondo (back curtain usually painted with exterior scenery). There is a concha (shell) in front for the prompter, while the back stage is used for costume changes. In the sarsuwela, songs in the kundiman, danza, balitaw, balse, and fox-trot tempo are accompanied by a small orchestra. In general, costumes, dialogue, and acting, like the issues discussed, are drawn from reality, although the realism is diluted by the tendency to idealize characters and come to a “correct” ending.

With the Americans came two types of theater: the bodabil and the “legitimate play,” both of which spread Western, specifically American, culture among the masses and among the educated. Both helped to Americanize the Filipino’s worldview and values.

Introduced by the United States in the 1920s, bodabil was not a play per se but a variety show that included popular American songs and dances, comedy skits, and circus acts. During the Japanese Occupation, bodabil appended a special number in the end, the drama, and thereafter became known as the stage show. Katy dela Cruz, Dionisia Castro, Miami Salvador, Vicente Ocampo, Bayani Casimiro, Jose Cris Sotto, Canuplin, Dely Atay-atayan, Dolphy, and Panchito were some of the singers, dancers, and comedians who made a name in bodabil and later turned to movies and television.

The “legitimate plays” were taught in the educational system established by the Americans all over the archipelago—either as literature or as elocution pieces in English classes. These included classics of the Western theater such as the plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles; of William Shakespeare, Moliere, and Edmond Rostand; of Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene Ionesco, and Samuel Beckett; and of Neil Simon, William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, and Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Many of these plays were eventually translated into Tagalog or adapted to the Philippine situation.

As the “legitimate theater” propagated Western culture among the Tagalog, it also brought in the many dramatic styles that eventually opened avenues for growth and expanded the vocabulary for theatrical expression of Tagalog directors, actors, designers, and playwrights. Through the educational system, the best examples of contemporary modern theater, their insights and values, reached and enriched the Tagalog theater.

Original playwriting in Tagalog grew steadily from the 1920s to the present, with playwrights favoring either realism or the many nonrealistic styles that were developed in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in protest against Marcos’s dictatorial rule.

Realism seeks to elicit the audience’s empathy with the characters on stage, who think, talk, and act like real people. In Tagalog plays, realism is one of two types. Psychological realism emphasizes the personal problems of characters, as in Paraisong Parisukat (A Square Piece of Paradise), 1974, by Orlando Nadres; Biyaheng Timog (Trip to theSouth), 1985, by Tony Perez; Bayan-bayanan (Little Country), 1977, by Bienvenido Noriega Jr.; and Hiblang Abo (Strands of Gray), 1980, by Rene O. Villanueva. Social realism, on the other hand, situates the individual’s problems within the larger social backdrop, as in Buwan at Baril in Eb Major (Moon and Gun in Eb Major), 1985, by Chris Millado; In Dis Korner (In This Corner), 1977, by Reuel Aguila; An Evening at the Opera, 2011, by Floy Quintos; and Doc Resurreccion: Gagamutin ang Bayan (Doc Resurreccion: Will Heal the Nation Community), 2009, by Layeta Bucoy. A dramatic monologue that uses historical figures is Tonio, Pepe, at Pule (Tonio, Pepe, and Pule), 1990, by Rene O. Villanueva, Malou Jacob, and Paul Dumol, respectively.

To expose and analyze social and political issues, playwrights have employed and adapted various theater styles from the West, specifically from Brecht and Boal, or invented new forms that answer the specificities of their local situations. The documentary style was used by Al Santos in his Mayo A-Beinte Uno atbp. Kabanata (May 21 and Other Chapters), 1977, which explains the obsession with freedom of Valentin de los Santos and the Lapiang Malaya, whose members were massacred on Taft Avenue by Marcos’s military. The theater of the absurd inspired Paul Dumol’s Ang Paglilitis ni Mang Serapio (The Trial of Old Serapio), 1969, and Al Santos’s Ang Sistema ni Propesor Tuko (Professor Gecko’s Way), 1980. Developed for symposia and rallies, the dula-tula was a poem dramatized on stage, like Richie Valencia’s Iskolar ng Bayan (People’s Scholar), 1975. Musicals could use folklore, as exemplified by Rody Vera’s Ibalong, 2003, or contemporary characters and situations, like Gines Tan’s Magsimula Ka (Make a Start), 1983, Liza Magtoto’s Care Divas, 2011, and Nick Pichay’s Maxie: The Musicale, 2013.

