Chavacano de Zamboanga displays old courtship styles through dancing. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Traditional Filipino courtship practices are recognized as one of the most romantic gestures as it gives immense importance to respecting the woman and her family. Even if it means adhering to strict rules and conditions set by the future in-laws.

Old forms of courtship are shown in different ways. The most notable is Harana wherein a man is expected to perform a serenade outside the home of a lady he wishes to pursue. Expressing love could also be done by reciting poems, writing letters, gift-giving, and like Zamboanguenos — through dancing.

Zamboanga takes pride in cultural dances from social graces to courtship and events depicting the cycle of life. These are continuously being passed down from one generation to another, allowing us to glimpse how our ancestors proclaimed love and courage long ago. 

Chavacano de Zamboanga

“One thing that tourists will appreciate is that Zamboanga has beautiful sunsets,” says Errold Bayona, president of Asociacion de Guia Turistico del Zamboanga (Tour Guide’s Association of Zamboanga).

Locals highly advise that if you are the kind of traveler who loves sunsets, taking a stroll along Paseo del Mar or Cawa-Cawa Boulevard before sundown is a must. This activity even translated to Zamboanga’s very own folk dance, Chavacano de Zamboanga.

Two hearts dancing. Chavacano de Zamboanga depicts lovers walking along the city’s boulevard. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Chavacano de Zamboanga is a 3-minute festival dance that depicts lovers having a leisurely walk along the boulevard or seaports of Zamboanga.

For this traditional dance, the costumes are closely associated with Spanish formal dresses. Male dancers wear Camiseta Zamboangueno, a combination of closed-necked jackets, Baston or slim-fit trousers, and Oxford shoes.

Meanwhile, Mascota dresses are donned by female dancers. This is a butterfly-sleeved formal gown with a delicately embroidered neck scarf called Panuelo placed over the shoulders and pinned with a brooch. This was considered a fashion statement for the elite during the Spanish regime.

This dance is usually accompanied by Kulintang, a musical instrument composed of 5 to 9 small brass gongs with each pitch arranged from lowest to highest. Kulintang is usually paired with larger gongs or suspended drums.

Tourists may witness this being performed during Zamboanga’s month-long La Hermosa Festival that happens every October. Zamboanguenos also perform this dance every time they welcome group travelers at the airport.

Tumahik

Tumahik is a traditional pre-wedding dance of the Yakan. As a suitor, the man must prove his courageousness and that he is willing to protect his bride at all costs in front of the bride’s family.

Yakan Dance Troupe. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

This mock war dance incorporates the fighting skills of a strong Yakan warrior such as tumbling, high kicking, and other movements from southeast Asian martial arts. Facial expressions and head movements also play a big role, as male dancers should enact Magtige-et, the gritting of teeth to show anger and exhibit Bingkis-kuntara or furious-looking eyes. 

Male dancers wear Badju, a Yakan woven tight-fitting top decorated with brass buttons called Batawi. The top is partnered with Sawal Peyat or trousers entirely woven with Sinaulan pattern signifying strength and resilience.

They also wear leg tassels called Jambu made of silk threads symbolizing horsetail, as horsemanship and horse breeding are important in the Yakan culture. For the weapons, the male dancers carry Taming, a 26 to 30-inch shield made of woven rattan or Camphor wood, and Budjak, a bladed spear-like weapon made of bamboo.

Pangalay

One thing that tourists will also get to appreciate is seeing the Sama-Banguingui tribe dancing Pangalay on top of sailing Vinta boats at Great Sta Cruz Island.

Pangalay is considered a celebratory dance and is performed during weddings or festivals. It is known for its graceful and distinct hip steps that mimic the movements of the Sulu sea.

Sama-Banguingui tribe welcoming tourists on top of Vinta boats as they perform Pangalay. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

“It has been the tribe’s celebratory dance. So we thought of ways to share the art with VIPs and guests of Sta Cruz Island. Now, we perform this dance as a surprise number,” says Richard Aliangan, superintendent of the Great and Little Sta Cruz Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape.

For the clothing, the dancers wear striking silk ensembles that have golden stripes. “It is an expression of status when you wear something colorful and shiny,” Aliangan explains. “The colorful the sail as you visit the woman, the greater the honor.”

Upholding folk dances amidst today’s dance trends

With the birth of social media dance apps like TikTok, today’s youth are into modern dance crazes. But Zamboanga Peninsula Polytechnic State University (ZPPSU)’s Artistic Dance Director Mark Anthony Basilio believes in the power of knowing your roots and that appreciation of both traditional and modern dances can coexist.

“I believe one of our responsibilities is to pass the tradition to the younger generation and hopefully inspire them. So far in our school, the students are fascinated by it. They are proud of what we have,” says Basilio.

Artistic Dance Director Mark Anthony Basilio. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Basilio directs ZPPSU’s Nawan Cultural Dance Troupe, a multi-awarded folk dance group that represents the country’s culture on the global dance stage. Nawan is a Subanen word which means, The Future, and they have competed in different parts of the world such as Bulgaria, India, Italy, and Mexico.

“Dancing is usually considered as a form of entertainment or past-time, but more than anything, I want the young ones to realize and treasure what we have and where we came from,” ends Basilio.

Outsource the Planning

For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Region 9:

(062) 991-1174 / 0917-722-6410; [email protected]

09062087106; [email protected]

(062) 990-2100; [email protected]

09177103094; [email protected]

0930-061-1690 / 0997-745-2957; [email protected] or [email protected]

Travel safely!

Explore Zamboanga City responsibly by making sure that you comply with the health and safety protocols, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

For the latest travel information about Zamboanga, you may visit their official website or Facebook page. You may also review updated safety protocols and requirements on Philippine destinations at www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel.