SAOT: Dances of Love

by: Carl Jacinto

ANOTHER ART THAT best mirrors Ilonggo’s vibrant and rich COOLture are folk dances.

These Saot or dances have its own story to tell. Like many other Philippine Folk Dances, Ilonggo Folk dance developed from many inspirations such as rituals of Ilonggo tribes, representations of Ilonggo living in the rural area, or courtship dances influenced by Spanish colonizers.

Here are some of the dances which are indeed cool testimonies of the beautiful and colorful Ilonggo culture.


According to, Paseo de Iloilo was the most sophisticated courtship and flirtation dance of the Spanish Era. This dance portrays the men competing against each other in order to win the heart of a young lady.


One of the folk dances which tells the story of Ilonggo lifestyle in the rural areas.

Today, these dances are still being performed in social gatherings or folk dance competitions.



Cottage and Textile Industries: Fulfillment of Every Ilonggo

EVERY CHEF HAS his own recipe, every doctor his own specialization, every human being his own intelligence; and each district of Iloilo, with regards to handicrafts, has its own forte which in this case is also internationally popular.

Renowned for being the center of pottery-making and bolo-making during the Spanish regime in the Philippines, Iloilo was once referred to as the “Textile Capital of the Philippines”. This is because weaving has been the passion of the province.

Hablon  comes from the Hiligaynon word “habol” which means to weave.  It is made of  jusi  (banana fiber), pina  (pineapple fiber) and other indigenous materials. What is so more exceptional with this textile is the time and hard work being invested to create this since it is woven by hand. History tells that the production of hablon  in Iloilo was clearly well-established even before the Spaniards set foot in Panay during the 1560s. Thus Iloilo, particularly Miag-ao, is undeniably the sole source of hablon;  exporting to other provinces and other countries at the early time. Even to this day, hablon  is still hand-woven and is catering exclusive businessmen and fashion designers anywhere.

Apart from hablon,  another thing that makes Ilonggos proud is the diverse products made of bamboo. In 2009, Iloilo town was identified as bamboo processing techno-demo area for its availability to produce thousands of bamboo poles and produce high-end products out of them. From tables, to chairs, to furniture, to lamps… just name it. Iloilo will have it just for you.



The Writ of the Ilonggo People

By: Jester Paul R. Bacabac


MANY OFTEN MISTAKEN Ilonggo as the Austronesian language spoken by people living in Western Visayas, politically labeled Region 6 composed of the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Antique and Aklan on the island of Panay; Negros Occidental, the western half of the island of Negros; and the new island-province of Guimaras which used to be a sub-province of Iloilo. The truth is, they are referring to Hiligaynon as the lingua franca of the aforementioned region located at the heart of the Philippines.

Hiligaynon is spoken in Iloilo City in all the coastal towns north of Iloilo City, in all of Guimaras, in most of Roxas City in Capiz, and in Bacolod City and most of the towns of Negros Occidental. The language is also spoken in South Cotabato, in Mindanao, where many West Visayans have migrated. The province of Aklan speaks Aklanon (pronounced as akyanon) which, like Hiligaynon, developed from Kinaray-a. Kinaray-a or Hiraya, the mother language of Western Visayas, is now spoken by the central and southern towns of Iloilo, all of the province of Antique and most of Capiz.

Although distinctly different from Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a and Aklanon are carefully weighed by several linguists and literary scholars as colligated in the lingua franca. However, current writers in Kinaray-a and Aklanon have shown that it is not so.

Purely spoken, Western Visayan literature prior to the advent of the Spanish occupation was in Kinaray-a which must have been the tongue in folk literature of the ten Bornean datus who, in accordance with the folk account of the Maragtas, got the island of Panay from the aboriginal Ati in replacement for a headgear of gold and a necklace that touched the ground.

Folk literature ranges from concise and succinct riddles, ditties, proverbs, ritual chants to luxuriant love songs, tales and panoptic epics. A poem is called binalaybay and the tale is the asoy or the sugilanon.

The paktakon is a riddle while the hurubaton is a proverb. Both are usually in two lines and rhymed.

Folksongs may be as elementary as the ili-ili or lullaby or as elaborate as the ambahanon, a long song alternately sung by a soloist and a chorus; the siday which can be a long poetic joust between two paid poets respectively representing the two families in a marriage suit (siday sa pamalaye); or a balitaw, a jocose love song crooned in a debating manner by a man and a woman.