Wishing to relate to the older tradition of mass theater, directors and playwrights have either reinterpreted traditional plays according to contemporary concerns, such as Chris Millado’s Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas, or used the conventions of traditional dramas, as in Max Allanigue’s Prinsipe Rodante (Prince Rodante), 1962, a modern komedya; Al Santos’s Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Tagalungsod (Calvary of the Urban Poor), 1987, a street sinakulo; Mario O’Hara’s Palasyo ni Valentin (Valentin’s Palace), 1998, which uses the sarsuwela form; and Bonifacio Ilagan’s Pagsambang Bayan (People’s Worship), 1977, which reinterprets the Catholic Mass. People’s organizations in NCR and Southern Tagalog continue to use the kalbaryo motif during the Lenten season.

The contemporary theater in Tagalog is produced and staged in schools or in commercial theaters by school-based groups like Dulaang UP and Teatro Umalohokan Inc., or by theater organizations like the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and Tanghalang Pilipino in Manila, and Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation Inc., Susi ng Tayabas, Pasilag, and Teatro Umalahokan in the different Tagalog provinces.

Founded in 1978, the Barasoain Kalinangan became a foundation in 1988 when it started a series of three theater workshops spread over each year. In the same year, it was named the resident theater company of the Bulacan provincial government. It turned semi-professional in 1994 because its ticket sales were sufficient to pay its actors, however modestly. The Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation Inc. (BKFI) has a multisectoral board of trustees as well as regular, full-time members of actors and officers, collectively called Uhay. Having begun as a theater group for plaza and street protest rallies, the BKFI continues its consciousness-raising tradition, with original plays about Bulacan heroes such as Marcelo H. del Pilar and the 20 women of Malolos, and outstanding artists of Bulacan such as Francisco Baltazar, Nicanor Abelardo, Guillermo Tolentino, Francisca Reyes-Aquino, and Gerardo de Leon, besides other Tagalog albeit non-Bulakeño icons such as Macario Sakay, Jose Joya, and Jose Corazon de Jesus, also known as Huseng Batute. Literary adaptations are included in its repertoire: Ibong Adarna (Adarna Bird), 2003; Larawan (Portrait), 2010; and Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), 2012. Tatlong Maria (Three Marias), 1992, is a set of three women’s monologues adapted from Rogelio Sicat’s “Tata Selo,” Hernando R. Ocampo’s “Bakya,” and Nena Gahudo-Fernandez’s “Mariang Tabak.” Las Maloleñas (The Women of Malolos), 2005, is Nicanor Tiongson’s stage adaptation of his book, The Women of Malolos, 2004.

A church-based theater program of the Bulacan diocese is the Community Based Theater Group-Bukawel Performing Arts (CBTG), which was organized in 1985. Among its repertoire are Pasyon ng Bayang Pilipino (Passion of the Filipino People), Court of the Last Resort, Ang Lupa Ay Atin (The Land Is Ours), and Juan Adre.

The Laguna-based nongovernment organization called Arts Research and Training Institute in Southern Tagalog Inc. (ARTIST Inc.) was founded in 1987 in Los Baños. Its annual projects are the SANAYSINING Summer Arts School, Lakbaysining Mobile Arts Training, and the Faculty and Instruction Development Program (FIDP), besides the training courses that it conducts all over Luzon. It has significantly contributed to the drafting of the theater curriculum of the Philippine National High School for the Arts in Mount Makiling, Laguna. Some of ARTIST Inc.’s theater productions are Frendster (Friendster), 2006; Ang Guro (The Teacher), 2008; Nang Bata Pa si Pepe (When Pepe Was a Child), 2010; and Barracks ni Tenyente Fuego (Barracks of Lt. Fuego), 2012.

Some youth theater groups are Tanghalang Gattayaw of the Bukal National High School of Liliw, Laguna; Tanghalang Laguna (TaLa) of San Pablo, Laguna; and Tanghal Sining of the Los Baños National High School. These theater groups have participated in theater festivals, both regional and national, such as the Pista ng Dulaang Laguna, begun in 1992; Lusong Luzon Theater Festival, begun in 1995; and the CCP National Theater Festivals, begun in 1992.

