Art of the Philippines

Philippine art refers to the work of art that developed since the beginning of civilization in the Philippines up to the present era. It reflects to the society with wide range of diverse cultural influences and how it honed the culture and the arts of the country. Philippine art can be referred to visual arts, performing arts, sculptures and textiles.

Artistic paintings were introduced to the Filipinos in the 16th century when the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines. During this time, the Spaniards used paintings as religious propaganda to spread Catholicism throughout the Philippines. These paintings, appearing mostly on church walls, featured religious figures appearing in Catholic teachings. Due to the Church's supervision of Filipino art and Spanish occupation of the Philippines, the purpose of most paintings from the 16th-19th century were to aid the Catholic Church.[1]

In the early 19th century, wealthier, educated Filipinos introduced more secular Filipino art, causing art in the Philippines to deviate from religious motifs. The use of watercolour paintings increased and the subject matter of paintings began to include landscapes, Filipino inhabitants, Philippine fashion, and government officials. Portrait paintings featured the painters themselves, Filipino jewelry, and native furniture. The subject of landscape paintings featured artists' names painted ornately as well as day-to-day scenes of average Filipinos partaking in their daily tasks. These paintings were done on canvas, wood, and a variety of metals.[1]

During World War II, some painters focused their artwork on the effects of war, including battle scenes, destruction, and the suffering of the Filipino people.


Main article: Philippine Dance

There are many different types of Filipino dances varying in influence and region. Types of Filipino dance include Cordillera, Muslim, tribal, rural, and Spanish style dances.

Within the cordillera dances, there is Banga, Bendayan, Lumagen/Tachok, Manmanok, Ragragsakan, Salisid, Talip, Tarektek, and Uyaoy/Uyauy. The Banga dance illustrates the grace and strength of women in the Kalinga tribe. Women performing the Banga balance heavy pots on their heads while dancing to beat of wind chimes. This mimics Kalinga women collecting and transporting water. Another dance, called Lumagen or Tachok, is performed to celebrate happy occasions. When Lumagen is performed, it is meant to symbolize flying birds and is musically-paired to the beat of gongs. Another cordillera dance, Salisid, is the dance to show courtship. In the Salisid dance, a male and a female performer represent a rooster attempting to attract a hen.[2]

Tribal dances include Malakas at Maganda, Kadal Blelah, Kadal Tahaw, Binaylan, Bagobo Rice Cycle, and Dugso. Malakas at Maganda is a national folklore dance. It tells the story of the origin of the Filipino people on the islands. Another dance, called the Binaylan dance, tells the story of a hen, the hen's baby, and a hawk. In this dance, the hawk is said to control a tribe's well-being, and is killed by hunters after attempting to harm the hen's baby.[3]

Two examples of traditional Filipino dances are Tinikling and Binasuan and many more. Filipinos have unique folk dances like tinikling where assistants take two long bamboo sticks rapidly and in rhythm, clap sticks for dancers to artistically and daringly try to avoid getting their feet caught between them. Also in the southern part of the Philippines, there is another dance called singkil using long bamboo poles found in tinikling; however, it is primarily a dance showing off lavish Muslim royalty. In this dance, there are four bamboo sticks arranged in a tic-tac-toe pattern in which the dancers exploit every position of these clashing sticks. Dancers can be found trying to avoid all 4 bamboo sticks all together in the middle. They can also try to dance an entire rotation around the middle avoiding all sticks. Usually these stick dances performed in teamwork fashion not solo. The Singkil dance is identifiable with the use of umbrellas and silk clothing.[4]


A Filipino loom for weaving rough fabrics of abaka fiber, 1905

Philippine weaving involves many threads being measured, cut, and mounted on a wooden platform. The threads are dyed and weaved on a loom.[5]

Before Spanish colonization, native Filipinos weaved using fibers from abaca, pineapple, cotton, and bark cloth. Textiles, clothes, rugs, and hats were weaved. Baskets were also weaved and used as vessels of transport and storage, and for hunting. These baskets were used to transport grain, store food, and catching fish.[6] They also used weaving to make just about all of the clothing that was worn.

