Critic on Teaching Philippine Folk Dances

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Critique of Teaching Philippine Folk Dances

Dance education involves the teaching of traditions, techniques, styles, and methodologies for teaching dance. Traditions are taught both in and out of school, making dance both an academic discipline and a social practice or custom. Schools teach formally with syllabi and systems while society teaches through communal activities ranging from rites to games, work to celebrations. Both serve to perpetuate tradition in different ways. Schools can codify folk dancing while society can continue to adapt it in real-life circumstances.

Before, dances such as the Pangalay, a dance of the Samal people that is performed languidly on the ground or precariously on bamboo poles, and the pagdiwata of Palawan, which involves offerings during a festival to solicit a good harvest, were not formally taught in schools. Thanks to Francisca Reyes Aquino, these traditional Philippine folk dances are now part of the Physical Education program in schools. This program is taught during the fourth grading period in high school and partly covered in college under Physical Education 2 subject.

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I have chosen this subject because I believe that among all the topics taught in PE, Philippine Folk Dances have been given minimal consideration in teaching despite their integral part in our culture. The first objective of learning Philippine Folk Dances is to attain cultural understanding. Some of the objectives related to culture include: a) fostering patriotism and nationalism through the study of our dances; b) arousing better appreciation for Philippine music and folk dances; c) preserving posterity, folk dances, and music indigenous to different regions in the Philippines.

There are instances where these objectives are neglected, and the technical aspect of learning Philippine Folk Dances is focused on more. This includes executing the steps and presenting the whole dance in front of an audience, without children understanding their significance. Another weakness of teaching this subject is its broadness. With a large range of topics covered under the subject, teachers may struggle to determine which topics should be given priority in teaching.

Should the teacher focus on teaching the dances themselves or delve deeper into the roots of these indigenous groups? If both are pursued, time constraints become a dilemma. Will there be enough time to cover everything necessary? These problems compromise the essence of learning folk dances. Additionally, some authors categorize Philippine Folk Dances as either Non-Christian or with Christian/Western influences (Tulio, 2008).

This implies a cultural divide caused by the use of the terms Christian” and “Non-Christian,” which goes against the principles of Pantayong Pananaw. This approach advocates for viewing culture from an Emic or insider’s perspective.

Philippine folk dances are also classified in this manner:

  1. Dances of the Cordillera groups
  2. Dances of the Mindanao Groups
  3. Spanish/European/Western Influenced Dances
  4. Dances of the Countryside
  5. Dances of the Less Known Groups

What is bothersome with this type of categorization is the last one, which pertains to the dances of less known groups. This seems to have a negative connotation since these dances are less known, we should not even bother studying them. However, if you take a closer look at one example like Kadal Blelah, it is a T’boli dance with mythical bindings imitative of the movements of birds. T’boli is an indigenous group in Mindanao so why should it be categorized under “less known dances”?

Apparently, Filipino folk dances were not categorized based on geography but rather on social status of the groups performing them. This raises the question of whether there is a best” way to categorize these dances. Typically, subjects are not discussed in terms of all three dimensions of culture. Instead, most dances are viewed through the conative dimension in order to save time when teaching the subject. However, it is important to note that understanding and exploring the other dimensions – particularly the cognitive dimension – holds great importance in learning about these cultural traditions.

The cognitive dimension usually includes the following questions: Why did the people perform these dances?” or “What is the relevance of learning these dances at present?” So, how can a teacher deal with these weaknesses? One of the challenges one has to encounter is selecting topics that are relevant to the students. In other words, since Philippine Folk Dances is already a broad topic, he/she may start with local dances that are performed within their community.

One may begin by teaching local or indigenous dances during the fourth grading period in Physical Education. It is crucial to have a clear understanding of what constitutes local and indigenous dances to prevent confusion among students. Instructors can enhance their skills by attending seminars or workshops, such as the National Folk Dance Workshop for Teachers organized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in collaboration with the Philippine Folk Dance Society.

One of the objectives of the workshop is to address the problems faced by folk dance teachers and trainers. When selecting topics, instructors should consider the students they are teaching. This knowledge will determine the kind of activities that will interest students, innovative and integrative ways to teach the subject matter, and effective methods for delivering it. Additionally, we should be mindful of resources that are based on Philippine context rather than Western influences.

Failing to do this might result in a loss of the concept of who we are as Filipinos. We may become merely products of other influences, as mentioned in most learning materials. This should not be the case since Philippine Folk Dances can stand on their own as a topic based mostly on particular knowledge” and not “universal knowledge.” As the saying goes, “Everything should start from within.” Lastly, when learning about different Filipino Folk Dances, all three dimensions of culture (cognitive, normative and conative) should be addressed.

By teaching in this manner, students can gain a deeper understanding that folk dances are not just a form of entertainment or a means to earn good grades in the subject. Rather, they are an integral part of our culture that is constantly evolving based on the environment and beliefs of the people. It is important to appreciate and preserve these dances in even the simplest ways as they reflect our way of life.


  • Tulio, Doris D. Physical Education 2 for College. National Bookstore, 2008, pp. 2-8.
  • Handouts in CPCE 113 – Pedagogy of Cultural Education
    • April 15, 2013
  • 2013 National Folk Dance Workshop for Teachers
    • April 15, 2013

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Critic on Teaching Philippine Folk Dances. (2016, Sep 07). Retrieved from

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