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The sakuting dance, originally performed solely by boys, portrays a

mock fight using sticks. A sakuting stick is striped or bamboo and is about
1 feet long and tapered at the end, like a candle. Its original use was for
combat training. During the playful folk dance, two teams, one representing
each side, circle and clash bamboo sticks in a gentle imitation of martial arts
sparring. Its dance form is the comedia (a theatrical dance, also called moromoro) and features a battalla (choreographed skirmish).


Sakuting (pronounced seh-KOOH-tihng) comes from the province of

Abra, home to the Ilocano people native to the lowlands and the Tingguian
mountain tribes. The Spanish established a garrison to protect Ilocanos who
converted to Christianity, and their capital city, Bangued, from raids by the
mountain tribes. Introduced by Spanish missionaries as religious ritual, the
sakuting dance portrays this struggle between the lowland Christians and the
non-Christian mountain people. Sakutings origins, however, appear much

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Arnis, the traditional Filipino art of stick fighting, employed readily

available weapons by simple people seeking self-protection. The occupying
Spanish banned the practice of Arnis, forcing it into secret. Filipinos found
ways to openly retain the practice by making the Arnis movements part of
folk dances. Sakuting is actually a two-stick Arnis exercise set to music.

The Music

The traditional music styles for sakuting portray the dual influences of
China and Spain. Its staccato inflections and rhythmic tapping suggest a

strong Chinese influence. The music itself is played by a rondalla, a native

string ensemble of plectrum (plucked with tortoiseshell fingerpicks)
instruments influenced by Spanish stringed instruments, that includes
bandurria, laud, octavina, mandola, guitarra and bajo de uas, or double

The Dance

Dancers use one and two sticks throughout the performance to tap the
floor and each other's sticks. Dance steps are a combination of marching and
small forward or sideways shuffle steps while circling and interchanging
positions with other dancers. Some modern interpretations are more
athletically demonstrative of the martial arts, while others add ballet
movements. Dancers twirl the sticks, hitting them against opponents sticks,
displaying a mock fight.


The Ilocano people customarily perform the sakuting dance as part of

Christmas celebrations. Performed at the town plaza or from house to house,
the dance allows the opportunity for spectators to give the dancers
aguinaldosgifts of money, drinks, fruits and refreshments prepared
especially for Christmas much like the English custom of caroling.

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