They weaved rugs that they used for quilts and bedding. The quality of the quilt/bedding was based on how soft, how tight together, and the clean pattern. The patterns were usually thick stripes with different colors and with a nice pattern.

However, during Spanish colonization, Filipinos used fabric called nipis to weave white clothing. These were weaved with decorative, flower designs.[6]


Traditional pot-making in certain areas of the Philippines would use clay found near the Sibalom River. Molding the clay required the use of wooden paddles, and the clay had to be kept away from sunlight.[7]

Native Filipinos created pottery since 3500 years ago.[7] They used these ceramic jars to hold the deceased.[8]

Other pottery used to hold remains of the deceased were decorated with anthropomorphic designs. These anthropomorphic earthenware pots date back to 5 BC. - 225 A.D and had pot covers shaped like human heads.[8]

Filipino pottery had other uses as well. During the Neolithic period of the Philippines, pottery was made for water vessels, plates, cups, and for many other uses.[9]

Kalinga Pottery [10]

Ceramic vessels of Kalinga are divided into three types: rice cooking (ittoyom), vegetable/meat cooking (oppaya), and water storage (immosso) pots. According to Skibo, the rice cooking pots are usually larger, thinner and have a smaller opening than vegetable/meat pots. On the other hand, water storage pots have an average and uniform size and a smaller neck size.

Except for water storage pots, which have a uniform size, the other two kinds can come in three different sizes, large, medium and small. Although this is true in some cases, another larger type of vegetable/meat pot and smaller water storage pot exists.

• Manufacture of Kalinga potteries

The first step in the manufacture of pots is the acquisition of the starting material, clay. The clay is then pounded, added with enough amount of water, to reach the wanted flexibility, and placed in a rotating plate. Using the hand-modeling and coil-and-scrape techniques, the height, thickness and shape of the pot is established. After this, the rim is designed by placing a wet rag on top of it and then rotating it in the other direction. Furthermore, scraping of the walls can also be done if the walls produced are too thick.

The pot, after the modeling stage, is then dried for a short period of time before the base is shaped. Also, after additional heating, small amounts of clay are added inside and outside the clay to maintain the evenness of the surface. A polishing step can also be done through the use of a polishing stone. In some cases, pots are also painted with red hematite paint for some stylized design.

Pottery Functions [10]

Pots are ceramic vessels that are made by molding clay into its wanted shape and then leaving it in an environment with an elevated temperature thereby making it solid and sturdy. It is widely recognized as one of better tools that humans invented since it managed to store the surplus of food Neolithic humans gathered.

In the book Pottery Function: A Use-Alteration Perspective, the author, James Skibo, reasoned out why the use of pots is far more advantageous than baskets and other organic containers. He said that since potteries are commonly made in clay, heat has little to none effect on the container, and its contents, and that it protects the food from moisture and pests. Furthermore, its range of storable contents is far wider than baskets and animal skins since it can store both liquid and dry goods.

Also, Rice, in his book Pottery Analysis, classified ceramic vessels into 17 categories depending on various factors that concern the use and production of the tool. One of these is the content wherein he further divided a type of pot into four depending on the state (liquid or solid) and temperature (hot or cold) of the food inside it. He also said that a ceramic has three main uses. These three are storage, processing, and transfer.

Based from these three uses that Rice gave, Skibo further characterized the usage of ceramic vessels by dividing the tool’s function into two, (1) intended use and (2) actual use.

Intended use, as the name implies, is how the tool’s supposed to be used. This is the basis of the manufacture of the ceramic vessel since the form follows the function. On the other hand, actual use is how the tool was used. This sometimes disregards the pot’s form as long it can do a specific function.

Kalinga Pottery and its Uses [10]

In Kalinga, ceramic vessels can be used for two situations: daily life use and ceremonial use. Daily life uses include the making of rice from the pots and the transfer of water from nearby water bodies to their homes.

• Determining actual function of Kalinga pots

As said, a pottery sometimes has a different actual use than intended use. This is the reason why when archaeologists study the function of a pottery, they tend to focus on how the tool was actually used. They do this by studying the alterations that the pottery has. These alterations, accretion and attrition, are commonly the abrasions and scratches on the vessel. In Skibo’s study of Kalinga potteries functions, he relied on three main tests, namely (1) dissolved residue, (2) surface attrition and (3) carbon deposition.

