For the Subanens, music and dance are inseparable. From the simplest ritual (PEKANO) to the most important and expensive ritual (BUKLOG), music and chanting always go hand in hand with traditional dance and performance.
Their musical instruments include the AGONG, a big single brass gong, the KULINTANGAN, a set of eight small brass gongs of graduated sizes, the DURUGAN, a hollow log or bamboo tube which is beaten like a drum, the SIGITAN, a hallow bamboo with few slits on the sides as strings to be flucked, the KUTAPI, an improvised guitar-like instrument with two strings, and TAMBOL, the native drums in various sizes.
Subanens have several types of songs, which include the DIONLI ( a love song ), BUWA ( lullaby ), GENADONG ( ballad ), and GELOY, ( a funeral song ). The Giloy is usually sung by two singers, one of them being the Balyan, during a GUKAS, the ritual ceremony performed as a memorial for the death of a high ranking member of the community. The chanting of the Biloy is accompanied by the ritualistic offering of bottled drinks, canned milk, cocoa, sardines, broiled fish and egg, chicken and pork. The Balyan and assistants bring out a jar of PANGASI ( rice wine ), from the house out into the field, where the wine is poured onto the earth. Then the chanting begins, inside the house.
The Subanen dance is usually associated with rituals. In BUKLOG, the whole community led by the Balyan, participate in a dance performed on a platform, at least six to ten meter above the ground. The Buklog platform can accommodate hundreds of participants at a time.
The SOTEN is an all-male dance dramatizing the strength and
stoic character of the Subanen male. It employs fancy movements, with the left
hand clutching a wooden shield and the right hand shaking the SIOSAY or dried
leaves of palm. In a manner of supplication, he calls attention of the spirits
( DIWATA ) with the sound of the leaves, believed to be the most beautiful and
pleasing to the ears of these deities. The Subanen warrior, believing that he
has caught the attention of the Diwatas who
are now present, continues to dance by shaking his shield, manipulating it as
though in mortal combat with unseen enemies. The Soten is danced to the accompaniment
of music played by striking several Chinese porcelain bowls and other
DIWATAHAN is a dance performed by women before they set out to work in the field. In this dance, they supplicate the Diwata for a bountiful harvest. The farmers carry baskets laden with grains. They dart in and out of two bamboo planting sticks laid on the ground, which are struck together in rhythmic cadence by the male dancers. The clapping sequence is similar to that of Tinikling or bamboo dance.
The LAPAL is the dance of the Balyan as a form of communication with the Diwata, while the SOT is a dance performed by Subanen men before going off to battle.
The BALAE is a dance performed by young Subanen women looking for husbands. They whisk dried palm leaves ( Siosay ) whose sound is supposed to pleased the spirits into granting their wishes.
The PANGELITAWO is a Subanen courtship dance, usually performed during harvest time and in other social occasions. Traditional costumes are worn. The man carries a handkerchief in his right hand which he tries to put on the woman's shoulder. The woman always turns her back away from the man and always drops the handkerchief from her shoulder or put it back to the man's shoulder, until finally, towards the end of the dance, she accepts the handkerchief as a gesture of submission and dances along with the man in the same direction.
The SINALIMBA is an extraordinary dance which makes use of a swing that can accommodate three to four persons at a time. The term is also used to mean the swing itself, a representation of a mythic vessel used for journey. Several male dancers move in rhythm to the music of a gong and drum ensemble, which are played beside the swinging sinalimba. At a given precise movement, one of them leaps onto the platform, steadies himself, and moves with the momentum of the swing. Once he finds his balance, he forces thesinalimba to swing even higher. This requires considerable skill, since he has to remain gracefully upright, moving in harmony with thesilnalimba as though he were a part of it. The other two or three performers follow him onto the sinalimba one after the other, making sure they do not disrupt the pendular rhythm of the swing. A miscue could disrupt the motion, and even throw them off the platform. Even as they end the dance, they must maintain their agility in alighting from the sinalimba without counteracting or disrupting the direction of the swing.