Folk dancing is an entertaining form of art. It is enjoyed by people, both young and old, whether participants or spectators, Filipinos and even people from all over the globe. For centuries, dancing accompanied with folk songs had been the principal pastime of the Filipino people. At social gatherings, the ancient Filipinos danced in wedding celebrations, in feasts, and in religious ceremonies. One of these native folk dances that uplift the pride of Filipinos is the Tinikling. Tinikling is a mimetic dance or “a kind of dance wherein dancers step into roles other than themselves, and mimic animals, inanimate objects, or other people” (Alejandro, 1978, p.75, para.1). There are many other mimetic dances which showcase the rich culture of the Philippines; the Makonggo which mimics the behavior and the facial expression of a monkey, the Kalapati which is based on a dove, using its cooing gentleness as a way of courtship, and the Itik-itik which caricatures the waddling of the ducks. But, the most famous of these mimetic Filipino dances is the Tinikling. Tinikling is the most famous and best known of the Philippine dances. It is a dance which attests the Filipinos’ close association with the biodiversity of the environment. It shows that the early Filipinos appreciate every little thing in nature and merged the aspects and the creatures in the environment with their daily lives and formed a rich and magnificent culture. It is once the national dance of the Philippines portraying the attempts of the farmers to catch the worst enemy of the rice field, the tikling or “Slaty-breasted Rail (Gallirallus straicus)” (Gilliard, 1958, p.251, para.3).” It reflects the movements of both the farmers and tikling birds, as the farmers set bamboo traps for the bird and as the bird hops and dodge to avoid the bamboo traps” (Likha.org, 2001, para.3). Considered as one of the oldest dances from the Philippines, Tinikling originated in the Visayan island of Leyte. People of Leyte describe the tikling as one of the most unique in its movements- walking around and between the tree branches and grass stems. It is a very intelligent bird which can maneuver itself through the traps and can penetrate the rice fields of the Leyteños. Its uniqueness and intelligence captures the farmers imaginative minds and begun imitating the bird’s legendary grace and speed. Because of their creativeness, they began imitating the bird using the bamboo poles. “This creativeness gave rise to the word Tinikling which is derived from the word tikling, and literally means tikling-like” (utexas.edu, 2006, para.1). Tinikling went through evolution and innovations before it became what it is today. Different stories and legends of its origin have been passed from generation to generation through oral transmission and folklore. There is one remarkable story about the origin of Tinikling, a story which is believed to be happening during the Spanish occupation in the Philippines and depicts the colonizers’ cruelty to the Filipinos. The story says that the Tinikling was started by the people who worked on the fields and paddies in the Philippines. When the Spaniards came from Spain and conquered the Philippines, the natives were sent to the haciendas. The natives had to work all day to please the Spaniards. The people who worked too slowly would be sent out of the paddies for punishment. Their punishment was to stand between two bamboo poles cut from the grove. Sometimes, the sticks would have thorns sticking from their segments. The poles were then clapped to beat the native's feet. By jumping when the bamboo sticks were apart, the natives tried to escape this cruel form of punishment. This type of punishment became a cycle - the more bruised the person's feet were, the less work he would do, the less work he would do, the more punishment (likha.org, 2001, para.5-6). The matrix for the dance was probably laid out when the workers would return home with their feet bruised and bleeding from the punishment. It is said that from a distance, the people who were receiving the beating looked like the heron. And this is one of the stories about the Tinikling's origin. . May this story be true or not, still, this is a magnificent way of looking into the attitude of Filipinos on how they face challenges of life, that they even develop a form of art and an entertaining culture which roots down from bad experiences and sufferings. “Tinikling dramatically mirrors the Filipinos’ love for the celebration of life” (kaloobdance.com, 2011, para.2). The punishment later became the dance it is today. When the Tinikling is danced, there is music of plucked strings in Iberian-influence staccato