Filipino folk songs have been sung throughout the Philippines for centuries. It can be difficult to find songs that are easy to share because of language barriers between the different ethnic groups, which speak different dialects.
This is not surprising when you consider the geography of the Philippines; the many islands have caused difficulties when it comes to uniting the people of the region. Two main languages have been declared the primary languages. The main Filipino language is called Pilipino, which is a derivative of Tagalog. English is also spoken in the Philippines. More than 170 different dialects have been recorded in the Philippines, but folk songs are usually sang in eighty of these different dialects.
When you study folk songs, you get a glimpse at the values, living conditions and concerns of a culture. By studying Filipino folk songs, you will learn something about the nature of the Filipino people. Filipino folk songs vary in subject, but most are about family, unrequited love, lost love, nature or children. This is because the Filipino people value family, loving relationships and nature.
There are several popular sub-genres of folk songs. In general, Filipino folk songs usually fall into one of these categories:
Western-Influenced Folk Songs
Because of globalization, many Filipino folk artists are heavily influenced by Western music. You can hear a folk-rock sound to these songs; sometimes these songs are called "protest" songs because they often address social issues and concerns. Spanish musicians are a dominating influence in this genre, because Spain occupied the Philippines for mroe than 300 years. These songs are simple in structure and are easy to sing. They are usually accompanied by the guitar and repeat the melody in every stanza, much like Western folk songs. These are the songs you will most likely hear on the radio or at Filipino concerts.
Narrative songs are not nearly as popular as the Western-influenced folk songs, but they are a very significant part of the Filipino culture. Narrative psalms are long, descriptive, difficult to sing and usually address family relationships, history or lost love. They usually begin in a minor key, then switch into a major key partway through the song.
Indigenous Secular Songs
A popular sub-genre of Filipino folk song is the secular folk song. These songs tend to be sentimental, playful or whimsical in nature. They can be about work, love or the history of the specific cultural group. They have similar tones to other classic Asian songs.
One of the most popular Filipino folk songs is "Sitsiritsit, Alibbangbang." Some of the lyrics are provided below:
Sitsiritsit, alibangbang (Hey, Hey, Butterfly)
English translation by Roberto Verzola
Hey, hey, butterfly
beetle me, oh, beetle my.
Watch that girl on the block;
she poses like a fighting cock.
Blessed child of Pandacan,
Rice biscuits on a stall.
Why won't you give me a loan?
The pesky ants will get you soon.