The rhythm sways through the forest, enveloping you in soft warm tones that vibrate throughout your body and soul. You stop and listen, as a smile breaks across your face.
The soft tinkling of the Kulintang gongs resounds through the trees, like rain drops on the old sheeted roof.
The muted beating of the Gandang drums echo one’s heart as you race across the jungle, searching for the source.
Every now and then, you hear the syncopated whispers of the Gabbang bamboo xylophone; breaking into the steady music like interjects of bird song amidst the forest’s breath.
You slow down, accepting that you will never reach the enchanted musician’s den. You now move in a steady purposeful pace, as the whole mountain throbs with the musical pulse. The forest floor shifts softy as if dancing with your steps.
Seconds become minutes and minutes become hours, yet the melody continues and emboldens your each step. This long trek across the Bud (mountain) becomes an enchanted flight. Each beat strengthens you as you past fade into the nothingness of the green forest, as you become a child in its spell.
Then light gently pierces the green haze, as you approach the clearing. The music is now getting stronger, and your heart races to follow the beat. As you emerge, whelps and cheers greet you, as your eyes focus on the villagers dancing to enchanting song.
Now you know you’re not in a dream, as everyone in the village is just as enthralled as you. Yet now, they have joined the spirits in play as they bring out their own instruments to continue this revelry.
The now crisp tones of the Kulintang move in harmony with the gurgles of a nearby rolling brook.
The twang of the Kulaing (bamboo jew’s harp) join the song like crickets in chorus.
The pang-alay dancers now take the center of the crowd, amidst their cheers and clapping. The woman moves gracefully as if she was wading through a stream. Her feet pace at a slow shuffle, making her glide on the hard ground. Her face is calm, as her head cocks to a syncopated beat. Indeed she has joined this spiritual revelry, like a diwata (spirit) of the sea among the people.
The man enters the ring of people, with strong cocky gestures as his body pulses to the rhythm. He moves around the woman like a bird flittering through the gently swaying bamboo, yet never touching the woman as in reverence to her divine dance. His feet pound the ground like waves beating the shore. He too is now a diwata (spirit) of the earth among the people.
The day becomes night, and the celebration continues. The spirit musicians, who started the song, have come down from the mountains to join the revelry. Farmers were they, resting from a day’s work and playing music from a hut deep in the Bud (mountain).
Water and earth in the tones of the Tausug . . .
From the mountains of Patikul, Sulu, you race from the Tausug village and reawake to another echoing of a mountain gong.
The beat of the Gangsa gong is deep and strong as it follows the swaying yet forceful stomps of the players' feet. They move in a circle shuffling in unison, as they mimicking the planting of the rice stalks in the terraces. The music echoes across the mountains, creating the illusion of many people celebrating all across the Cordilleras.
At the edge of the stone platform is the elevated hut, with the Mumbaki (shaman) sitting under it as he chants the last rites of the man who joins the Pugao (sacred land). He looks back and nods at the dancers, as he continues his chants. Although in the background, his voice slowly blends to the music like the droning of a bee, further giving a deeper reverberation to the song.
Now, the women are joining in by dancing with their arms slightly stretched and pulsing to the beat, as if they were threshing the grain.
Men also come to the dance in more jerking movements, with their left arm stretched downwards and the right arm thrusting up and down like the pounding of the mortar on the grain.
The music plays on to the night, then slowly fades to the humming like chants of the women singing the ancient epic of the Hudhud. In contrast to the earth pounding rhythm of the Gangsa, their voices float like the night sounds of the cicadas in the crisp mountain air.
The earth and sky in the music of the Ifugao . . .
From the Banaue Rice Terraces, you fly from the Ifugao village to reawaken to the melodies of bells.
Once again, you are in the forest, yet this time you are haunted by faint ringing of many bells. You run towards the sound, and spy shadows of blue and red gliding across the forest.
Then emerging in the glen are men and women bedecked in colorful dress ornate with magnificent bead work and brass chains on which hundreds of small hawk bells hang. Each movement of the body sends a ripple of tones throughout the forest.
You follow them to a nearby water source, and you notice the music of the bells have harmoniously intertwined with the soft flowing sounds of the stream.
A man settles on the bank and pulls out his Hegelung two-stringed lute, and plays a soothing song like flickering of a candle flame.
A woman starts to dance the Kedal Herayon, swaying side to side, making her bells sing louder. Another man follows her movements around the stream, with his bells also tinkling. Yet his strong jerky gestures cause his chains to clash, creating a sound like a blazing fire.
The water and fire in the songs of the T’boli . . .
The songs of the Earth are the songs of life are found in each intonation of the Katutubo
Their music mimics and blends with nature’s own rhythms, as they celebrate life in commune with each other and the land. (native). Cycles of life and death, celebrations of the harvest or of love, come in different songs but all in one beat. The pulse of the earth. . .
by John Paul 'Lakan' Olivares