Unlike most productions attributed to playwrights, some progressive theater organizations credit the collective authorship of plays to their actors and their audience. In 2015, Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan, also known as Sinagbayan, presented the improvisational and interactive play Save Our Schools: Isang Playback Theater Performance (Save Our Schools: A Playback Theater Performance), which used tela (cloths) of various colors as props. The actors interpret a keyword or a brief account of a day in the life of an audience member. During its staging, lumad youth who had been forced to leave school by militarization were among the participating audience sharing their accounts. Michelle, 17-year old daughter of slain lumad leader Dional Campos, shared her account of how her father was killed and in the process was coauthoring the play during its performance. Daluyong: Isang Pahinumdom (Tidal Wave: A Recollection), 2015, dramatizes a migrant’s return home to persuade his father to leave their hometown of Dinaanan for Manila after it was ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda. Other productions of Sinagbayan are Repleksyon sa Eleksyon (Reflection of Election), 2004; Ang Mga Lorena (The Lorenas), 2008; U Ave, 2009; and Pitong Sundang (Seven Machetes), 2010.

The country’s heroes and martyrs have inspired a number of plays. Lean Alejandro: A Musical, about the life of a student leader who was assassinated in 1987, was first staged in 1997 by veteran artists and musicians such as Gary Granada, Chickoy Pura, and Cookie Chua. It was restaged by Sinagbayan and the UP Repertory Company in 2013 with youth activists as actors. Nanay Mameng: Isang Dula (Mother Mameng: A Play), 2014, is a multimedia play produced by the workers’ alliance Kalipunang Damayang Mahihirap (KaDamay) and the Urban Poor Resource Center of the Philippines (UPRCP). It dramatizes the battles between true-to-life urban poor leader, Carmen Deunida (full name of Nanay Mameng) and the antagonist named Sakit. As an allegorical character, Sakit represents not only the physical illnesses of the octogenarian Nanay Mameng, but also the social diseases that she has consistently fought against all her life amidst her own personal travails.

The Southern Tagalog Cultural Network (STCN) is an alliance of community theater groups such as the UP Repertory, Sinagbayan, and Sining Kadamay. Its members perform at mass mobilizations in solidarity with national formations at chosen sites for protest rallies in Metro Manila. Dramatizing a script as it is read aloud, STCN retells land-related issues of peasants and labor conditions of workers that middle- and upper-class Manilans are either ignorant or only vaguely aware of, such as the floor wage and the glass ceiling gender wage gap. Such performances are held at the end of protest marches called “Lakbayan.” Multisectoral groups from southern Tagalog travel on foot, sometimes for weeks, to the center of power that is Manila, gathering allied groups along the way, camping out in “stations,” such as churches or public parks, on the way to Manila’s Mendiola Street or Quezon City’s Batasang Pambansa Complex, where the protest groups from all directions convene. Effigies are burned, militant dances are performed, and solidarity messages are delivered.

Media Arts

Commercial radio broadcasting in the Philippines began when music and news were first aired through three 50-watt transmitters installed in Manila, in Pasay and in one mobile station. Its beginnings were largely colonial and commercial, with the pioneer radio stations being owned mostly by business corporations based in Manila. Radio was used to advertise American consumer products and to propagate the use of the English language through American music and other distinctly Westernized programs. After World War II, Tagalog became more prominently used in radio, leading to the Golden Years of Radio Broadcasting in the Philippines. More and more Filipino music came to be aired on the radio, such as performances of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, works of local composers like Miguel Velarde Jr., Ariston Avelino, Restituto Umali, and Tito Arevalo, and sarsuwela and kundiman singers. Musical shows and comic skits grew in popularity, with comic tandems such as Pugo and Togo, German San Jose and Leonora Reyes, Andoy Balun-balunan and Dely Atay-atayan, and Vicente Ocampo and Diana Toy.

Some notable radio stations that arose at this time were KZKZ Krazy Krazy, later replaced by KZRM Radio Manila, and KZIB, which stood for Isaac Beck, one of the early advocates of promoting local music and artists. Wealthy Filipino families—the Aranetas, Gaches, Elizaldes, Lopezes, Roceses, and Sorianos—saw the potential of broadcast media for extending their economic power and securing greater political influence; hence, they also began to invest in radio and, later, television. Non-commercial radio stations remained few, such as the University of the Philippines’s DZUP, founded in 1958.