  1. Dissolved residue – This test was done to determine the organic matters that were once placed in the vessel. Through the combination of a gas chromatograph and a mass spectrophotometer, the composition of the fatty acids inside the vessel was determined. Although a complete identification of the species of plant and animals was not possible, Skibo managed to know which pots were used for rice and vegetable/ meat cooking.
  2. Surface Attrition – Skibo’s study on the attrition of the pots showed how the pot was used. By looking at the trace attritions inside the vessel, the type, frequency, angle and direction of stirring for each pot was determined. Furthermore, Skibo also concluded that two pots can be differentiated from each other, on the basis of what type of food it cooks, from the abrasions. He said that rice pots will have a little amount of stirring while the vegetable/meat pots will have numerous marks.
  3. Carbon Deposition – This test, as said by Skibo, can determine the type of food cooked, how it was cooked and how the pot was placed on the flame. From this, another distinction between rice and vegetable/meat pots was established.

Iron Age pottery [11]

There are three major complexes in Philippine Iron Age according to Solheim, Kalanay, Novaliches and Bau pottery complexes. Kalanay pottery complex pertains to Beyer’s Early Iron Age pottery of the Visayan Islands found in Negros and Mindoro; novaliches pottery complex to Beyer’s Early Iron Age pottery from Rizal province. Bau pottery, on the other hand, does not fit into the two previous complexes and could correspond instead to the Late Iron Age pottery.

Kalanay Pottery Complex [11]

The type site of the Kalanay pottery complex is the Kalanay Cave found in Masbate. From this site, the pottery is further subdivided into pottery types Kalanay and Bagupantao.

Specific varieties of decoration are as follows:

Kalanay complex pottery can be divided into 16 groups according to Solheim.

  1. Large jars with wide necks
  2. Large jars with narrow necks
  3. Small jars
  4. Deep bowls
  5. Shallow bowls
  6. Very shallow bowls
  7. Lids
  8. Shallow bowls with ring stands
  9. Tetrapods
  10. Jars with angle between side and bottom
  11. Spherical jars with small mouths, without angle at rim
  12. Angular Vessels

Bau Pottery Complex [11]

It has less variation in both form and decoration compared to the Kalanay pottery complex.

Specific varieties of decoration are as follows:

In terms of forms:

Novaliches Pottery Complex [11]

Most of Novaliches pottery can be distinguished from Bau pottery and Kalanay pottery. While it shares form and decoration with Kalanay pottery, it contains more variability compared to Bau pottery. According to Solheim (2002), “it is the most sophisticated pottery that has yet been found in the Philippines”

Novaliches pottery can be diagnosed by its form being a shallow bowl with a high right-foot. The shallow bowl is generally plain but the feet are highly decorated. Majority of Novaliches pottery were well polished. The form is so symmetrical that it looks as if it was made in a potter wheel, however, examinations showed that it wasn’t.

Specific varieties of decoration are as follows:

Vessel forms are as follows:

Kalanay Cave Site [11]

The Kalanay cave site is a small burial cave. It is located at the northwest coast of Masbate.

• Kalanay Pottery

• Kalanay Incised

• Kalanay slipped

Bagupantao Pottery [11]

• Bagupantao Plain

• Bagupantao Impressed

• Bagupantao Painted

• Extraneous Pottery - Three vessels that did not belong to the Bagupantao and Kalanay style were also found.

First pot

Second pot

Third pot

Other art forms

Tanaga is a type of Filipino poetry. Kut-kut is an art technique used between the 15th and 18th centuries. The technique was a combination of European and Oriental style and process mastered by indigenous tribes of Samar island.

• Indigenous arts

Notable Filipino artists

Past notable Filipino artists include Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Augusto Arbizo, Félix Hidalgo, Ang Kiukok, Anita Magsaysay-Ho Lito Mayo, Mauro Malang Santos, Santiago Bosé, Rey Paz Contreras and David Cortés Medalla. Present-day Filipino artists featuring Filipino culture include Benedicto Cabrera, Elito Circa, Fred DeAsis, Daniel Coquilla, Francisco Viri and Nunelucio Alvarado.[13] The Arts or Paintings by Zóbel, Amorsolo and many more could be seen in most of the art museums in the Philippines. Zobel's paintings can be seen in the Ayala museum.


