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Cebu Normal University

Prof. Edilberta C. Goce




Rationale of the Study

            Dance has emerged from movement that is inherent to humans. From birth, one moves in ways that are natural and rhythmical – structured or unstructured. Dances have naturally become a companion to rhythm (Alejandro, 1978) for individuals of all ages engaged in several gatherings and activities. Even during primitive times, there were traces of evidence of the important role of dance in the beliefs and lives of primitive people. Cultural anthropologists attest that primitive man danced to every happening in his life: at birth, marriage, death, planting, hunting and healing, thus, making it the oldest of the arts. Man dances as a form of worship, a communication with unseen powers. Dance is an overt expression of the emotions and ideas of man as a social being ever since the beginning of time. It has become a reminder of mankind’s cultural and social diversity handed down through the ages and through which civilization has flourished to what it is today.

            Among the varied dance forms in the Philippines, indigenous dances are probably the most unique because of the depiction of the varied customs and cultures of  Filipinos as they have been influenced before by a number of colonizers. Despite all these cultural complexities, however, our Filipino forefathers developed and considered the dance pieces their own, as they naturally, reflect their own experiences.

            The Filipino is known to be a graceful dancer who possesses an inborn love for music. He depicts in his dances his spirit – his love for merriment, his religion, his superstitiousness, his fatalism, his love for ceremony, his joy of living and his love for showing off (Enhancing Values through Sayaw Pilipino – A Keynote Address of Salud Datoc). Dancing, being a mode of passion is common to indigenous cultures; it contributes not only to the growth and preservation of a tribe’s identity but also to the identity of a whole nation.

            Evidently, dancing is common not only to the Christians but to the non-Christian tribes as well. Dancing is closely intertwined with rituals and sacrifices among non-Christian groups. These cultural minorities, who live in isolation in the forests and mountains throughout the country, regard dance as basic in their lives and to be performed essentially for their “gods”.

            Generations of young people seem to have forgotten what is really their own. The children of today are more inclined to modern and pop dancing which they frequently see on television. They think that folk dancing is only for the old ones. In fact, they prefer to appreciate and imitate pop dances that have been brought to the country by the foreigners. However, several years ago, the Philippine Folk Dance Society,

            Together with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, took the lead in the revival of interest in Philippine culture. Today, more traditional dances are researched, recorded and presented by national workshops.

            While other forms of Philippine dances have gained much popularity today, there are still indigenous dances of tribal communities or lesser known groups left undiscovered, if not unrecognized, by the proper authorities, such as those of the Higaonons of Agusan del Sur. It is then high time to unearth the abundant culture depicted in the dances of this minority group in Agusan del Sur, so that the minority’s existence and their cultural identity be properly recognized by and revealed to the public.

            Dance is, nevertheless, the most perishable of the arts. It is forever in danger of vanishing (Anderson, 1986). Imperative actions for the preservation of these dances must be taken before it will be too late. Specifically, this study aims to discover and record the music, the steps, the rhythm, and the cultural implications of some Higaonon dances of Agusan del Sur, which may face extinction with the coming of modern civilization.  

            The researcher, through this study, hopes to help in the preservation and promotion of the Filipino cultural heritage.


Theoretical and Conceptual Framework





































Statement of the Problem


            This study aims to ascertain the cultural identity of the Higaonons through their dances. This was conducted in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur during the calendar year 2003.

            Specifically, the study sought to answer the following questions.

1. What are the identifying characteristics of the Higaonon dances in terms of:

1.1       historical background or origin

1.2       costumes and adornment

1.3       accessories, and props

1.4       musical accompaniment

1.5       dance steps and arm/hand movements

1.6       body movements?

2. What cultural implications and beliefs are revealed in their dances?

3. How have these cultural implications and beliefs preserved the Higaonons’ cultural identity?


Significance of the Study


            The  current  study  may add  to the rich  compilation of ethnic  dances  long pioneered by the late Francisca Reyes-Aquino. Through the gathered dances of the Higaonons of Agusan del Sur, the identity of the said tribe will be more understood and appreciated.

            The people who hope to directly or indirectly benefit from this study are the following:

            The Higaonon Community. They will be made to realize how important it is to have a  culture of  their own as  characterized in  their dances which are  worthy  of  promotion and preservation.

            Choreographers and Dance Trainers. This study will surely motivate the choreographers and dance trainers to teach the dances in an authentic manner considering the steps, the costumes, the props, the music, and the body movements.

