Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Rhythmic Salvation of Youth

Cultural dance has always played an integral part of civilizations throughout the world.  It is one of the vital threads that make up the cultural fabric of many ethnic groups.  Without it, a large part of history and the livelihood of any culture are lost.

Fortunately, here in America, many ethnic groups continue to keep their culture alive by keeping their cultural dances alive.  The Irish and Indian communities are notably two of the more popular groups.  Past Broadway and Hollywood appearances of Riverdance and Slumdog Millionaire, have attracted a captive audience.  As a result, more people continue learning and participating in their cultural dances.

We Igorots, do not have anything of such magnitude to promote and encourage the continual appreciation of our dances, but the need to do so has never been as great as now.  Among many other things, our cultural dances are being threatened by modernization and the continual rapid loss of our elderly, who possess such knowledge.  This is why the Igorot culture needs to “revive” and “keep alive” its dances.

Our dances are more than just “performances.”  They are our culture.  Anyone can put on an Igorot “costume” and mimic the movements, but by doing so only scratches the surface of its totality.  Our dances should not be considered performances, by rather, the continued appreciation and “practice” of our culture.  It has been, and should continue to remain a reflection of our past, present and future “way of life.”

They have traditionally been associated with ceremonies and rituals that mark the mile stones of our people’s life cycle in the Cordillera Mountains.  Its many different meanings are signified by certain steps and movements that ultimately show our close affinity to ancestors and mother earth.  When we dance, we express our love for our culture, our freedom and the unity we are so blessed with.  When our ancestor danced, there were no such things as scores or votes.  The only idols were that of the supernatural or spiritual, and certainly not any one particular individual.
In the spirit of preserving our Indigenous Knowledge, I hope more people continue their interest in our dances for the sake of keeping our heritage alive.  I hope that Hollywood and its relentless efforts to create idols by focusing on ego do not taint our dances.  Let’s leave all the critiquing and competition to those who put on “costumes” and “perform” for the sake of ego and “show.”

The evolution of our dance needs to continue with our youth because they are our future.  They should not be discouraged to partake in our music and dance, as I have heard in the past.  I am not sure why, but I have heard how kids were once “shewed away” from playing our instrumental gangsas.   Adult and elderly Igorots can no longer afford to keep our gangsas, drums and other instruments out of the hands of kids.  Instead, every Igorot kid in the Cordilleras and abroad should be given the opportunity to partake in our native music and dances.

When my cousin recently posted a video of Igorot kids dancing, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of joy.  It was much more than a cute dance.  The kids demonstrated a sense of appreciation for their heritage that I wish more people had, including myself.  They possessed a kindred spirit so raw that it is so contagious.  I would love to have interviewed them to find out just how much the dancing meant to them.
So next time you see the absence of children dancing among adults performing dances like the Bedian, Taycheck, Takik, Salidsid, Tadok, Pinukla and others, ask yourself why there aren’t children dancing them.  Then, think of the words said in Mathew 18:13, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”


  1. I think you would be pleased to know that the gangsa and the canao is alive and well in the Cordilleras. It is one of those sounds that will always be in your blood. I grew up listening to this sound but did not hear it for years after moving to the States when I was 11. But when I returned home to the Cordilleras as an adult and when I heard it played again, it was automatic. I picked up the gong and just played like I never left it. I attended canaos with older people and with younger people. The culture and its music live on. The point is, music and drum beats are inherent to people, no matter the culture.

  2. @ Rene . . . Great to hear your comments, and it's encouraging to hear that you are well connected to the music. Your comment about music and drum beats being "inherent" intrigues me. It has me wondering: though inherent as it is, how many people still treasure it like you? I used to think that only people who leave home to adopt a new home abroad are the only ones who tend to forget or abandon their "inherited" treasures, but I keep hearing from relatives and people back home that our Indigenous Knowledge is truly being threatened by modernization and the alarming number of elderly dying who are the last to possess such knowledge in its most truest form. That's just me thinking again . . . Anyways, thanks for posting!


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