Popular radio fare were musical shows featuring artists such as Ruben Tagalog, known as Hari ng Kundiman (King of the Kundiman), Pilita Corrales, Sylvia La Torre, Nora Aunor, Basil Valdez, Sharon Cuneta, Hajji Alejandro, Jose Mari Chan, and Ryan Cayabyab; amateur singing competitions, the most popular of which were Purico Troubadours, Purico Show, and Purico Amateur Hour, produced by the cooking oil brand; radio dramas, also known as soap operas, such as Liwayway Arceo’s Ilaw ng Tahanan (The Light of the Home), Lino Flor’s Gulong ng Palad (Wheel of Fate), Clodualdo Del Mundo’s Prinsipe Amante (Prince Amante), Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang (The Stories of Grandmother Basyang), Gloria Villaraza-Guzman’s Mga Lihim ng Puso (Secrets of the Heart), and Narciso Pimentel and Jesus Paredes’s Kuwentong Kutsero (Tall Tales), later continued by Epifanio Matute; variety shows, such as CBN Canteen, later renamed Student Canteen, Reyna ng Vicks (Queen of Vicks), Radio Schoolhouse, and Eskuwelahang Munti (Little Schoolhouse); and personality platter shows featuring disc jockeys who play music, engage listeners in light chats, and accommodate song requests, such as Cashmere Bouquet Top Tunes, Request Jamboree ,and Night Owl.

News affairs programs again grew popular after a period of intense regulation, control, and censorship during martial law, with stations such as GMA Network’s DZBB Radyo Bisig ng Bayan (Radio with the People) and ABS-CBN’s DZMM Radyo Patrol. Civil society groups took to radio to air their concerns: the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas broadcast peasants’ advocacies and issues through DZRH, the Philippine Peasant Institute had Punlaan sa Himpapawid (Seedling Plots on the Air), the Arts Research and Training Institute in Southern Tagalog had Kalinangang Bayan (National Culture), and Garth Noel Tolentino and Tet Maceda produced Pitlag!: Kwento ng Buhay, Isyu ng Bayan (Jolt!: Narratives of People, Issues of Community and Nation).

The new millenium saw the proliferation of Filipino music on the airwaves through FM radio, with Eagle Broadcasting Corporation’s DWDM 95.5 setting the trend for carrying what had come to be known as Original Pilipino Music (OPM) in the 1970s. Station DWNU 107.5 The Home of New Rock put Tagalog rock artists at the helm of the station programming, hosting, and announcing.

The coming of television in the postwar years saw the increased corporate ownership of broadcast media and their eventual horizontal expansions into newspaper and magazine publications, as well as privatized social services like electricity. In the early 1950s, Antonio Quirino saw television as an opportunity for political propaganda for the possible reelection of his brother, President Elpidio Quirino. Hence, he bought off 70% of the Bolinao Electronics Corporation from James Lindenberg, renamed it ABS, and established a radio studio on Florentino Torres Street, Santa Cruz, Manila. To ensure an audience, he borrowed 60,000 pesos from a prominent electronics supply store on Raon Street, Quiapo to be able to import and sell television sets. His station, DZAQ-TV Channel 3, held the monopoly on the Philippine television industry until 1956. In 1957, the Lopez family, who belonged to the sugar-plantation elite of Iloilo and operated the radio and television station Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN)—then located on Aduana Street in Intramuros, Manila—bought ABS from Quirino and Lindenberg. It was ABS-CBN that pioneered in color telecasting in 1963. Other stations eventually cropped up: ABC Channel 5 and RMN-IBC-TV Channel 13 in 1960; RBS Channel, previously DZBB-TV, in 1963, later renamed GMA 7 during the martial law period; and KBS Channel 9 in 1969, later renamed RPN 9 during the martial law period. 

Television first imported radio shows like Student Canteen to fill up the telecasts but later came to produce variety shows of its own, such as Dolphy’s Buhay Artista (Artist’s Life), 1964; Pancho Magalona’s Magandang Tanghali (Good Noon), 1965; Oras ng Ligaya (Happy Hour), 1967; and a number of shows that combined elements of sitcom, dance, and musical shows: The Nida-Nestor Show, Da Pakulo (The Gimmick), The Chiquito Show, and Seeing Stars with Joe Quirino. Musicals were popular, with shows like An Evening with Pilita and Carmen on Camera, and singing competitions like Tawag ng Tanghalan (Curtain Call) and Hamon sa Kampeon (Challenge to the Champion). Most notable among pioneering television soap operas was PETA’s Balintataw (Mind’s Eye), which adapted short stories by Filipino authors and had directors such as Lino Brocka and Joey Gosiengfiao. 

