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       The history of Philippine Music prior to 1898 encompasses two main streams of music: the indigenous and the Spanish influenced music.

Indigenous Music

       Indigenous music is that practiced by the ethnic groups found mostly in the highlands of Luzon and Mindanao as well as in scattered areas in Mindoro, Palawan, Sulu, and the Visayan islands. These include various vocal and instrumental genres. No written documents about this prior to 1521 are available. However, some mention of music was included in subsequent reports found in church and government archives. These sporadic descriptions tally with those made in succeeding travelogues and anthropological studies which appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries. Much of this music is still practiced today among indigenous groups of people.

       Instruments include those made of bamboo/wood and metal (iron,bronze). The former antedates the gongs. They consist of bamboo flutes, zithers, clappers, buzzers, stamping tubes, xylophones and stopped pipes; lutes, drums, and jew’s harps.

       End blown bamboo flutes are widespread throughout the Philippines. Most numerous are the lip valley notch flutes so called because of the mouthpiece which is obliquely cut and curved at a slant to follow the contour of the player’s lips. The nose flute is found mostly among the Cordillera highlanders. It is found sporadically in some  areas in the south among the Hanunuo, Batak, and Bukidnon. The Cuyunin of Palawan have large nose flutes with tubes much bigger in diameter than those found in Luzon. Less common flutes are the ring type and the reed type found in the southern Philippines.

       Polychordal bamboo tube zithers are found in the Cordilleras, in Mindanao, and Palawan. The strings, etched out of the bamboo body run around the entire tube and number anywhere from 5 to 11. Another type of tube zither found in northern Luzon, Mindoro, Mindanao, and Palawan has two strings etched from the tube and set about 5 cm. apart.

       The Ifugao hangar is a bamboo clapper used in ritual ceremonies. Buzzers are found among the Kalinga, Ifugao, Ibaloi, and Tingguian. The stamping tube consisting of a bamboo tube closed on one end with a node, is found only in northern Philippines.

       Bamboo xylophones with blades ranging in number from 3 to 22 are found among the Yakan, Sama, Tausug, and Palawan. Single xylophone blades called patatag are found among the Kalinga. Stopped pipes consisting bamboo pipes closed on one end with a node with the open end held against the lower lip are played by the Kalinga and Bontok either singly or in sets of graduated pipes numbering from 3 to 6 or 7.

       Fretted lutes of the long neck variety with two strings, one acting as the drone and the other as the melody, are found only in the south- in Mindanao and Palawan.

       Single and double headed drums are found throughout the archipelago. They are usually combined with other instruments to form different types ensembles. Indigenous vocal genres include epic singing; songs connected with life cycle events- birth, lullabies, courtship, marriage, and death; occupational songs; and ritual songs. Writing in 1604, Chirino described songs handed down through generations and sung from memory while sailing or tilling the fields, while rejoicing and feasting, and for mourning the dead. They also sung their fabulous genealogies and recounted the deeds of their gods. Subsequent documents and studies mention lullabies with specific names such as the Leann pandayroy, the Bilaan yadadang, the Bukidnon paglibay sa bata, the Dumagat bendolin, the Ibaloi tami, the Ilonggot emaga, the Kalinga owiwi, the Maguindanao sangel, the Manobo panlibay, and the Maranao bomboman. Most numerous are various life cycle songs related to courtship, marriage, and death. Occupational songs sung in connection with farming, fishing, or doing simple chores include harvest songs, planting songs, thanksgiving songs, hunting songs, and fishing songs. There are no generic terms for these songs which are given specific names by the different tribes.

Spanish Influenced Music

       The Spaniards came in 1521 and for the next three centuries infused a new musical thinking which was reflected in the para-liturgical and secular genres of music which developed.

       The arrival of the different religious orders dispersed throughout the islands resulted in the establishment of schools in convents and churches where young boys were taught the liturgy and its accompanying music- canto Ilano (Gregorian Chant) and canto d’organo (polyphony). One such school was that under Fray Juan de Santa Maria in Lumbang, Laguna established in 1606 where 400 young boys from adjoining towns were taught solfege, Gregorian chant ,and polyphony. After their training, they returned to their respective towns and taught others what they had learned. It is not surprising therefore that documents written barely 50 years later speak of the abundance of skillful singers in towns comparable to choirs in Spain. Writing in 1676, Fray Sta. Ines commented: “Already all Dane, play instruments and sing in our manner, and use all the instruments of the Spaniards, and they sing in a way that we do not have any advantage over them…..musical compositions here can compete with that in some of the cathedrals in Spain.”