            Teachers and Researchers. Agusan is the home of indigenous people considering its geographical location. The  results  of this study will arouse the interest of teachers  and   researchers  to  do parallel researches that will help not  only in  the promotion and popularization,  but also in  bridging the  cultural  gap  between the past and the present generations, thus strengthening and enhancing the native culture.

            Government Officials. People belonging to the minority groups are legitimate members of society and must be given attention by the government. Thus, this study hopes to challenge the government officials to initiate programs/activities that will boost the morale of the minorities so that they will come out in the open and be proud of their rich culture.

            Dance Troupes/Performing Groups. Precisely, the dances that will be collected in this study will be utilized and added to the repertoire of ethnic dances of some performing groups not only in the province of Agusan del Sur, but also in inthe neighboring provinces, thus promoting and preserving the culture and traditions of Filipinos as revealed in their dances.


Research Methodology


            The study used the historical method to make a careful investigation of the facts concerning the past of the Higaonons- their typical characteristics as well as their cultural beliefs. Extensive research was done to achieve substantial information to add to the historical and sociological background of the study through the Public information Office of the municipality of Esperanza.


            The descriptive method was also utilized to describe the costumes and adornment, accessories and props, musical accompaniment, dance steps and patterns as well as the characteristic and body movements that are inherent in the dance.

            Moreover, the participant–observer technique was employed to familiarize the researcher with the Higaonon life ways as well as their dances. Interviews and observation techniques were employed in gathering the primarily needed data for discrimination of the historical background/origin, music, rhythm and accompaniment, costumes and dance steps. All of these were applied in the analytical study of the dance.

             Recording of the dance instructions and their analysis was made, using  Francisca Reyes Aquino’s notation system. However, dance terms not found in Aquino’s notation, made use of the Higaonons terms.

Research Environment

            This study was conducted in the three (3) barangays of Esperanza in the province of Agusan del Sur namely: Bunaguit, Salug, and Barangay Guibonon. Information about the Higaonons inhabiting the several barangays of Esperanza was obtained through the help of the Municipal public information Officer. However, due to the insurgency problems, only three (3) of the forty-seven (47) barangays were accessible for research, namely: Bunaguit, Salug, and Guibonon. These barangays were reached by means of public utility jeepneys, motorboats, motorcycles and outboard motor boats.


The Respondents


            Five (5) dances are included in this study. The respondents  were twenty (20) Higaonons residing in Bunaguit, Salug, and barangay Guibunon of Esperanza in the province of Agusan del Sur, whose ages ranged from forty-five to ninety. The respondents were interviewed using an interview schedule and were made to execute the dances  many times, as they were willing to repeat them for the researcher to get the accurate dance steps and body movements.

            An interpreter, who was also one of the respondents, was requested to translate the questions to the vernacular of the respondents for better understanding. Answers were again translated back to the researcher’s language for documentation.



            An interview guide questionnaire was used to gather facts concerning the Higaonon people, their characteristics, cultural beliefs as well as their livelihood practices. Most of the questions were the same questions previously used by other researchers on the same topic.



            Observations and interviews were the two primary methods used to gather important data for this study.

            A letter of request was sent to the municipal mayors and to the captains of the barangays where the research was conducted. This was done to inform them of the purpose of the study and of the researcher’s desire to elicit support from them.

            Additional names of informants who provided valuable data needed in the study were provided by a colleague who happened to be a daughter of a Higaonon princess called bae.

            The natives who were interviewed were old Higaonons aged from 45 – 94 years old.

            To motivate the natives and to be able to elicit whole-hearted support from them, cigarettes, free snacks, meals, free picture-taking and old clothes were given

            To start the actual research, courtesy calls were made on the mayor of Esperanza as well as on the three (3) captains of the three barangays, namely; Bunaguit, Salug, and Guibonbon. This was done to insure safe entry into their respective territories.

            The researcher, together with the research team, then visited and stayed in the target places for days. The number of days the research team stayed depended basically on the distance of each barangay and on the difficulty of the dance steps to be notated.



            Interviews immediately followed the introductions, so that the data were gathered directly from the natives. It was not a paper-and-pencil style of interview; rather, it was a casual conversation to get the true and sincere opinions of each interviewee.


            Below are some of the questions asked during the interview:

1.      What is the name of the dance?

2.      What is the meaning of the dance?

3.      What is the meaning of each body movement in the dance?

4.      What has the dance to do with the cultural beliefs of the tribe/community?


            After the interview, the researcher asked the interviewees to execute the dances as many times as they were willing to repeat them while the selected dance troupe members imitated them and the researcher observed the dancers closely, concentrating on the characteristic body movements.