Drama shows and anthologies were Lino Brocka’s Ina (Mother) and Lamberto Avellana’s Parak (Police) in 1986; Regal Drama Presents from 1986 to 1989; Spotlight, Mikee, Anna Karenina, Ganyan Kita Kamahal (That’s How Much I Love You), Halik sa Apoy (Kissing the Flames) and T.G.I.S. in the 1990s; and Esperanza, Mula sa Puso (From the Heart), Saan Ka Man Naroroon (Wherever You Are), Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan (At the End of Eternity), Marina, and Iisa Pa Lamang (Only One) toward the end of the 1990s and into the new millenium.

Situational comedies and gag shows were Tang-tarang-tang, Mrs. Milyonarya (Mrs. Millionaire), Super Laff-Ins, comic adaptations Gorio and his Jeepney, Tisoy, Palibhasa Lalake (Because You Are a Man), Ober da Bakod (Over the Fence), Haybol Rambol (Rumble in the House), Si Manoy at si Mokong, and Labs Ko si Babe (I Loves [sic] Babe). Other popular television fare were game shows like Kwarta O Kahon (Money or Box), Kapamilya: Deal or No Deal, and the Pilipinas Game Ka Na Ba? (Philippines Are You Ready to Play?) series; and variety shows, best exemplified by noontime entertainment shows like Sa Linggo nAPO Sila (Sunday Is Their Day), Eat Bulaga! (Lunchtime Peek-a-Boo!), and Masayang Tanghali, Bayan (Merry Afternoon, Nation). Talk entertainment fed the masses with a perpetual dose of scandals, intrigues, and controversies: Inday Badiday’s See True, Eye to Eye, and The Truth and Nothing but the Truth, and Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino’s The Buzz. 

A broad range of magazine shows were produced: morning talk shows like the ever-renamed Magandang Umaga Po (Good Morning), which became Alas Singko y Medya (Five-Thirty) before it became Magandang Umaga, Bayan (Good Morning, Nation) and then Magandang Umaga, Pilipinas; late-night talk entertainment like Oh No, It’s Johnny, Not So Late Night with Edu, and Martin After Dark (MAD); news magazine shows like Balitang K (News with a K) and Rated K, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (Of One Heart, Jessica Soho), and Pipol (People); and public affairs programs like Tell the People and Mel & Jay, which merged news with entertainment for greater commercial appeal. 

News programs such as TV Patrol and 24 Oras became platforms for political issues. The turn of the century also saw the emergence of reality television shows, many adapted from foreign counterparts, like Pinoy Big Brother, Amazing Race Philippines, and Pinoy Fear Factor. Much of local television programming remained largely commercial and Tagalog- or Manila-centric in spite of the various stations’ regional expansions.

The first documentary film was shown in Manila on 1 January 1897. In 1919, Jose Nepomuceno, regarded as the “Father of Philippine Movies,” made the first Filipino-produced film, a screen adaptation of the highly acclaimed Tagalog sarsuwela, Dalagang Bukid, starring singer-actor Atang de la Rama. By the late 1930s, other Filipino companies, like Filippine Films, Parlatone Hispano-Filipino, Excelsior, Sampaguita Pictures Inc., and X’Otic Films were producing movies. 

In the early years, the Filipino filmmakers drew topics from Philippine history and culture, such as Mutya ng Katipunan (Katipunan Muse), 1939. Others borrowed the black-and-white characters, tortuous plots, establishment themes, and even acting styles of theater forms such as the sarsuwela, the sinakulo, and the komedya. Stories and characters of the metrical romances, like Florante at Laura and Siete Infantes de Lara (Seven Devils), were also used. Literary classics, like the novels of Jose Rizal, as well as contemporary novels popular at the time, such as Antonio Sempio’s Punyal na Ginto (Golden Dagger), 1933, and Sampagitang Walang Bango (Scentless Sampaguita), 1937, were also adapted for the screen. 

But even as the Tagalog cinema drew topics from local history and culture, Hollywood movies inundated the local scene, introducing its characters, plots, and themes, its formula movies, and its techniques and equipment for filmmaking. Soon, Tagalog film artists began to create Hollywood-type musicals, comedies, and melodramas. 

The destruction wrought by World War II in the Philippines, in particular the brutality of the Japanese occupation forces, became the subject matter of postwar Tagalog films. Simultaneously, these films extolled the bravery of the Filipino resistance fighters amidst the horrors of war, as seen in Garrison XIII and Victory Joe, both in 1946, and Campo O’Donnell (Camp O’Donnell), 1950. 