       Before long, native rituals showed a syncretization of indigenous and Christian practices. Old mystical rites seeking favors, asking for cures, or expressing thanksgiving for good fortune invoke God, Mary, the saints, as well as pagan gods, the good and evil spirits. In Cavite such a ritual is the sanghiyang, while in Bataan a similar ritual is the kagong.

       The welding of folk traditions and practices into Catholic rituals and celebrations continued. This gave rise to many extra-liturgical music genres, many of which were connected to the church calendar year. Some of these include the Christmas carols and  the more elaborate outdoor-re-enactment of the Holy Couple’s search for lodging called the pananawagan, panunuluyan, or kagharong.

       In Lent, the custom of chanting the passion of Jesus is widespread among the lowland Christians. The narrative on the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ, called the pasyon, appears in almost all major Philippine languages. It is sung in homes, village, chapels, or even in outdoor makeshift sheds erected for the purpose. A more extensive and complicated rendition of the life and passion of Christ takes place outdoors. The passion plays are called senaculo. Versions of this passion play exist in all major Philippine languages. A special Holy Week   outdoor spectacle takes place in Marinduque called the moriones, the street drama portrays Roman centurions centered around the  legendary one-eyed Longinus whose eyesight was restored at the crucifixion when a drop of Jesus blood fell on his eye. At Easter, the salubong takes place in the church plazas re-enacting the Virgin Mary’s meeting with her newly risen Son at which all church bells ring, announcing the end of the Lenten season.

       The months of April and May feature celebrations to honor Mary and also to honor various patron saints of villages and towns. Processions of saints are accompanied by the town bands. Devotion to Mary include the outdoor santacruzan and the flores de mayo. Other similar type of celebrations are the pamukaw and theaurora.

       A European type of secular music became more pronounced by the 1800’s among the ilustrados or urban elite class who became admirers of European music performed by Filipinos and visiting artists, organized art societies, patronized operas, or  played host to  private evening get-together where poetry and music were rendered.

       Aside from the numerous bands that performed at the Luneta, the Plaza Mayor, and the Calzada, there arose other instrumental ensembles. The rondalla, a plucked string band, was patterned after the Spanish and Mexican estudiantinas and murzas. They were used to accompany dances adapted from western forms calledpandanggo, jota, habanera, danza, polka, mazurka, valse, and rigodon.

       In the last five decades of Spanish rule, a splendid Europeanized life was mirrored in major towns and cities of Luzon and the Visayas, particularly in Manila.

Chirino, Pedro. Relacion de 1s Islas Filipinas y de lo que en ellas an trabaido los padres de la Compania de Jesus. Roma: Esteban Paulino, 1604de San Antonio, Juan Francisco. Chronicas de la apostolica provincia de San Gregorio de Religiosoz Descalzos de N.S.P. San Francisco, en las Islas Filipinas, China, Japon & C. Manila: Juan de Sotillo. 1741de Santa Ines, Francisco. (1676) Cronicca de la provincia de San Gregorio Magno de Religiosoz Descalzos de N.S.P. San Francisco, en las Islas Philipinas, China, Japon. In Biblioteca Historica Filipina, II. Manila: Tipo Litographia de Chofret y Compania. 1892

Dioquino, Corazon C. Lowland Christian Philippines in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 4. Edited by Terry E. Miller and Sean Williams. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1998

_________. Canto Llano, Kinalamyas, Concierto in Igkas Arte, the Philippines during the Spanish Period. Edited by Nicanor G. Tiongson. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines and Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International (AECI). 1998

_________. Audience, Time, and Space in The CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. Edited by Nicanor G. Tiongson. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines.1994

_________. Musicology in the Philippines in Acta Musicologica. Vol. LIV, Fasc I/II. 1982

_________. Instruments of the Cordillera Highlands in Compendium of the Humanities of the Philippines. Edited by Corazon C. Dioquino. Manila: National Research Council of the Philippines. 1998

_________. Instruments of the Mindanao Highlands in Compendium of the Humanities of the Philippines. Edited by Corazon C. Dioquino. Manila: National Research Council of the Philippines. 1998

Maceda, Jose. Preliminary Listing of Vocal Music in Dialogue for Development. Edited by Francisco R. Demetrio. Cagayan de Oro City: Xavier University, 1970

About the Author:
Corazon Canave-Dioquino musicologist, is a professor at the University of the Philippines, College of Music where she has taught for the past 42 years.She is actively involved in the collection and archiving of musical Filipiniana at the UP Center for Ethnomusicology at Diliman, Quezon City.