Video and still cameras were utilized to record the dances and to make sure that all movements and steps including the dancers’ facial expressions, were included in the study.

            The musical accompaniment of the dance and the answers of the interviewees were documented through a tape recorder.

            Dance notation was based on Francisca Reyes Aquino’s notations and symbols. However, for terms, words, and movements not found in Aquino’s notations, Higaonon terms were used.





            Presented here are some of the beliefs and practices of the Higaonons of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur as reflected in the five newly researched dances, namely; the Dinugso, Binanog, Inamo, Binaylan and Saot. These dances were analyzed, interpreted and documented based on their fundamental characteristics such as their historical background or origin, costumes and adornment, accessories and props, musical accompaniment, dance steps and patterns,  and body movements. The notations of the above-mentioned dances are also presented in this chapter.





Historical background and Description of the Dance

            Dinugso is a dance originally performed during the Kaligaon, which is a component of the Dumalongdong Festival held only when somebody among the Higaonons is sick. This ritual dance is at present performed usually during the Kaamulan, a yearly festival of the Higaonons of Esperanza and Dumalondong, the highest festivals of the tribe where all Higaonons all over Mindanao convene in a place for a conference.


It is performed by a group of girls without any musical accompaniment; instead its sound is produced by the movements of the feet in front of a small fire or “tim-un” in the open air surrounded by the tribal people. The fire implies the driving away of negative vibrations and powers the tribal people believed to have possessed a sick man in the tribe.








Costume and Adornment

            A Dinugso dancer wears a blouse and skirt. A first hip-level bell-sleeved blouse with a one-button opening at hip-level bell-sleeved blouse with a one-button opening at the back accented by joined triangles designed like diamond cuttings placed commonly and horizontally along the lower part of a sleeve, along the neckline, and along the abdomenal line. It is designed to fit an ankle-length skirt which is adorned like the blouse. Young Dinugso dancers appear in a dominantly white costume, while the older ones use dominantly blue costumes.


Accessories and Props

            Dinugso is a ritual dance, thus it makes use of a small fire or “tim-un”, which means “daob” among Cebuanos. The “tim-un” is used as a prop. Dinugso dancers move around the “tim-un” while dancing. The dinugso accessories are the  lumbong”, or a headdress made of carefully chosen beads to match the color of the dress. The beads are put together in strands and in intricate designs and color combinations with a bell or “Kulong-kulong” at the end of every strand. The “salay”, or a necklace of the same beads and color combinations as those of the “lumbong”, though perhaps in different designs or styles. It is thinner than the “salay” for the male Higaonon. The “balading”, or a big white pair of circular earrings made originally of “Tipay” or shell, or a pair of earrings made of the same the “lumbong” and “salay” beads. The “baklaw”,or a bracelet intricately designed using similar beads as those of other Higaonons accessories and with a “kulong-kulong”. A “baklaw” for a  female Higaonon is narrower than the “baklaw” for a male. Lastly, the “singgil”, or an anklet for a female Higaonon dancer. It is made of similar beads and “kulong-kulong” as used in the other accessories.


Musical Accompaniment

            Dinugso, as observed in the performance had utilized no musical instruments for the dance accompaniment, instead it made used of the sounds produced by the stamping of the dancers’ feet as dancers performed the said dance.

Cultural Implications and Beliefs Revealed in the Dance

            The researcher had interviewed tribal authorities about the cultural implications revealed in the dance and had closely observed the performances of the dancers to prove the claims of the tribal authorities.


            The joining of hands in reverse “T” position of the Dinugso dancers symbolically meant the tribe’s closeness to each other. The circle formation was commonly observed of all the figures, and the bending of the knees was rarely observed in the dance because the circle for the tribe people signifies their strong solidarity, which is very noticeable in the research environment. The bending of the knees on the other hand means the tribe’s reverence to God.

            Below are the dance notations of the Dinugso dance. The researcher used Francisca Aquino’s method of notating movements to facilitate easy interpretation.


The Dinugso


Music: 2/4

Count Pattern: 1, 2 or 1 & 2 & to a measure

Costume: Traditional Higaonon Costume



Formation: All the dancers join hands. Four or more dancers  may perform the dance.


Basic Dance Steps:

Step # 1 (Brush, tap, step)

Brush R (L) foot backward (ct. 1), tap same foot close to L (R) foot (ct. &), step R (L) foot in place (ct. 2) .