In the 1950s, three studios dominated the filmmaking industry: Sampaguita Pictures Inc., LVN Pictures, and Premiere Productions Inc. The first concentrated on musicals like The Big Broadcast, 1962, and melodramas like Sino ang May Sala? (Who Is Guilty?), 1957. The second did costume pictures like Prinsipe Tiñoso (Prince Tiñoso), 1954, and musical comedies like Ikaw Kasi, 1955. The third gained headway for focusing on action movies like Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (Python in the Old Dome), 1952, as well as melodramas like Huwag Mo Akong Limutin (Forget Me Not), 1960. Some measure of artistry was achieved under a disciplined “studio system.” 

Creating movies that dared to be real and artistic, filmmakers such as Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Gregorio Fernandez, and Manuel Conde, were recognized for making films that won critical acclaim locally, and even abroad. These were Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan, and 1950; De Leon’s Sisa, 1951, and Ifugao, 1954; Avellana’s Anak Dalita (The Ruins), 1956, and Badjao, 1957. 

The 1960s and the 1970s saw the importation of softcore porno films from Europe, Italian “spaghetti westerns,” James Bond thrillers, and Chinese and Japanese martial arts films, which were promptly appropriated or copied by the new “independent” and profit-oriented film producers who took over after the major studios folded up in the late 1950s. This period saw the proliferation of the bomba film led by Uhaw (Thirsty), 1970; the Pinoy cowboy movies like Omar Cassidy and the Sandalyas Kid (Omar Cassidy and the Sandals Kid), 1970; the secret-agent movies like Magnum 44, 1974; and the martial arts spin-offs like Kung Fu Shadow, 1973. 

By the 1970s, a new breed of film artists, who had studied filmmaking and the “New Wave” films of Europe and who were fired by the search for a Filipino cinema, began to make their presence felt. Their works are characterized by complex characterization, social conscience, unconventional or controversial themes, and a very high level of artistic integrity. Some of the better works of these decades are Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon... Paano Kayo Ngayon? (This Is The Way It Was...How Is It Today?), 1976; Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila: In the Claws of Lights), 1975, and Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Gripping the Knife’s Edge), 1985; Ishmael Bernal’s Nunal sa Tubig (Speck in the Water), 1976, and City after Dark, 1980; Celso Ad. Castillo’s Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak (When the Crow Turns White, When the Heron Turns Black), 1978; Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Moral, 1982, and Karnal (Carnal), 1983; Mike de Leon’s Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye), 1981, and Sister Stella L., 1984; and Laurice Guillen’s Salome, 1981. These films were also made possible by a young generation of writers, production designers, cinematographers, and other film artists and technicians. 

Vilma Santos and Rafael Roco Jr. also known as Bembol Roco in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak
Vilma Santos and Rafael Roco Jr. also known as Bembol Roco in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak, 1978 (Cesar Hernando Collection)

In the succeeding decades, the commercial film producers banked on box-office actors and stories that fit into the tried-and-tested genres of the Tagalog film. The biggest profits were derived from action films, which starred the likes of Fernando Poe Jr. and Rudy Fernandez, who were presented as superheroes and defenders of the oppressed; the dramas, which featured dramatic actors like Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor in family and individual love stories complicated by obstacles of class, family, indifference and infidelity; the comedies, which depended on the antics of comedians like Dolphy and Panchito; the bomba films, which exploited young starlets; and the horror films, which capitalized on terror and the fear of ghosts, vampires, aswang, and other monsters. Current box-office films have veered away from the action and bomba genre to comedies and love stories, which rely heavily on star comedians like Vice Ganda, Vic Sotto, AiAi de las Alas, and love teams like Toni Gonzaga and Piolo Pascual, Sarah Geronimo and John Lloyd Cruz, Kim Chiu and Xian Lim, and Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla. 

Until the late 1990s, the tyranny of formula films inhibited the exploration of new and more relevant subject matter as well as the experimentation with the techniques of filmmaking. Because of this, more and more film directors transferred to television. 

