The 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 vibrant and diverse genre that is steeped in the country’s history and culture. From traditional ballads to more modern folk songs, this music is a reflection of the Philippines’ rich tapestry of traditions.


The folk music of the Philippines is reflective of the country’s history as well as the diversity of its people. The different types of music vary from region to region, but all share a commonality that makes them unique to the Philippines.

Some of the most popular genres of Filipino folk music include kundiman, harana, balitaw, subli, and kalisud. Kundiman is a traditional Filipino love song that is often sung as a duet. Harana is a type of serenade in which a man sings beneath the window of his beloved. Balitaw is a type of folksong that is often used for storytelling. Subli is a type of religious folk song that is sung during festivals. Lastly, kalisud is a type of eulogy or funeral song that is sung to honor the dead.

each region has their own distinct musical traditions that have been passed down through generations. The different types of music found in the Philippines reflect the various cultures and influences that have shaped the country over time.

A Brief History of Folk Music in the Philippines

Folk music is the oldest form of music in the Philippines. It is the music of the people, and it has been passed down from generation to generation. Folk music is usually passed down orally, from one person to another. This means that it is not written down, and it is not recorded.

Pre-Spanish Era

Folk music in the Philippines has a long and storied history. Music was an integral part of the daily lives of Filipinos prior to the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the 16th century.

During this period, folk music was used for a variety of purposes, including religious ceremonies, entertainment, and even political commentary. The arrival of the Spaniards brought with it new musical influences from Europe, which blended with existing Filipino musical traditions to create a unique musical culture in the Philippines.

In the centuries that followed, folk music in the Philippines continued to evolve, reflecting the changing times and various influences from different cultures. Today, folk music remains an important part of Filipino life and culture, providing a window into the country’s past and present.

Spanish Era

Folk music in the Philippines during the Spanish Era was mostly religious in nature. The two most prominent types of folk music during this time were the kundiman and the kumintang.

The kundiman is a slow, romantic ballad that often tells a tragic story. These songs were typically about unrequited love or forbidden love, and often ended in tragedy. The kumintang, on the other hand, was a faster, more upbeat type of song that was often used for ceremonial occasions.

Both types of folk music were performed with traditional instruments such as the guitar, bajo de uña (a type of small guitar), rattles, and drums.

American Era

During the American period, there was a strong influence from the United States, with songs like “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” becoming popular. There was also a trend of songs being written about Philippine culture, such as “Mutya ng Pasig” and “Uyanguren”.


After the Philippines gained independence from the United States in 1946, there was a renewed interest in Filipino folk music. Musicians began to look to their own country’s music for inspiration, and folk songs were collected and recorded. Some of these songs were updated for a modern audience, while others were performed in their traditional style.

Folk music continued to be popular in the Philippines through the second half of the 20th century. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a renewed interest in traditional Filipino music, and many folk songs were collected and recorded. This resurgence was led by musicians such as Jose Maceda and National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro.

Today, folk music is still popular in the Philippines. There are many traditional folk songs that are still sung, and new folk songs are being written all the time. Folk music is an important part of Filipino culture, and it is enjoyed by people of all ages.

The Various Types of Folk Music in the Philippines

Folk music is the term used for music that is typically traditional in nature and is associated with the culture of a particular region or country. Folk music of the Philippines is no different, with a vast array of music that has been influenced by the country’s history, culture, and its people.


Luzon is the largest and most populous island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the country and is also home to the capital city, Manila. Luzon is divided into several regions, each with its own unique musical style.

Ilocos Region: The music of the Ilocos region is characterized by its use of Fujian qudi (a type of flute), as well as by its lyrical content, which often sings of love and loss.

Cordillera Region: The music of the Cordillera region is distinguished by its use of indigenous instruments such as the trongngan (a type of trumpet made from bamboo), as well as by its focus on social issues such as injustice and inequality.

Central Luzon: The music of Central Luzon is marked by its use of gongs, as well as by its frank portrayal of rural life and the struggles of farmers.

Metro Manila: The music of Metro Manila is a blend of various genres, including pop, rock, hip hop, and R&B.


The Philippines is an archipelago composed of over 7,000 islands with a rich and diverse culture. Philippine music has evolved rapidly due to the different influences of colonizers and migrants throughout the country’s history. There are many different types of folk music in the Philippines, each with its own unique history and style.

One of the most popular folk music genres in the Philippines is Visayan music. Visayan music originates from the Visayan islands, which are located in the central part of the country. This type of music is often characterized by its use of acoustic instruments, such as guitars and ukuleles, and by its focus on storytelling. Common themes in Visayan songs include love, nature, and religion.

Another popular genre of Filipino folk music is Hiligaynon music. Hiligaynon music comes from the Hiligaynon people, who are based in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. This type of music is often lively and upbeat, with a focus on celebrating life and love. Hiligaynon songs often make use of both acoustic and electric instruments, as well as traditional percussion instruments like gongs and drums.

There are many other types of folk music in the Philippines, each with its own unique history and style. Others include Ilocano music, Tagalog music, Bicolano music, Kapampangan music, Waray-Waray music, Pangasinense music, Maranaomusic , Maguindanao music , and Tausug music . Philippine folk music is an important part of the country’s cultural heritage and continues to evolve as new influences are added to the mix.


Although there is some resemblance in the music of these regions, each area has its own unique brand of folk music. The Visayas is known for its kaomintang music, which isstrangely similar to Latin American music, while Mindanao boasts of its kulintang music, an indigenous form of music that uses various types of gongs.


The Philippines has a diverse range of musical styles, from the traditional kulintang music of the Mindanaoans to the more modern pop music originating in Manila. The country’s musical heritage includes a wide variety of folk music, such as the sing-along ditty “Binibining Pilipinas” and the love song “Dalagang Filipina.”

There is also a rich tradition of Philippine folk music that has been handed down from generation to generation. This folk music includes songs about love, loss, and daily life, as well as more light-hearted tunes about animals and other fun topics. Some of these songs have been adapted into more modern versions by Filipino musicians, while others remain largely unchanged. No matter what form they take, they all reflect the unique culture of the Philippines.

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