Repeat with the L (R) foot, (cts. 1 & 2) step R (L) in place (ct. &) ------------------------- 2M


Step # 2 (Side steps)

Seven steps sideward starting with L (R) foot, (cts. 1, &, 2, &, 1, &, 2) ------------------- 2M


Step # 3 ( step, close, step)

Step R(L) foot forward ct. 1, close L (R) foot ct. &  step R (L)in place ct. 2 -------------- 1M


Step # 4 (step , hop)

Step R (L) foot backward ct 1, hop on same foot  raise the other foot in front ct. 2 ---- 1M


Step # 5 (Brush, brush, tap-step)

Brush R (L) foot backward across L (R) in front  (ct. 1),

Repeat same close to L (R) foot (ct. 2) 

Tap-step with  same foot close to L (R) foot  ct. ah &)-------------------------------------- 1M


Step # 6 (Cross – step, step)

Step R (L) foot across L (R) foot in front (ct. 1) step L (R) foot sideward (ct. 2)-------- 1M


Step # 7 (Leap, Raise)

Leap unto L (R) foot & raise R (L) in front  clap hands thrice (cts. 1,&,2) ----------------1M


Step # 8 (step, step, stamp)

Step R (L) foot across L (R) in rear (ct 1), step  L (R) foot sideward (ct. 2).

Stamp R (L) foot twice (cts. &,1). Stamp L (R) foot in place twice (cts. &, 2).-----------2M


Starting Position:

            A “tim-un” or a bonfire is held by one of the dancers & place it at the center stage. The rest of the dancers will stand beside each other holding each others hands in reverse “T” position.


Figure I.

Starting with R foot, take step # 1 moving left  -------------———---------------------------2M

Execute step # 2 starting with the L (R)  foot ---------------------------------------------------2M

Repeat (a & b) thrice finish in line formation -------------------——--------------------------12M


Figure II

Take two step # 3 starting with R foot moving the body to the R (1M) to the L (1M). -2M

            b. Starting with R foot, execute step # 2 --------- 2M

            c. Repeat (a & b) with the L foot ----------------- 4M

            d. Repeat all ------------------------------------- 8M


Figure III

Dancers join hands in reverse “ T “ position.

Execute two step # 5 starting with the R foot ———————————------------------2M

            b. Take one step # 6 with the R foot ------------- 1M

            c. Repeat (b) but across L in rear --------------- 1M

            d. Repeat a-c, starting with L foot.-------------- 4M

            e. Repeat all, finish in a circle formation.------ 8M


Figure IV

Starting with R foot, take two step # 3, forward 1M) & backward (1M).

Arms in reverse “T” on the first measure and arms down on the second measure----2M

Take two step # 4 once backward (1M), once forward, moving clockwise (1M) -------2M

Release hold. Repeat all a & b with a --------- ——4M

            d. Repeat a – c ---------------------------------- 8M



Figure V

            a. Repeat (a & b) of figure 1 twice--------------- 8M

                 Release hold on the last ct.

            b. Execute two step # 7 -------------------------- 2M   

            c. Execute two step # 2 -------------------------- 2M

d. Repeat b & c - -------------------------------- 4M                  


Figure VI

---------------Repeat figure III---------------



Figure VII

Execute step # 8 four times moving counterclockwise, dancers join hands --8M

            b. Repeat (a) once to exit----------------------- 8M





Historical Background and Description of the Dance

      Binanog is a dance imitating the movements of a “banog” or hawk. It is performed by a male or female dancer usually for entertainment. Binanog may be performed by one or more performers.












Costumes and Adornment

            The dance makes use of the same female costumes as that of Dinugso. Male dancers make use of a tailored marine-collared polo-shirt made of plain black, white, or red cloth, depending on ones tribal status or position, and is accented by any of the colors, blue, red and white, with a similar design as that of the female dancer’s dress worn commonly and horizontally along the  lower part of sleeve, vertically in front and at the back, and sometimes alongside the collar. A pair of tailored pants of the same color or any other colors, accented by the other Higaonon colors placed along the two outer sides of the pants, and horizontally along the bottom and knee lines completes the Binanog costume.

Accessories and Props

            The Binanog does not make use of any accessories and props aside from those which are already found on the costumes the dancers are using.     


Musical Accompaniment

            Different from the first Higaonon’s dance mentioned, Binanog uses the tribal native musical instruments like the “agong”, cut bamboos, pieces of wood or any available materials which when struck will produce sounds.      