A few mainstream filmmakers nevertheless strove to survive and do intelligent movies amid a stream of formulaic porn films, sex comedies, action movies, and melodramas (Del Mundo 2010, 48). Jose Javier Reyes’s Makati Ave. (Office Girls), 1993, was a welcome addition to his popular series of comedies of manners. In stark contrast was Joel Lamangan’s The Flor Contemplacion Story, 1995, about real-life overseas worker from San Pablo, Laguna, who was meted the death penalty in Singapore. Evoking the bucolic character of the small-town culture of Pakil, Laguna, was the young Sari Dalena’s first indie film, Asong Simbahan (Church Dog), 1996.

Outside the commercial film industry were the stirrings of the cinema of independent, self-supporting or grant-supported independent filmmakers who had already begun to experiment in the past decade with eightmillimeter, 16-millimeter, and video films. Notable independent films were Kidlat Tahimik’s Perfumed Nightmare/ Mababangong Bangungot, 1977; Nick Deocampo’s Oliver, 1983; Raymond Red’s Ang Magpakailanman (Eternity), 1983, and Bayani (Hero), 1992; and Lito Tiongson’s Isang Munting Lupa (A Small Piece of Land), 1991. 

The turn of the new millennium saw the burgeoning of the “new wave indie film,” which coincided with the introduction of digital video (DV) technology in 1999. By this time, indie film had also become alternative cinema, which was defined by the artistic vision of the filmmaker rather than by market demands as interpreted by movie studio producers. 

The first full-length, DV indie film was Jon Red’s Still Lives, 1999, about a drug lord and the police. It was shown at the first CCP Freefest in 2000 and then at the first DV fest, along with Khavn de la Cruz’s The Twelve, about Christ’s apostles in modern times. In 2003, DV filmmaking broke into commercial theater when SM cinemas showed Cris Pablo’s Duda (Doubt), about the complications arising between a gay couple. The following year, Laurice Guillen’s Santa Santita (literally “fake saint,” English title, Magdalena, The Unholy Saint), which depicts religion as a cottage industry at Quiapo Church, became the first film that used high-density (HD) technology and then was transferred to film.

By 2005, DV films were no longer alternative nor peripheral, especially since DV was the required format for the three film festivals held annually in Manila: the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, ABS-CBN’s Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival, and Cinemanila’s Digital Lokal. 

A film that demonstrates a merging of the melodramatic plot with its rural characters’ daily preoccupations is Magnifico, 2003, screenplay by Michiko Yamamoto of Bulacan and directed by Maryo J. de los Reyes. The title character is a boy whose interactions with every town character bring out the best in them while at the same time providing a montage of small-town life. Set in Lumban, Laguna, the story unfolds against the backdrop of the town’s traditions, such as folk religion, and its handicrafts, such as barong embroidery. 

Breaking gay stereotypes is Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros), 2005, which is about a 13-year-old gay who falls in love with a policeman and thereby gets caught in the crossfire between his family of cellphone thieves and the policemen in a Sampaloc precinct. When the conflict ends in the death of Maximo’s father, the boy transcends his infatuation and his circle of poverty, as he decides to go back to school.

Filmmaker Raya Martin’s recurring interest is Philippine history, explored in Indio Nacional, 2005, Autohystoria, 2007, and Independencia, 2009. In 2007, Tondo-born Jim Libiran’s full-length feature, Tribu (Tribe), had real-life Tondo gang members depicting their own way of life. This year, too, saw the opening of Indie Sine in Robinson’s Galleria, which for a while became the  venue for commercial screening of indie films.

Philippine participation in the globalized economy is the call center, whose workforce is typified by the characters in Onnah Valera and Ned Trespeces’s My Fake American Accent, 2008. The underside of this collage of Philippine society is the tenement building, as in Joel Ruiz’s Baby Angelo, where neighborliness among the residents unravels when a discarded fetus is found. The ineptness of the Philippine justice system is satirized in Veronica V. Velasco’s Last Supper No. 3, 2009. 

Farther beyond the fringes of Cinemalaya, in the southern Tagalog region are mass-based alternative media that produce documentaries and short films. The venues of their film festivals are schools and public spaces with minimal or no entrance fees. Altermidya, established in 2014, is an alliance of video production groups in the Tagalog regions consisting of Kodao Productions, Pinoy Media Center (PMC), Tudla Productions, MayDay Multimedia, and Southern Tagalog Exposure (STEX). As such, these are “people’s media” outfits, the primary aim of which is to show the plight of different sectors of Philippine society and their struggles to overcome their oppressive conditions. 