The asoy may be a legend or a tale about a folk hero or a local happening. Foremost among the Panay epics are the Labaw Donggon and the Hinilawod.

Ritual chants are delivered by the babaylan or healer to appease the diwata or supernatural beings or spirits in exchange for good health and abundant harvest.

The arrival of the Spaniards and the conversion of the people to Christianity produced new varieties of folk literature. It also marked the commencement of written literature which started with translations of Spanish texts of prayers and lives of the saints.

Tracing their origins to the Spanish times are the luwa, the witty quatrain recited by the loser of the bordon, the most popular game during the belasyon or vigil for the dead; and the composo, the ballad that sings the life of a folk hero or a significant incident in the community.

Religious literature flourished during the Spanish times. The Flores de Mayo is a devotional song-prayer held throughout the month of May characterized by singing hymns to the Virgin Mary and offering flowers.

The Pasyon, which recounts the suffering of Christ, is chanted during the Holy Week.

The gozos of the novena, the nine-day devotional prayer to a saint, stresses Christian virtue or rhapsodizes incidents in the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Always part of the feast in honor of the patron saint is the coronation of the fiesta queen. The local poet then delivers the pagdayaw, a comprehensive ode praising the queen’s beauty and virtue.

Purely secular is the corrido, actually a medieval romance brought by the Spaniards. Most popular corrido in Western Visayas is written by Rodrigo de Villas.

The establishment of Imprenta La Panayana in Iloilo City late in the nineteenth century by a Bicolano, Mariano Perfecto, engineered written Hiligaynon literature. With his Pasyon, novenas and corridos, Perfecto published Almanake Panayanhon (Panayan Almanac), the all-time Hiligaynon best-seller. Almanake, which published literary works by most of the early Hiligaynon writers, is still being published today by the Perfecto heirs.

The coming of the Americans saw the so-called Golden Age of Hiligaynon literature even if the orientation was still heavily Spanish– didactic and Roman Catholic though strongly nationalistic.

The relatively short period from the 1920’s to the coming of the Japanese is considered the Golden Age. This produced Angel Magahum (first novelist for Benjamin), poet Delfin Gumban, poet Serapion Torre, poet-translator (from Spanish) Flavio Zaragoza Cano, essayist-journalist Rosendo Mejica, zarzuela masters Jose Ma. Ingalla and Jose Ma. Nava, playwright Miguela Montelibano, novelist-poet Magdalena Jalandoni, essayist Augurio Abeto and Abe Gonzales, and the young novelist Ramon L. Musones and poet Santiago Alv. Mulato. The triumvirate of Gumban, Torre and Zaragoza Cano ruled it out for years in poetry, their rivalry magnified by the public balagtasan or poetic joust. The establishment of Hiligaynon magazine by Liwayway Publications in Manila and of the Makinaugalingon Press by Rosendo Mejica in Iloilo City further strengthened Hiligaynon literature.

Jalandoni, Muzones, Gonzales and Mulato wrote their way through the Japanese Occupation and on to the fifties and the sixties which saw two new novelists, Jose E. Yap and Conrado Norada. The establishment of Yuhum magazine in Iloilo City by La Defensa Press and of the short-lived Kasanag by Diolosa Publications, kept literature not only alive but strong. Big names were Ramon L. Muzones, Santiago Alv. Mulato, Conrado Norada, Abe Gonzales and the forever versatile Magdalena Jalandoni. Jose E. Yap had started his series of science-fiction novels. New names came like Hernando Siscar, Antonio Joquiño and Isabelo Sobrevega.

The influence of English literature, especially in the short story, became pronounced in the 1960’s when Hiligaynon writers became more knowledgeable of formalist guidelines like characterization, local color and irony. The short story became popular while the novel with Muzones, Yap and Norada at the helm kept its position. Emerging from the sixties are important names of the present: Nilo P. Pamonag, Lucila V. Hosillos, Mario L. Villaret, Romeo Garganera, Ner E. Jedeliz, Jr., Quin Baterna and Jose Ali Bedaño who wrote under the name of Julius Flores. Two prominent women novelists are Ismaelita Floro-Luza of Roxas City and Ma. Luisa Defante-Gibraltar of Bacolod. All these writers are either bilingual or multilingual. It should also be understood that Western Visayas has produced a big number of writers in English and a few very good writers in Spanish.