Dance Steps / Body Movements

            Chasing step using four different arm and hand movements is predominantly noticeable in the Higaonon’s Binanog. The movements of “banog’s” or hawk’s wings are similarly depicted in the dancers’ hands clapping at shoulder level, hands flipping while arms are extended in one direction, arms extending sideward at waist level and arms extended to the second position.


Cultural Implications and Beliefs Revealed in the Dance

            Just as the hawk’s flying movements entertain a viewer, the Higaonon’s binanog dance is for entertainment. The most important idea worthy of attention in the dance, however, is the tribe’s show of respect to the environment, which includes animals which the tribesmen believe to be  protectors of Nature’s gifts.


            The Binanog dance notations are likewise adapted from Francisca R. Aquino’s method follows.


The Binanog

Music: 2 / 4

Count Pattern: 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 to 2 measures

Costume: Traditional Higaonon Costume

Formation: One to any number of dances may perform this    dance. Dancers stand in single file.


Basic Movements:

Step Pattern:

Step    # 1 Chasing Step (Note: This step is used throughout the dance.)---------------2M

Arm/Hand Movements:

Arm Movement # 1 (Hands Clapping at Shoulder Level)

Place R hand over L hand at shoulder level on the left. Clap hands two times on (cts. 1, 2) -------------------- 2M


Arm Movements # 2 (Hands Flipping, Arms Extended in One Direction)

Extend both arms obliquely sideward upward, palms down. Move wrist up (ct. 1)

Move wrist down (ct. &) Repeat  three more times (cts 2, &, 1, &, 2, &) ---------------- 2M

(Move both arms halfway clockwise when doing this movement.)       


Arm Movement # 3 (Hands Flipping, Forearms extended sideward at waist level) 

Extend forearms sideward at waist level. Move wrist up (ct. 1)Move wrist down (ct. &) Repeat three more times (cts. 2, &, 1, &, 2, &,) ------------------------ 2M


Arm Movement # 4 (Hands Flipping Arms Extended Sideward to second position palms facing  down)

Extend arms to second position, palms facing down.

Move wrist up (ct. 1) Move wrist down (ct. &)

Repeat  3 more times (cts. 2, &, 1, &, 2, &)-------------------- 2M


Figure I

a) Take one chasing step starting with R foot.  Arm movement # 1 ------------- 2M

    Repeat (a) Reverse position of the arms  and feet ------------------------------- 2M

            c) Repeat a & b three more times ----------------- 12M


Figure II

a) Execute one chasing step starting with R foot. Extend both arms sideward               upward right & do arm movement # 2 -------------------------------————---- 2M

b) Repeat (a) with L foot & reverse arm  movements ------------------------------- 2M

            c) Repeat  (a & b) -------------------------------- 4M

            d) Repeat all ------------------------------------— 8M

Starting with R foot, take one chasing step moving R.

Execute arm movement # 3 (2M) ----------- 2M


Repeat (a) with the L foot moving left (2M).

            Arm movement # 4 (2M) ---------------------------------- 2M

Repeat (b) reverse movement of the feet---------- 2M

Repeat (a) twice alternately left and right ----- 4M

Repeat (a, b & c) ------------------------------- 6M


Figure IV

            Repeat Figure II --------------------------------- 16M


Figure V

            Repeat Figure I to exit -------------------------- 16M





Historical Background and Description of the Dance

The Inamo is another imitative dance depicting the movements of a monkey. It can be performed in any social gathering, especially the “Kaamulan”, which is held regularly by the natives. This is an entertainment dance which the Higaonons of Esperanza perform during their festivities. One to any number of dancers may participate in this dance.


Costumes and Adornment

            The HigaononsInamo dance utilizes the same female costume and adornment introduced in the Dinugso, as well as  the male costume and adornment introduced in the Binanog.


Accessories and Props

            Like the Binanog, the Inamo takes no other accessories and props than the ones already presented and adorned in the costumes.


Musical Accompaniment

            Like any of the dances mentioned, the Inamo brings into play the musical instruments made of brass like the “agong” though its high cost makes the tribesmen use any other indigenous materials that can produce sounds.


Dance Steps and Body Movements

            The dance mimics the movements of the monkey which amuse anybody. The step, close, step, the jump with knees bended, and the walking steps are observable in the dancers’ footwork, while the hands and arm movements include respectively of the hands on hips, arms in the second position, and one hand above the eyebrow as if the dancer is looking for something.