Kodao’s Sinehang Bayan activities are radio productions and video documentaries aimed at community audiences. Urian Best Documentary awardee Nanay Mameng, 2014, produced by Kodao and directed by Adjani Arumpac, documents the life of Kadamay urban poor leader Carmen Deunida. Kodao has held training workshops that have produced such regional media outfits as Sine Panayanon, Kilab Multimedia, and Aninaw Productions. 

The INDIEpendensiya Film Festival, organized by the PMC in 2012, included a series of filmmaking workshops as well as screenings of local and international productions, such as public service announcements (PSAs), short films, documentaries, and narratives discussing national sovereignty, imperialist domination, and liberation movements. PMC’s web series Eskinita: Alternatibong Ruta (Alley: An Alternative Route), 2014, presents national issues in the context of the lives of marginalized communities. Eskinita’s five-episode debut season, disseminated via social media, dissects electoral issues and unemployment problems. PMC films that have won awards from the Gawad Urian, Cebu International Documentary Film Festival, and Gawad Agong are Puso ng Lungsod (Heart of the City), about Andres Bonifacio’s legacy; Didipio, about Typhoon Yolanda victims; and Pangarap Ko sa Pilipinas (My Dream for the Philippines), on education and the role of the youth. In 2011 and 2015, the first and second AgitProp International Film Festivals on Peoples’ Struggles were organized by STEX, PMC, and Altermidya.

Tudla Productions provides alternative screening venues in schools, workplaces, and communities through the Pandayang Lino Brocka Political Film and New Media Festival, which started in 2008. Tudla (to target) has produced documentaries, newsreels, and primers. The group’s full-length documentaries include Buhay Barya (Life of Small Change), Daangbakal (Railway), and Pinaglabanan (Battleground). 

MayDay Multimedia, originally the video production arm of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research Inc. (EILER), represents workers’ interests: the struggle of Hacienda Luisita farm workers in Sa Ngalan ng Tubó (In the Name of Sugarcane), 2007; the history of the Philippine labor movement in Proletaryo; the campaign of the International Labor Solidarity mission against extrajudicial killings in Blood and Sweat, 2007; contractual labor in the garments industry in Sinulid (Thread), 2007; the call center industry in Walang Umaga, Walang Gabi (No Day Nor Night), 2009; and the march of southern Tagalog agrarian workers in Lakbayan: A People’s Journey, 2010. Other works of MayDay include Kasama sa Bawat Mayo Uno (Comrade on Each First of May), 2009, a tribute to labor leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran; Kakasa Ka Ba?: Hamon sa Panahon ng Krisis (Are You Tough Enough?: Challenge in a Time of Crisis), 2009, a documentary on the effect of the global economic crisis on the Filipino worker; and Breaktime, 2009, a series of short films on various labor issues. Election-related projects of MayDay in 2010 include the television ad for Anakpawis Partylist, Tuloy ang Laban ng Anakpawis Partylist (The Struggle of the Workers’ Parylist Continues), and the video Pa-siyam: Sigaw ng Anakpawis, Gloria Alis (Nine-Day Novena: The Masses Shout, Oust Gloria), which indicts former President Arroyo for her major crimes against the people. Kayo ang Busabos (You Are the Dispossessed) exposes President Benigno Aquino III’s complicity in his family’s efforts to maintain ownership of Hacienda Luisita in the context of the land reform struggle. Other MayDay productions are the Crispin Beltran tribute/docudrama/biopic Ka Bel (Comrade Bel), 2011; the series Kuwentong Obrero (Laborer’s Story); and the animated short Dagdag-Sahod na Makabuluhan, Kailangang Ipaglaban (Substantial Wage Increase Must Be Fought For). 

STEX documents the concerns of the basic sectors in the rural areas: Agno, 2002, portrays the indigenous peoples’ struggle against the San Roque Dam Project; Alingawngaw ng mga Punglo (Echoes of Bullets), 2002, human rights violations; On Potok, 2002, the Dumagats’ struggle to reclaim their ancestral land; and Oyayi sa Kanlungan ng Digma (Lullaby in the Cradle of War), 2002, the militarization of Mangyan territory. Rights, which began in 2007, is an ongoing collection of public service advertisements and short films centering on the human rights theme. Real Reels is a series of news videos exposing state oppression and brutality, such as the violent dispersal of workers’ strikes; the illegal arrest, detention, or assassination of consultants in the peace process; intensive militarization; and the displacement and dispossession of indigenous peoples.   


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