Tag Archives: filipino



The tinikling is a dance performed by Filipino people where the dancers hop between two bamboo poles held on either side by other performers, as the bamboo poles are tapped on the ground in a specific rhythm.


The informant is 67, was born and raised in the United States, and whose parents were born and raised in the Philippines. She performed this dance for school as part of physical education and sometimes for school performances. The dance was taught by the school as the national dance of the Philippines. 


Tinikling, the national folk dance of the Philippines, is a dance inspired by the movements of the bird that it is named after. Though there are many stories about the origin of this dance, the one with most historical context is that it arose among the indigenous Filipino people after Spanish colonists would punish the Filipino people working in their plantations by smacking their feet with bamboo sticks. Therefore, the form of folk dance that evolved from this punishment serves as an act of rebellion against past colonization and occupation, as well as a celebration of Filipino heritage. The dance is performed not only in the Philippines, but survives in the younger generations who perform the dance, usually in cultural clubs at universities.

Philippine Debut


On her 18th birthday, a Filipino girl is usually expected to have a debut ball.


The informant is my maternal grandmother, who was born and raised in the Philippines, and still continues to live there. She celebrated her debut in 1956. For her, the ceremony was a special and important occasion that allowed her to celebrate her birthday with friends and family members in a grand and unforgettable manner.


In Filipino culture, the debut represents a coming of age ritual. Since the age of adulthood for Filipino girls is 18, the debut is held on their 18th birthday. The debut holds a significance similar to the Quincenera (age 16)  for Mexican and other Latin American cultures as well as the sweet sixteen for some North American cultures. As in most coming of age rituals, the celebration marks the crossing of the threshold between childhood and adulthood, and in this specific case, childhood to womanhood. After the debut, the debut celebrant is recognized by her society as an adult woman.


It’s definitely something that Filipinos, like would tell people about, um, because it’s like, witchcraft was a really big thing in the Philippines, or it still is a really big thing in the Philippines, so people who are like mangkukulam like are, people who like put hexes or curses on you, and like, sometimes these people are like shapeshifters or like, have like made deals with the devil and stuff, so. Still, there are like, there are people who will be like don’t go near her she’s like, a mangkukulam and it’s mostly people who are like clinically insane and like, have attacked people but like, literally like, entities who use their energies towards evil intentions, like karmic energy, things like that.

Background: My informant, as is their family, is Filipino, and they speak Tagalog often with their parents and siblings. They recall their family telling them this story, as well as TV shows in the Philippines that dramatized creatures of Filipino Legend, as well as other Filipino supernatural events.

Context: This piece was collected in an in-person conversation in my apartment.

My thoughts: Based on the accused mangkukulam usually being a woman, this legend may have a similar function as North American legends concerning witches; that being, to demonize and punish women who don’t fit into the patriarchal role set out for them.

Kinakain Ng Mata

There’s like, “kinakain ng mata” Directly translated it’s like “you eat with your eyes,” um, which means like you order too much food for yourself and you just never finish it, it’s like what they tell people, like what they tell kids who like waste their food or like, just, don’t know their limits, for portions.

Background: My informant, as is their family, is Filipino, and they speak Tagalog often with their parents and siblings.

Context: This piece was collected in an in-person conversation in my apartment.

My thoughts: This expression reflects a cultural emphasis on the conservation of resources, especially food. It condemns food waste and reprimands making hasty decisions without thinking them through.


Background: Informant was born in the Philippines, on the island of Cebu, to a Filipino mom and a white dad. He sent his childhood in Yap, in Micronesia, but spent a lot of time in the Philippines as a child as well and is fluent in Cebuano, a Bisayan language and grew up playing games with his mother, who was born and raised in Cebu. The following is a children’s game that the informant played as a child, which was then passed down to me when I was a child. We spoke about this game over the phone.

Pito-pito ubod

Kan-on pulos budbud

Sud-an pulos utan

Piesta’s kadagatan!


Seven-seven small fish

Rice all sticky rice cake

Viand all vegetable soup

Fiesta at the beach


Seven small fish

Rice for sticky rice cake

Main course for vegetable broth

Fiesta at the beach

Informant: Pito-pito means seven, and ubod is a small fish. 

Kan-on is rice… ka-on is food, and kan-on is “that which you eat,” which also means food which is kind of silly, but it also refers to rice. Kan-on pulos budbud is “rice for sticky rice-cake.”

Sud-an, when you eat, you always have kan-on (the rise, the base), and sud-an is “the thing which you eat with your rice,” so sud-an could be anything. For example, teriyaki chicken or adobo is both sud-an with rice, which is the kan-on. There’s usually a connotation or implication that there is vegetables. But, sud-an pulos utan is “main course for vegetable broth or soup.”

All the phrases are silly and backwards, really… it doesn’t make sense grammatically. The second and third stanzas would be grammatically correct if they were flipped.

Budbud para kan-on

Utan para sud-an

Piesta’s kada gatan is a fiesta at the beach. Pista’s is really just the “filipinization” if you will of the Spanish word fiestas.

The whole thing is really just silly, but someone would hold out their hand and the other person would put their pointer finger in the center of the other person’s hand. The person with their hand outstretched would sing the lines as slowly or quickly as you want, you can play with the tempo on the first couple lines and then when the line “piesta’s kada gatan!” Is said, the person singing would close their hand while the second person tries to pull their finger away so their finger isn’t trapped.

Thoughts: I remember playing this game as a child, and this is the first I heard of the meaning behind it. I find it interesting that it’s all food-based lyrics, though it’s not entirely surprising as Filipino culture is centered so much around food, but it’s funny that even in a children’s game that’s fairly nonsensical with no relation between the lyrics and the actions, food still is still at the focal point.