Cultural Implications and Beliefs Revealed in the Dance

            As with the Binanog, the Higaonon’s mimicry of a monkey’s movements in the form of a dance is also the tribe’s show of respect for the environment and for animals. The dance likewise reflects the tribe’s love for merriment and their happy disposition despite the complexities of life. Below are the dance notations of the Inamo.

The Inamo

Music: 2/4

Count Pattern: 1, &, 2, &, 1, &, 2 to two measure

Costume: Traditional Higaonon Costume

Formation: Any formation maybe used in this dance.


Basic Movements:

Arm/Hand Movements:

Hands on hip

One hand on top of the eyebrow as if looking for something, the other hand on


Forefinger of one hand is pointing to the beehive the other hand on hip.

Arms in 2nd position, palms facing down.

Foot Work: (Trunk is bent from the waist forward and knees are bent halfway.)

Step # 1 (Step, close, step).

 Step R foot forward (ct. 1) close L to R foot  (ct. &), Step R foot forward (ct. 2) --------2M

Step # 2

Jump  with  knees   fully bent.  Wiggle  the  butt  R &  left once in every count, cts. ( 1 & 2 & ) ------------------------2M


Step # 3

Walking step, step, step, etc. -------------------------- 2M


Figure I

Monkey # 1

Starting with R foot, execute step # 1 forward,

hands on hip ------------------------------------------ 4M

            b) Quarter turn R, Repeat a ---------------------- 4M

            c) Quarter turn R, repeat a  --------------------- 4M

            d) Quarter --------------------------------------- 4M


Figure II

            a) Take 2 step # 1 forward alternately R & L, hands on hip ----------------------- 4M

Repeat movement of the feet still moving forward, hand movement # 2 ------- 4M

               (Move head on the last measure as if saying “no”)

            c) Repeat (a & b) moving in any direction --------- 8M

                 (Move head on last measure as if saying “no”)


Figure III

Monkey 2 & 3 appear

Repeat figure I in any direction --------------- 16M


Figure IV

Monkey 1

            a) Repeat (b) of figure 2 ------------------------- 4M

Execute step # 1 turning around the beehive.


Hand movement # 3 ------------------------------------- 8M

Take 1 step # 3 moving backward. Forefinger of one hand is pointing the beehive, the other is waiving calling the second monkey  -----------------—————————-- 2M

            d) Repeat (c) calling the 3rd monkey -------------———- ———————- 2M


Monkey 2

            a) Repeat (a) of figure 2 in any direction--------——————————— 4M

b)Repeat (b) of figure 2 twice in any direction ------------------------------ —-8M

Execute 8 walking steps going closer to monkey # 1 ------------------------- 4M

Monkey 3

            a) Execute (a & b) of monkey 2---------------------12M

            b) Pause------------------------------------------- 1M

Execute six walking steps going closer to  monkey # 1& 2------------------3M


Figure V

            a) Starting with R foot take 2 step # 1 going closer to the beehive hand/arm             movement # 3 ---------------—————————---- 4M

            b) Repeat a moving around the beehive ------------- 4M

Execute step # 2 four times to exit----------———--- 8M




Historical Background and Description of the Dance

            The Binaylan is a ritual dance performed by a “baylan” or a priest usually during Kaamulan. The presence of the Baylan, who the tribesmen believe, has the ability to ask for guidance from their gods and goddesses and has the ability to drive away evil spirits. The baylan is called anytime when somebody from a tribe is sick, and during planting and harvesting time. The dancer, who is either a male or a female, holds a handkerchief in both hands.











Costume and Adornment

            The Binaylan dance makes use of the same costume and adornment already introduced in the first three Higaonon dances, as the costume and adornment are considered tribal.

Accessories and Props

            Dancers of the Binaylan hold white or red handkerchiefs as props and use the accessories common to other Higaonon dances. The handkerchiefs are held in both hands, which according to the Higaonon, helps the “Baylan” in his/her asking of guidance from the gods and goddesses and driving away evil spirits from a sick person, or driving away the evil plaguing the tribe.


Musical Accompaniment

            The musical accompaniment of the Binaylan is the same as those of the other Higaonon dances previously mentioned, of which brass and other indigenous materials are included.


Dance Steps and Body Movements

            The Binaylan steps include the step, step, step; the step, step, hop, hop and the heels-raised, heels-down with the respective hand and arm movements of the reverse “T” position, hands on hips, and the  “T” position.


Cultural Implications and Beliefs Revealed in the Dance


            The hand and arm movements of the Binaylan dancer are commonly associated with the tribe’s expression of thanks-giving and praises, and of their seeking refuge in supernatural beings.