interspersing with tremolos and kept in time with double stepping sway balances. By practicing to escape the bamboo sticks during punishment, the Tinikling soon became a challenge, an art, and a dance. “For this traditional folk dance, females wear a dress called balintawak or patadyong, and males wear a uniform called barong Tagalog. The balintawak are colorful dresses with wide arched sleeves and the patadyong is a pineapple fiber blouse paired with checkered skirts. The barong tagalog uniform is usually lightweight long sleeved shirts and worn with red trousers. Dancers wear no footwear while performing” (Wikipedia, 2013, para.3). All steps of Tinikling are combination of only three basic 4/4 Tinikling steps. These steps are called Singles, Doubles, and Hops. Four people, two boys and two girls, are needed to dance Tinikling. The first couple performs the dance and the other couple operates the bamboo poles by hitting them together and also tapping them on the floor in rhythm to the music. When the first couple dancing makes an error in their dance steps, the other couple takes their turn and this is where the fun starts especially when the dance speed gets faster and faster. Further, Tinikling is very similar to jump rope, but instead of a spinning rope, two bamboo poles are used. Tinikling shows not only skill, agility and grace but also the frolicsome nature of the Filipinos. The dancers imitate the tikling skillfully maneuvering between two large bamboo poles. The performers dance along the sides and between two bamboo poles which are placed horizontally on the ground. The poles are struck together in time to the music. The bamboo is also used as a percussive instrument as it is banged against the ground and each other in a pattern. The bamboo has to be closed hard enough to make a sound, and the dancers must be quick enough to not get their foot caught. As the dance continues, the banging of the bamboo becomes faster and harder, the sound of the clashing bamboo and the quickness of feet demonstrated by the dancers thrill and awe the crowd. This remarkable Philippine treasure has now entered the world or global competitiveness and went through innovations. Today Tinikling is taught throughout the United States. ‘In grades K-12 they use this type of folk dance as an aerobic exercise for physical education classes to help expand physical movements such as hand coordination, foot speed, and also their rhythm. This dance had been altered into a four-beat rhythm to adjust to popular music. In some cases, it has been used in conjunction with traditional Filipino martial arts to demonstrate fleetness of foot and flow of movement” (Kautz, 2005). There are now so many Tinikling products available in the United States. Not just Tinikling music CDs and dance-steps instruction DVDs, but also Tinikling sticks and cords. But still, if one is looking for an authentic experience, only the origin and the native concepts like the use of bamboo poles and the Filipino costume can give such authenticity and thrill. . “[Tinikling] awakens sense of national pride” (Tolentino, 1946, preface, para.1). It is a very important part of the Filipino culture which shows the world how colorful and how rich treasures the Philippines have. It is a treasure that should be taken care of. It is from the understanding and appreciation of this cultural heritage that can emerge the cultural self-confidence without which a nation cannot claim to have achieved complete or satisfactory development.
LIKHA Pilipino Folk Ensemble. (2001, 12 3). Retrieved March 1, 2013, from likha.org: http://www.likha.org/galleries/tinikling.asp Culture of the Philippines. (2006, 6.13.). Retrieved March 1, 2013, from edb.utexas.edu: http://www.edb.utexas.edu/coe/depts/kin/faculty/slacks/crpac/folkdances/Tinikling.html Tinikling. (2011, 2.2.). Retrieved March 1, 2013, from kaloobdance.com: http://www.kaloobdance.com/Tinikling.html Wikipedia. (2013, 2.27.). Retrieved March 1, 2013, from wikipedia.org: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinikling Alejandro, R. (1978). Philippine dances. Quezon City: Vera-Reyes, Inc. Gilliard, E. (1958). Living birds of the world. Chicago: Chicago Printing Press. Lopez, M. (2006). A handbook of Philippine folklore . Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press. Tolentino, F. (1946). Philippine national dances. Quezon City : The University of the Philippines Press. Kautz, P. (2005). The tinikling: how traditional Filipino dance can develop your combative attributes!. Retrieved March 1, 2013 from Alliance Martial Arts: http://www.alliancemartialarts.com/tinikling.htm
By: John Clifford B. Rado
BS in ACCOUNTANCY