Place Museum Description Address
Manila Bahay Tsinoy A typical Chinese house in the Philippines Kaisa Heritage Center, 32 Anda corner Cabildo Streets, Intramuros, Manila
Casa Manila A typical Spanish colonial house in the Philippines General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila
San Agustín Museum A church museum with wide collections of catholic religious items San Agustín Monastery, General Luna Street Corner Real, Intramuros, Manila
National Museum of the Philippines The national museum which showcases Philippine Arts P. Burgos Avenue, Manila
Malacañang Museum A museum inside the Presidential Palace complex Malacañang Palace Complex, J.P. Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila
Metropolitan Museum of Manila A museum of contemporary arts Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila
Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design A museum of contemporary Filipino arts College of Saint Benilde, 950 P. Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila
The Museum A museum of contemporary Filipino arts De La Salle University, 2401 Taft Avenue, Manila
UST Museum The oldest existing museum in the Philippines. UST Museum has permanent display on natural history specimens, coins, medals, memorabilia, ethnographic materials and oriental arts objects. University of Santo Tomás Main Building, España Boulevard, Sampaloc, Manila
Museo Pambata A museum for children Roxas Boulevard corner South Drive, Ermita, Manila
Pasay CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino and Asian Traditional Musical Instruments A museum of performing arts. Tanghalang Pambansa CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay
GSIS Museo ng Sining A museum of Filipino Arts Macapagal Avenue, Financial Center, Pasay
Makati Ayala Museum A museum of Filipino Arts Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati
Yuchengco Museum A museum of Filipino and Filipino-Chinese Arts RCBC Plaza, Ayala corner Senator Gil Puyal Avenue, Makati
Pasig López Memorial Museum A museum of Filipino Contemporary Arts Benpres Building, Exchange Road corner Meralco Avenue, Pasig
Quezón City Ateneo Art Gallery A museum of Filipino Contemporary Arts Special Collections Building, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezón City
Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center The only museum in the Philippines with wide range of Philippine Arts from 1880 to 1960 Roxas Avenue, University of the Philippines, Dilimán, Quezón City
Taguig Mind Museum A science museum J.Y. Campos Park, 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Cebu Paulina Constancia Museum of Native Art [MoNA] A museum of Native Art, Poetry, & Sustainability 110 Gorordo Ave., Cebu City
Aurora Baler Museum A museum of Native Art and culture Baler, Aurora
Nueva Ecija Provincial Capitol Museum A museum of Novo Esijano's Arts and Culture Palayan City
Fred's Arts Gallery A museum of Novo Esijano's Artist Cabanatuan City
Benguet BenCab Museum A museum of BenCab Arts Baqiuo City

See also


  1. 1 2 "History Of Philippine Painting". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  2. "Philippine Dances Cordillera". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  3. "tribal dances". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  4. "Hot Spots Filipino Cultural Dance - Singkil". Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  5. "Banton Cloth : Age of Contact : Banton Is., Romblon". Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  6. 1 2 Trish Sotto. "Fa 28 weaving history". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  7. 1 2 "De La Salle University : University Library : Philippine Pottery". Archived from the original on 2012-11-20. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  8. 1 2 "Anthropomorphic Pots : Metal Age : Ayub Cave, Saranggani Province". Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  9. "Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Philippines: Art for All". 2012-09-01. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  10. 1 2 3 Skibo, J. (1992). Pottery Function: A use-alteration perspective. New York: Plenum Press.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Solheim, William (2002). The archaeology of central Philippines: A study chiefly of the Iron Age and its relationships. Manila: Bureau of Print.
  12. "Artist uses own blood, hair in paintings". The Philippine Star. Philippine Star. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  13. "Kulay-Diwa Gallery of Philippine Contemporary Art - Gallery of Philippine Contemporary Art". Retrieved 2013-08-01.

External links

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