            The Binaylan dance notations are documented as follows.


Music: 2/4

Count Pattern: 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 to 2 measures

Costume: Traditional Higaonon Costume

Formation: Only one dancer may perform this dance.


Basic Steps:

Step # 1 (semi-parallel tortilier)    

With feet flat on the floor, move both heels sideward (ct 1).

Repeat three more times (cts 2, 1, 2) ------------------------------- 2M


Step # 2 ( step-step-step )  

With foot in fourth position, take three successive small steps moving right ( cts 1, &, 2 ) -------------- 1M

Step # 3 ( step-step-hop-hop )

With right foot, take two steps in place (cts 1, &). Hop twice on left foot (cts 2, &) ----- 1M

Step # 4 ( heels raise-heels down )

Feet in fourth position with half knee bend, raise  heels (ct 1), bring heels down (ct&). Repeat once (cts 2, &) ------------------------------------————————————--------- 1M


Arm movement # 2 – Both arms placed in one direction. Move shoulders up and down on every count of every measure.


Arm movement # 3 – Arms in reverse “T” position. Move shoulders up and down on every count of every measure.


Arm movement # 4 – Hands on hip. Move shoulders up and down on every count of every measure.

Start: Gong rolling enough for the dancer to position at one corner.


Figure I


a) Take eight step # 2 moving forward to finish at center. Arms in reverse “T” position. Move shoulders up and down on every ct. in every  measure ----------——-- 8M

            b) Repeat (a) turning around clockwise, finish facing audience ---------——-- 8M

Figure II


With right foot, take eight step # 2 in place.

Arms in “T” and reverse “T” position. Reverse position  of arms gradually on every two measures ---------------————————————————————————–—-— 8M

Take eight step # 4. Repeat movement of arms in (a) bringing trunk slowly downward-upward in every two measures----—————————————————————-- 8M

Figure III


Take eight step # 3. Arms on hip, shoulders moving up and down ------——---------- 8M

            b. Take four step # 2. Arms # 2 towards left ----—- 4M

            c. Repeat (b) reverse arm movement ---------------- 4M


Figure IV

Take four step # 2 moving in any direction. 

Arms in “T” and reverse “T” -----------------------———————————————---- 4M

            b. Repeat (a) in place --------------------——————————————------- 4M

Execute step # 1 twice in place. Arms in (a)————————————----- 4M

            d. Repeat (c)-------------------------------———————————————----- 4M



 Execute step # 2 moving forward to exit. Arms on hip ————————————-- 8M




Historical Background and Description of the Dance

            The word literally means war. Saot is a war dance depicting the movements of a Bagani fighting the tribe’s enemy using shield and spear. The dance speaks of how the Higaonon warriors have fought their enemies and defended their land against those who wanted to invade it. The HigaononsBagani is a male, thus Saot is also composed of male dancers.


Costume and Adornment

            Saot dancers wear the Higaonon warrior’s costume which is a pair of sleeveless top and below-the-knee trousers,  both designed and embellished similarly with unbroken diamond figures or triangles like that of the Higaonon tribal costume as shown in the picture. The Saot costume is dominantly red, as it expresses the gallantry or courage of the tribe.


Accessories and Props

            A shield, a spear and a bolo are the props of the Saot dancer, while the accessories also include the common ones presented and attached as intricacies to the tribal costume of the Higaonon. Originally the shield is made of a hard wood about a meter in length and about one and one half feet in width with a protruding “bulan-bulan” or moon-like design in the center. The inner side is hallowed for handling purposes while the spear and bolo are made of hardwood handles with metal tips.


Musical Accompaniment

            The Saot takes the same musical accompaniment already mentioned and presented in the previously described Higaonon dances.


Dance Steps and Body Movements

            The Bagani’s steps can be described as warrior-like since they include the attack and defense-like movements like the step, step, hop; the step, close, step; the step, hop; the leap, step, step, pause and the running steps while both arms are occupied with a spear on the left and the shield on the right in attack and in defense positions and movements, while the bolo is kept on the right side of the waist.


Cultural Implications and Beliefs Revealed in the Dance

            Besides honoring the good deeds of the Bagani, Higaonons also believe that a Bagani’s spirit can reincarnate among the Higaonon’s younger generation, and reminiscing over a Bagani’s heroic acts through the Saot will develop young minds to live with the Bagani’s spirit.


            Moreover, the Saot dance also reflects the fierceness of the Baganis in defending their tribe against invaders and enemies which the older generation would like the younger generation to emulate.

