December 8, 2009
One of the most popular and best known dances of the Philippines is Tinikling and it is also known to be the Philippines national dance. It is also considered to be one of the oldest dance that originated from Leyte in the Visayan Islands. Tinikling means “bamboo dance” in English. The dance imitates the movement of the tikling birds as they walk between grass stems, run over tree branches, or dodge bamboo traps set by rice farmers. Dancers would imitate the tikling bird speed and being able to go maneuver between two large bamboo poles. Tinikling involves five steps; during the first four steps, the dancers dance opposite each other, and during the last step, they start from the same side of the poles. 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 and hard enough to make a sound, and the dancers must be quick enough to not get their foot or feet 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
Before Tinikling became what it is today, it went through different changes. There had been different stories of the dance origin that have been passed down through oral histories and folklore.
One of the stories of the origin of Tinikling started with the people that 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 lost control of their land because they were an economic system that is largely based on rural and agricultural operations of large farmlands administered by caretakers for the King of Spain. The natives had to work all day to please the Spaniards. The natives could have completely lost control of their destiny under an exploitative system. The people of the Philippines worked in the fields and paddies for nearly four hundred years from 1500-1898.
As punishment for the people who worked too slowly they would be sent out of the paddies for punishment. As punishment they would have to stand between two bamboo poles cut from the grove. Sometimes, the sticks would have thorns sticking out. The natives’ feet would be between two poles then clapped bruising. The punishment became a cycle because most of the natives would bruise their feet so that they would work less and if they worked less the more bruising and punishment there are.
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.