Indigenous Filipino Musical Instruments And Traditional Songs

Categories: SongTradition

Long before colonialism, the early natives of the archipelago already had developed musical instruments and traditional songs. Many of these instruments and songs are still used and sung by the cultural minorities of the country. Pigafetta, Magellan’s historian, wrote a book entitled Primo Viaggo Interno al Globo Terracueo (First Circumnavigation of the World) wrote that the natives “possessed a distinctive oriental culture and had perchanting to entertain guests coming to their homes.”

The early Filipino native instruments are divided into three groups namely, percussion, wind and stringed instruments.

The early type of musical instruments used by our ancestors like those of other races of the world, were percussion. Below are some of the instruments of the early Filipinos still used in many remote areas of the archipelago.

Early Filipino Musical Instruments

Kulintangan is a set of graduated gongs, mounted on a wooden frame about a meter long. The frame is usually decorated with Muslim carvings. It is played by striking these gongs with 2 pieces of wood about 12 inches long, while the player squats on the floor.

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This instrument is popular in Sulu.

Kalutang is a pair of pieces of wood about a foot long and 5 inches in diameter, played by striking one against the other. This is popular among the Southern Tagalog people.

Ganza is a gong about 25 centimeters in diameter, with a chord as a handle. It is played by holding the cord with one hand and beating it with a stick on the other. This instrument is popular not only among Igorots but also among some localities in Mindanao with smaller and bigger versions called koongan and kalos respectively.

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Tugo is a drum about a foot high and 10 inches in diameter. This is used by the Tirurays of Cotabato.

Bunkaka is a piece of bamboo about 40 centimeters long with a hole on one end (handle) and split on the other end. It is played by striking the split on the other end. It is played by striking the split on the other end. It is played by striking the split end against the palm of the player. This is common among the Maranaos.

Gabbang is similar to a guitar. It is made of a wooden box with one end wider than the other and with an open top. Across the open top, wooden bars of different lengths areplaced to fit the shape of the box, about one centimeter from each other. It is played by striking the wooden bars with a wooden hammer. This instrument is popular in Sulu.

Lantay is the Visayan version of the clarinet. It is made of bamboo with 4 or 6 holes for the fingers. There are various designs for preparing its mouth piece.

Diwdiw-as is a pan pipe made of 5 or 7 pieces of bamboo reeds of various lengths tied side by side. It is played by inhaling to these reeds while moving them like harmonica. This is an instrument of the Tingguians of Abbra.

Balinging is a nose flute made of steel about 45 centimeters long and 3 centimeters in diameter with 3 or 4 holes. It is played by pressing one nostril against the hole and blowing wind through it. This is mostly played by the natives of Apayaw.

Pasiyak is an instrument consisting of a tube with a pipe. It is played by placing water in the tube and blowing the pipe. A whistling sound is produced by the presence of water in the tube. This is common in the island of Panay.

Sahunay is a flute made of bamboo having 6 holes for the fingers and a mouthpiece made of coconut leaf. It is about 50 centimeters long and 3 centimeters in diameter. This is the bamboo flute in Sulu.

Tulali is a flute about the size of Sahunay having also 6 holes for the fingers but without a mouthpiece. This originated from Igbaras Iloilo.

Indigenous and Traditional Songs of Filipinos

The primitive inhabitants of the Cordilleras have songs for their daily activities such as building rice terraces, planting, harvesting, serenading, birth celebrations, and weddings. The non-Christian natives of the southern islands have their traditional songs and their carious dances in celebration and rituals. Most of these songs are not used by Filipinos anymore. Below are some of these songs:

O Taty O Nanay or (Aritos sang Dalaga) is a popular song in the Visayas region. It tells of a mountain maiden asking her parents for money to buy earrings fitted for a maiden. It also described how hard it is for an old maiden to find someone to marry

Bagbagto is an onomatopoetic song, usually sung when playing games among Igorot children. The lyrics consists of nouns strung together without definite meaning.

Dayakos is a traditional song from Bontok.

Pi-pi-pi-yo-go is sung by Manobos, which describes the hunt for a wild cock to be given to a mother.

Salidonmay is a song with several versions. In this version, it describes a woman named Manang marrying a soldier.

Pentik Manok is another traditional song from the Cordileras describing an unusually aggressive rooster.

Chua-ay is a traditional Igorot rice pounding song. It tells of the pounding of rice so as to have rice for the rainy days. The singing has to go with the rhythm of the rice.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Indigenous Filipino Musical Instruments And Traditional Songs. (2024, Feb 05). Retrieved from

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