Folk Music of the Philippines

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

The folk music of the Philippines is a reflection of the country’s history and culture. It is a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and American influences.


The Philippines is home to a number of different cultures and traditions, each with their own unique music. One type of music that is particularly popular in the Philippines is folk music. Folk music is often passed down from generation to generation, and it typically tells a story or expresses the culture of a particular group of people.


Folk music of the Philippines can be traced back to its indigenous peoples and Austronesian origins. The music of pre-Hispanic Philippine societies was highly structured and regulated around ceremonies involving dances and songs directed towards various gods, ancestors, spirits, animals, and natural phenomena. The early forms of Philippine folk music were influenced by chants and songs of Austronesian traders and Malay migrants who settled in the islands from the 10th century onwards.

Spanish colonization

The Philippines is a country with a rich musical heritage. Due to its colonial history, the music of the Philippines has been greatly influenced by Spanish and American music. The early Filipinos were already familiar with music, as evidenced by their folk songs and dances. However, it was during the Spanish colonization that music truly became a part of Filipino culture.

Catholic missionaries introduced formal music education to the Philippines in the 16th century. They taught the basics of music theory and european vocal techniques. By the 19th century, operas and zarzuelas (a type of Spanish musical theatre) were being performed in the country. American occupation saw the rise of popular music, including jazz and blues. Today, the Philippines is home to a diverse range of musical genres, from traditional folk music to modern pop.


The Philippines is home to a large variety of music, with a wide range of styles and influences. One type of music that is particularly popular in the Philippines is folk music. Folk music is a genre of music that is passed down from generation to generation and is typically associated with a particular culture or region.

Cordillera music

The music of the Cordilleras has a strong resemblance to the music of Tibet and Nepal. The instrumentation is almost exclusively percussion, using large drums similar to bass drums, small hand-held drums, gongs, xylophones and cymbals. Vocal styles vary from region to region, but often make use of yodelling.

The Ifugaos have a type of music called kangding, which is accompanied by a three-stringed lute called the kutyapi. The Bontocs have a repetitive style of singing called gol Gol, while the Kalinga are known for their epicChoo-ymusic, which can last for several hours.

Mindanao music

Mindanao music is characterized by use of the kulintang a row of small, horizontally slatted gongs, as the primary percussive instrument. These musical renditions were created during the precolonial era and became known as Kudyapi music. The kulintang ensemble was used for entertainment as well as for communication of messages during wars.

Visayan music

The Visayas is home to a wide variety of musical styles, instruments and dances. It is the most populous region in the Philippines, so it is not surprising that Visayan music is some of the most popular in the country.

One of the most popular genres of music in the Visayas is called balitaw. This type of music is often performed by a solo singer with accompaniment from a guitar or other stringed instrument. The songs are typically about love, loss or nature, and often tell a story.

Other popular genres of Visayas music include visayan folk songs (such as those sung by the Kinaray-a people), rock music, hip hop and R&B. There is also a growing interest in electronic dance music (EDM) in the region.

Tagalog music

The folk music of the Philippines reflects the country’s own musical and cultural history, as well as the influences of foreign settlers. The music is a mix of indigenous Filipino musical traditions, Chinese and Spanish musical instruments and influences.

Tagalog music is known for its use of two types of drums – the kulintang and the agung – as well as a type of guitar known as the banduria. The kulintang is a set of small, tuned gongs arranged in a row, while the agung is a large, single bass drum. Both instruments are played with sticks. The banduria is a plucked string instrument with a pear-shaped body and 12 strings. It is thought to have originated in China and was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish settlers.

The music of the Tagalog people is often centered around weddings and other life events such as births, deaths and religious festivals. It is also used for entertainment at parties and other social gatherings.


The kulintang a kayo is a Philippine musical instrument ensemble originated from the Southern Philippines. The kulintang a kayo consists of five to nine graduated gongs suspended horizontally on a frame. The Frame is usually made of bamboo. The gongs are played with two wooden beaters.


There is a wide range of traditional musical instruments from the Philippines, many of which are made from indigenous materials like bamboo and palm leaves. The most prevalent type of Philippine folk music is the kundiman, which is a slow and graceful love song that was popularized in the 19th century. Other popular folk genres include the balitaw, a narrative love song sung by a man and a woman in turn; the kulintang, an ensemble music traditionally played on gongs; and the awit, a poetic and often patriotic song.


Modern – refers to the post-war era, when the Philippines was transitioning from a Spanish colony to an American one. This is when Western musical traditions began to influence Filipino music, resulting in the development of new genres like rock and roll, pop, jazz, and R&B.

Notable Folk Songs

The Philippines is home to a diverse range of musical genres and folk music is just one of them. There are many renowned folk songs that come from the Philippines, each with their own unique history and meaning. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most notable folk songs of the Philippines.

“Atin Cu Pung Singsing”

“Atin Cu Pung Singsing” is a popular folk song from the Philippines. The song is about a young girl who is in love with a boy who is very poor. Her parents do not approve of the relationship and try to keep them apart. The girl is very sad and eventually leaves home to find her lover.


“Tinikling” is a Philippine folk dance which originated during the Spanish colonial era. The dance is named after the tikling bird, which is known for its skillful maneuvering between grasses and branches to avoid being eaten by predators. The dance mimics the movement of the tikling bird, and involves two people banging bamboo sticks together while moving around and between bamboo poles.

The tinikling is often performed at Filipino cultural events and festivals, and has become a popular dance to perform for tourists in the Philippines. It is also one of the most commonly taught Philippine folk dances in schools and universities around the world.

“Magtanim ay Di Biro”

“Magtanim ay Di Biro” (lit. Planting is not a Joke) is a Philippine folk song composed by Honorio Liwanag. The song is about the plight of farmers, and how planting rice is not an easy task. It has become one of the most popular folk songs in the Philippines, and has been covered by many artists.

Contemporary Folk Scene

The contemporary folk scene of the Philippines is vibrant and ever-changing. New artists are constantly emerging, bringing with them new sounds and perspectives. The folk music of the Philippines has always been a reflection of the country’s diverse culture and history, and this is true of the contemporary scene as well.

Bands and artists

Folk music in the Philippines is often associated with the country’s indigenous peoples. But there’s also a thriving contemporary folk scene, which takes traditional sounds and infuses them with modern sensibilities. Here are some of the most popular bands and artists making Philippine folk music today:

-The Blue Rats: Formed in 2013, this band from Davao City mixes folk and rock to create a unique sound that’s been compared to that of Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

-KariƱa Munda: This singer-songwriter from Bicol region writes original songs that draw on her experiences as an indigenous woman. Her music has been featured on TV and film, including the 2017 movie “Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap.”

-Lila Pilipina: This all-female group from Cebu City performs traditional Visayan songs with a contemporary twist. They’re known for their empowering lyrics and catchy melodies.

-Sumpa: This band from Manila takes inspiration from traditional Philippine folk music as well as Western influences like punk and ska. They’re known for their high-energy live performances.


Folk music in the Philippines is often associated with festivals. The most well-known folk music festival in the country is the Philippine Folk Music Festival, which is held every year in Manila. This festival features a wide variety of folk music from all over the Philippines, as well as from other countries in Southeast Asia.

Another popular folk music festival is the Reog Folk Music Festival, which is held annually in Jolo, Sulu. This festival features traditional folk music from the Mindanao region of the Philippines, as well as from other parts of Southeast Asia.

Other popular folk music festivals in the Philippines include the Iloilo City Folk Music Festival, which is held every year in Iloilo City; and the Tagalog Folk Music Festival, which is held annually in Tagaytay City.

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