The Tagbanua

An Article about  the Tagbanua by Fe Tria Fernandez.


The Tagbanuas are original race of people inhabiting Palawan. They are by far the most numerous of the ethnic groups that inhabited Palawan during the pre-Hispanic times. They are the most cultured of the original people because they have an alphabet of their own.

Tagbanua music basically makes use of three kinds of musical instrument. Agong is a brass instrument 1½ feet in diameter with a fist-sized node at the center. It is played by beating the node with a stick wrapped with strips of cloth.

Babandil, another kind of musical instrument, is similar to the agong but only about four inches in depth. It is played with the use of the beater made of soft wood. The sound is mellower than the gong.

The third kind of musical instrument is the gimbal similar to the snare drum. It is a hollow wood 1½ feet tall, five to 10 inches in diameter and covered at one end with dried goat-skin. It is played by tapping the four fingers together alternately. In some instances, a pair of bamboo sticks 10 inches long and one inch wide is used alternately.

These instruments provide the rhythm for the dance. They are also played for song accompaniment.

There are two kinds of Tagbanua songs — the oiman or ballad and the dagoy or love songs.

The general term for a dance is kendar. There are different kinds of dances for every occasion. They perform occupational dances which are interpretative -- pulling up the camote vines, digging the roots, and putting the roots in the basket over the shoulder.

Pagdiwata, a ceremonial dance of the Tagbanua is a religious rite of the native — either of thanksgiving or of healing sick people. This has been adapted by the Bayanihan Dance Troupe for stage performances and has been popularized not only here in the Philippines but also overseas.

The ronsay is another ritual performed during the full moon of December as a thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and led by the head of the tribe or barangay captain. This ritual is performed at the seaside because at the climax of the dance, the leader, followed by other participants, offer a white chicken and rice to the diwata. Tobacco wrapped in nipa leaves are also included. After these have been collected, they are placed on a small raft and pushed out to sea. The dance festival continues until dawn.

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