In spite of the agricultural base which has reduced ethnic economy to a primarily domestic one, cultures of the various peoples flourished in surprising ways. Among peoples that did not develop writing, oral literary traditions that combine poetry and song grew with amazing proportions with various kinds of epic poetry like the Hudhud and Alim of the Ifugao, Labaw Dunggon of the Sulod, Darangan of the Islamic groups to name a few that compare with the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Those that developed writing, like the Hanunoo Mangyan, have created poetic forms like the highly sophisticated ambahan. Decorative art flourished in well-established communities that are marked with functional specialization. Among the most sophisticated of this art is the okilof the Maranao, exemplified in the painted wood carvings in floral motifs that decorate the torogan, or royal house.
The Ifugao, well known for the complexity of their religious structure, combine the art of sculpturing with their belief systems, exemplified by their consecrated images like the bullol and the kinabbigat. The expression of music—both vocal and instrumental, solo and in ensemble—became as distinctive as the development of the languages. Flute music among the Pala’wan, for instance, is used as a language with the various notes becoming ideational apart from being tonal. Music of an ensemble is often inseparable from the dance of which there are innumerable varieties from the purely imitative to the prodigiously societal like the lunsay of the southern Philippines.