Tinikling (means tikling-like) is a Filipino folk dance, at one time the official Philippine National Dance. It is probably the most popular Philippine folk dance abroad. 

The tinikling has been included in the folk dance curricula of many countries around the world. In fact, there is one tinikling-like dance in Mexico believed to have been brought there by a former Mexican missionary in the Philippines. Members of the Ballet Folklorico de Mejico eagerly showed the Bayanihan dancers in one European folk festival where both groups were participating.

This dance is a favorite in the Visayan Islands especially in the provinces of Leyte and Samar. The dance derived its name from the bird tikling because the dance steps are mimetic of that bird's movements.

The tikling is a bird with long legs and neck. The birds are considered as the worst enemy of the Waray farmers because they molest the rice fields as they prey on the ripening rice grains. To prevent this, the farmers would place some bitik (called si-ay or patibong in Samar), traps made of bamboo to catch the annoying birds. The birds, however, would still manage to escape from the traps. The tinikling dance imitates the movements of the tikling birds escaping from the bamboo traps set by the farmers. The bamboo poles are indeed used to try to trap the dancers’ feet for fun. This spectacular dance is usually accompanied by a folk song about the trap-setters. The funny lyrics of this song given below is found in the book Mga Ambahan (1906) of Vicente de Veyra (from Jaro, Leyte).


Diri kay durugas diri man paatik,
Nga makaaawil pagkamamiritik;
Kay an mamiritik an lawas maabtik,
Agsob makagsugba matambok nga itik.
An iya batayan baga in bunuan.
Yano ga kahimo iya hinimuan;
Matagadlaw manta ini susuhutan,
Bis’ ano nga tamsi nabubukatutan.
Waray gintatahod hadton iya lubid,
Bisan ulalagsing, mga hangag, ma ibid;
Basta makatamak ngan baga lumambid,
Manta magagapos daw nahabilibid.
An parapamitik baga in nahalhal,
An bitik daw mutya an uya pagmahal;
Malipay an but-ut nahuram kapahal,
Kay nakapuhunan ha pamahalbahal.
Di’ sadang bayaan pagkamamiritik,
Mag aga mag-kulop an pinitikpitik;
Inumon an tuba, karan’on an itik,
Magaan an lawas pirme la maabtik.
Ini nga batayan, ini nga balatik,
Di’ ko igbabalyo hin mga sputnik;
Kon mahihimo la ako maginkikik,
Ak’ bubukatuton an mga bulsibik.
Diri kay durugas diri man paatik,
Nga makaaawil pagkamamiritik;
Kay an mamiritik an lawas maabtik,
Agsob makagsugba matambok nga itik.

Another Waray folk song that goes with the dance is found in the book Philippine National Dances by F.R. Tolentino. The lyrics are less funny and are simply descriptive of the dancers' movements. The first stanza goes like:

An ini nga sayaw an ngaran tinikling
An binubuhat la an baru-bakingking
Kingking man ha tuo, kingking man ha wala
Lukso hin duruyog malaksi an kiwa.

This dance is called tinikling

All the dancers do is hop-hop
Hop on the right, hop on the left
Hop to the music moving fast.

The dance consists of two people hitting parallel bamboo poles on the ground, raising them, then hitting the poles against each other in the air with a rhythm. Meanwhile, at least one dancer hops over and around the clashing poles in a manner not entirely unlike jumping rope. Ultra-modern variations consist of four people holding a pair of bamboo in a tic-tac-toe like pattern. This form of the dance would usually travel in a circular pattern increasing the difficulty of staying on rhythm.

One very interesting version of the tinikling is the Tinikling Tabango from Tubiguinoo, Tabango, Leyte; hence, the name. The Tinikling Tabango is believed to relieve the dancer of his sickness. The bodily ills of the dancers are believed to be “washed out” through the dancer’s sweating.

The performers dance at the sides and between two bamboo poles, about nine feet long, which are placed horizontally on the ground. The poles are struck together in time to the music. Skill is demonstrated in dancing between the bamboos, and in keeping the feet from being caught when the poles are struck together. There is much fun, however, if the bamboo players catch the feet of the dancers.

Though modern versions of this dance been continuously performed, it is worthy to note that the oldest and the most difficult of all the tinikling versions is the Tinikling ha Bayo. Bayo being the wooden pestle Waray people use in pounding unhusked rice or at times the pilipig. Two pestle players sit opposite each other on the ground holding the ends of the pestles. Two pieces of wood or split bamboo internode about thirty inches long and are placed under the pestles, about one foot from the ends of the pestles placed across. Aquino said that this is the most difficult tinikling to perform. Male dancers are challenged with a very difficult knee bend in between the clasing pestles.

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