       Yuhum stopped publication in the sixties and resumed during Martial law. Hiligaynon closed during Martial law and resurrected in 1989.

The EDSA Revolution of 1986 was an integral milestone in the history of Hiligaynon literature. Because of the new management of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the creation of the Presidential Commission for Culture and the Arts which later became the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, new writing and new writers have been born. The CCP and the NCCA have become truly the people’s patrons of the arts by paving the way for the creation of regional and local art councils, providing writing grants to writers of marginalized languages, supporting workshops and publications and conferring awards. Competitions likewise have had their share in the ferment of new writing. Most significant is the inclusion of the Hiligaynon short story, alongside that of Cebuano and Iluko, in the Palanca Awards since 1997.

Just like any other language, Hiligaynon has gone a long way before it became worthy of national recognition, development and utilization. In fact, many Hiligaynon words have been included during the setting up of the national language, Filipino, because it is undeniably one of the most extensive (in terms of usage and literature) pioneer indigenous tongues in the archipelago.



Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994

Hosillos, Lucila V. Hiligaynon Literature: Texts and Contexts, The Ilonggo Language and Literature Foundation, Inc., Iloilo City, 1992

Mulato, Santiago Alv. Ilonggo Men of Letter, Iloilo City (unpublished)

Deriada, L.P. Hiligaynon Literature, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, On-line Edition

The Ilonggos and the Others

THE ILONGGOS FROM 15th century started to recognize the existence of spirit beings in our surroundings. Since it has really been in the Ilonggo culture, Ilonggos are aware of the popular beings called kama-kama  or dwende  (dwarves), kapri  or tikbalang  (centaurs-like that live on the trees and smoke pipes), and among others.

If there were beings that really got into Ilonggo customs and traditions, it would be the tamawo,  encanto  or fairies. They are environmental spirits known to have the ability to transform into humans and live like humans. Also said to be living in balete  trees (lunok  in Hiligaynon), the tamawos  can be identified for having no narrow grooves above their lips despite their fine physical features. But whatever they are and however they look and live their lives, every Ilonggo considers the others  before performing operations that involve nature where they are also believed to inhabit.

Here is a short movie entry during the Iloilo Short Film Competition in 2010.

Sa Lunok (At the Balete Tree)


Serag, S.S.C. (1997) The Remnants of the Great Ilonggo Nation

Ambahanon*: Ilonggo’s Courier of Culture

By Jester Paul R. Bacabac


One of the essential components of Ilonggo culture is its plenteous collection of enthralling folk songs. It entails the people’s penchant for music. It is for this reason that few of the most seasoned singers are Ilonggos namely: Jose Marie Chan, Nina, Young JV, among others.

Here are some of the most sang Ilonggo folk songs.



The lyrics of this song was written by former Iloilo Congressman Augurio Abeto (also a noted Ilonggo essayist during the Golden Age of Hiligaynon literature 1920-1940) while the music was composed by Maestro Restituto P. Ratilla.



This folk song was originally composed in Ilonggo. Now, it has versions in other languages in the country. The title is the name of the boy to whom the singer is saying goodbye.


Lumalabay nga Daw Aso

“Lumalabay Nga Daw Aso” is an Ilonggo Folk Song from Iloilo Province. In 1935 the late National Artist for Dance, Francisca Reyes Tolentino choreographed the beautiful steps of an improvised Folk Dance for the University of the Philippines’ “Play Day” which features the “Salakot“, a wide brimmed native Filipino hat, using the traditional melody of this Ilonggo folk song. This is how the Tagalog song-dance “Salakot” came about. The poet Levi Celerio wrote its Tagalog lyrics which was later popularized by Pilita Corales during the early 1970’s.


Ili-Ili (Hush-hush)

This is a folk song which is literally a lullaby. This is usually sang by mothers when they let their babies fall asleep. This folk song is still perpetuated by moms even today.


Ohoy Alibangbang

One of the Christianized pre-Hispanic dances of the lowland Visayan people is this “Ohoy Alibangbang“. There are many pre-Hispanic dances throughout the archipelago which mimics animals, plants and even insects. Alibangbang could be translated in the Filipino language as butterfly or dragonfly.


These fascinating folk songs are the living testaments of Ilonggo coolturerific!


*Note: Ambahanon is a Hiligaynon (language spoken in the region) word meaning a song esp.folk songs.


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References: Francisca Reyes Tolentino, Philippine National Dances (Silver Burdett Company, 1946)

PhilClassic Filipiniana Music Archive

Palanublion*:Iloilo’s Finest Contribution to Philippine Architectural Heritage

By: Jester Paul R. Bacabac


ONE OF THE most prominent features of Ilonggo culture is the presence of extraordinary colonial mansions in the vicinity. Mind you, these are not just the usual bahay na bato (stone house) because these perennial structures also serve as the fortress of the regal heritage of Iloilo, a storied place named as “La Reina Ciudad del Sur” (Queen City of the South) which reigned during the epoch of prosperity and stability after the Philippine American War, from the 19th century to the early 20th century. These resplendent mansions were erected by sugar barons even before the war period. The conspicuous architectural attributes of the houses speak of the strong Spanish influence in the design, construction, and ornamentation of buildings during those times.

Here are few of the spectacular ancestral manor houses in the area.

The Eagle House or Ledesma Mansion

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This magnificent auld mansion is situated in Ortiz Street near Plaza Libertad.  In accordance to the Spanish status quo, those living close to the plaza are the wealthiest. So, that speaks of the grandeur of this manor.

The Eusebio Villanueva Mansion

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This well-preserved antediluvian abode is located in front of many government offices like the Provincial Capitol, Tourism Office, and Hall of Justice.

The Antillian House of Sanson-Montinola

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This antillan house built by Don Emong Montinola is located along E-Lopez St., Jaro beside Colegio de San Jose.

The Nelly’s Garden

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Named after the daughter of its original owners Don Vicente Lopez y Villanueva and Donya Elena Hofilena y Javelona in 1928,  this opulent manse is being hailed by many as the queen of all old houses in Iloilo.  The architectural composition is patterned after Tara, the estate house of the novel, ” Gone With the Wind”.

The Jalandoni-Montinola Mansion 

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This house near Jaro Plaza is built by Don Rodrigo Montinola, married to Dna. Felisa Jalandoni in 1928 during the second World War.

The Ledesma Mansion

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This antiquated mansion erected across Jaro Plaza is owned by Rosario Lopez Javelona and Don Luis Ledesma.

The Lizares Mansion

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The Lizares mansion is the image of Ilonggos wealth. It is now within a school property and this mansion houses Angelicum School’s chapel. During Christmas season, this house is lit up with thousands of Christmas lights transforming it into a wonder house.

A grand mansion turns into a marvelous Christmas edifice.Photo credit:

A grand mansion turns into a marvelous Christmas edifice.
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Indeed, these ancestral houses are objectifications of Ilonggo coolturerific!


*Note: Palanublion is a Hiligaynon (language used in the region) word meaning inheritance or heirloom.



Coolturerific Ilonggo

by Jester Paul R. Bacabac

UNDENIABLY, ONE OF the richest cultures in the Philippine archipelago is that of the Ilonggos. Perhaps, one reason for this is that Ilonggo is one of the major ethnic groups in the country. In fact, many Ilonggos are not just situated in the Visayas region but as time flew like fleeting arrows in Brussels, they started to disperse in other parts of the Philippine terra firma like in Mindanao and in Luzon.


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Buaya Beach, Barangay Buaya, Sicogon Island, Carles, Iloilo
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If there’s one thing Iloilo is inherently rich is its arable land which allows considerable agricultural production, and beautiful scenery. Its fertile farmlands are planted with rice, sugarcane, corn, coconut, fruits and vegetables. Its panoramic coasts are not only pockmarked with fishponds and fish pens but also with beach resorts and popular eateries offering sumptuous sea foods. The whole province is crisscrossed by numerous river systems that fertilize the alluvial plains and provide inhabitants with water, food, and channels of transportation. It also has mountain ranges characterized by grandeur that serve as sanctuaries for endangered species of flora and fauna.


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Ilonggos are known for having a sweet nature befitting an angel or cherub. It is for this reason that tourists are often surprised by the loving qualities of the residents that even though they are mad, their tone is still placid and gentle. It is for this reason that the capital city, Iloilo City, is hailed as the City of Love. On the other, early Chinese settlements in the region have influenced the Ilonggos adept skills and interest in making business. That is why, they are frequently described as thrifty and frugal.


Iloilo Dinagyang--a festival of worship, energy, and ethnicity.Photo credit:

A festival of worship, energy, and ethnicity.
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Ilonggo culture is also manifested in the people’s penchant for colorful and regal celebrations. The Ilonggo always finds an occasion to show his material affluence and his famous brand of hospitality. This explains why other than the religious feasts like the patronal fiestas, Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan, the Ilonggos have also indulged themselves in many festivals, aside from the world famous Dinagyang in Iloilo City and Pintados de Pasi in Passi City. Dinagyang brings more life to the streets of Iloilo on the fourth week of January. This festival commemorates Christianity in the Region when the Aeta tribes danced to welcome and appease the image of Sto. Niño. The Festival gives honor to the Child Jesus and the thundering “Hala Bira” of the performers fill the air with adrenalin pumping excitement. The ignition of street dances and the explosion of traditional music is a pleasant treat that will surely leave the spectators with amazement.

Music and Letters

The reading of the Maragtas chronicle and the Code of Kalantiaw.Image credit:

The reading of the Maragtas chronicle and the Code of Kalantiaw.
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The essential components of Ilonggo culture are language, oral literature (epics, myths, legends, proverbs, etc.), songs and dances. The language they use is basically Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, the latter with its numerous variations in the interior sections of the province. Ilonggo literature consists of hurubaton (sayings), paktakon (riddle), sugidanon (epics), lowa (chants made to entertain people at the wake), and others, many of which have survived up to the present time. Of course, the most known literature related to Ilonggos is the Maragtas, a folk history on the coming of the ten Bornean datus and their families to Panay.

Ilonggo songs are mainly composos or ballads about love and adventure, lullaby melodies (Ili-ili is the best example), and other folk songs, usually accompanied by either percussion, wind or string instruments. Traditional dances that have been recorded by the Spaniards are the harito, balitaw, liay, lalong kalong, imbong, inay-inay, and binanog. Some of these dances are still being performed today (Funtecha, 2006).

Mention must be made of Ilonggo zarzuela, the most popular form of vernacular entertainment in Western Visayas in the first half of the 20th century. The zarzuela is a musical stage play depicting the everyday life and aspirations of the Ilonggos that made famous a number of local writers (Funtecha, 2006).


La Paz Batchoy--a taste of heaven in a bowl.Photo credit:

La Paz Batchoy–a taste of heaven in a bowl.
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Moreover, Ilonggo culture is manifested in the vast array of its culinary delights, as in the case of Batchoy, pancit molo, baye-baye, biscocho, barquillos, inday-inday, binakol, bandi, piyaya, and pinasugbo. Batchoy apparently has become a national passion, a case of Ilonggo cultural colonization. This delightful concoction, typically made known as the “Original La Paz Batchoy“, can now be found anywhere in the Philippines – in the far north as the Ilocos region and in the far south as Tawi-tawi. It is observed, however, that the batchoy taste in Iloilo could never be duplicated elsewhere – it can only be approximated. Batchoy prepared by non-Ilonggos in other places taste more like mami rather than the real thing.

The Capital City

Lin-ay sang Iloilo, the bronze statue standing atop the Iloilo City Hall, is the epitome of Ilonggo coolturerific!Photo credit:

Lin-ay sang Iloilo, the bronze statue standing atop the Iloilo City Hall, is the epitome of Ilonggo coolturerific!
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Iloilo City, the Capital of Iloilo Province is considered as one of the Philippines’ oldest cities. It was established when Manila was founded on 1571. The city is nestled between Jaro river and Iloilo Straight making the city one of the country’s busiest seaports. The port of Iloilo once exported sugar products of Negros which contributed to the spur of the city’s economic development. Today, the City is bouncing back, reviving its lost glory as the Queen City of the South. The city slowly recaptures its identity of being the trade center of the Visayas.

The City of Iloilo has made itself worthy to be hailed as the educational center of the South, with the most universities outside Manila. The oldest university in the province, Universidad de Sancti Agustini, was instituted on 1904 by the Spanish friars. Central Philippine University, the educational tycoon of Western Visayas, is probably the largest Protestant Institution in the world. St. Paul University had been recognized for producing quality board passers. And West Visayas State University is the home of the regional Center for Teaching Excellence and one of the best medical and nursing schools in the country while University of the Philippines-Visayas remains as the center of quality education in the region.


This is just a glimpse of the grandeur of Ilonggo coolturerific, truly cool and undeniably terrific!


Funtecha, H.F. (2006) Bridging the Gap. The News Today Online Edition