             Details of the Saot notations are enumerated below.     


Music: 2/4

Count Pattern: 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 to 2 measures

Costume: Male Traditional Higaonon Costume


Basic Steps:

Step # 1 ( step – step – hop)

 Starting with R foot, take 2 steps backward (cts. 1, 2) hop (ct. &) ------------ 1M


Step # 2 ( step – close – step)

Step R foot backward (ct 1), close L (ct. &) Step R foot backward (ct. 2) --- 1M


Step # 3 (step – hop – step – hop )

Step R foot forward (ct. 1) hop on same foot  (ct. &) Repeat with the L (ct. 2, &) - 1M


Step # 4 (leap – step – step – pause)

Leap on R foot (ct. 1) take 3 steps in place starting with L foot (cts. & 2 &) ---------1M

Step # 5 (Running steps)

Starting with R foot, take four running steps in any direction (cts 1 & 2 &) --------- 1M


Step # 6 (step – hop – hop – step)

Step R foot (ct. 1), hop twice on same foot  (cts. & 2), Step L Foot (ct. 2) --------- 1M



Take four step # 5 to meet at center ------------------- 4M


Figure I


 Partners facing each other squarely.

            a) Execute Step # 3 in place ---------------------- 4M

            b) Repeat a moving around clockwise---------------- 4M

            c) Repeat a turning around in place---------------- 2M

            d) Repeat a moving around counterclockwise--------- 4M

            e) Repeat  (c)--------------------------------------2M


Figure II


Partners face each other

a) Boy 1 take 2 step # 1 forward (2M).

Boy 2, backward ---------------------------------------- 2M

Boy 1, repeat  (a) following boy 2. Boy 2 execute two step # 4 moving away from boy 1 ------------ 2M

c) Boy 1 & 2 execute step # 4 twice in place ------ 2M

d) Repeat (a) of Figure 1 ------------------------- 2M

e) Repeat all (a-d).This time boy 1& 2 exchange movements--------------- 8M

Figure III

Partners face each other

Boy 1 take step # 2 twice forward as  if attacking boy 2. While boy 2 moves backward trying to escape from boy 1---------------------———————————-------- 2M

Both execute four step # 3 moving away  from each other ----------—————--- 4M

Boy 2 execute step # 6 twice moving toward boy 1,while boy 1 take two step # 3 backward ———————————————————————————---------- 2M

d) Repeat all (a-c). Both exchange movements ------ 8M




Figure IV


Partners face each other

Starting with L foot, take four step # 4 turning and moving away from each other-4M

Boy 1 take sixteen running steps forward trying to hit boy 2 with his spear on the last measure, while boy  2  executes  four steps # 1 trying to move away from boy 1—- 4M

            c) Repeat (a) ------------------------------------- 4M

d) Repeat a moving clockwise ---------------------- 2M

Boy 1 take 8 running steps forward & trying to hit boy 2 again with his spear.

While boy 2 is in place taking position thus hitting  boy 1 with his spear on last measure-- 2M



      Five ethnic dances of the Higaonons of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur were researched and documented for the preservation and identification of the tribe’s culture. The five dances are the Dinugso, Binanog, Inamo, Binaylan, and Saot. These dances were identified in terms of the following:

Characteristics of the Higaonon Dances


Nature/Historical Background/Origin

                        The study reveals the five dances of the Higaonons of Esperanza in the province of Agusan del Sur. According to the natives, these dances have been a part of their existence, which means that they had long existed even before the natives were born; thus, making these dances known all over the region specifically in the areas of the study, namely; Barangay Salug, Barangay Bunaguit, and Barangay Guibonon.  These dances were classified into three: Ritualistic, Imitative and Warlike in nature.


Costume and Adornment

            The researcher observed and discovered that the Higaonons of Esperanza used four shades of colors in their costumes in relation to the meanings associated with the colors. These were Red for Bravery; Blue and Black for Loyalty; and White for Purity. These colors were then combined in their traditional costume. However, the way the colors were arranged depended basically on the tribal status of a tribal leader or “datu” wearing it. A solid red or plain red costume was worn by a supreme datu. Mayor Deo S. Manpatilan of Esperanza, who was one of the respondents of this study is considered a supreme datu by the Higaonons all over Mindanao at present, as he happens to be the greatgrandson of the late Lavi Manpatilan, who was a supreme datu and a great warrior during his time. Dominant blue or black was worn by a datu who had served the tribal community for a long time. Dominant white on the other hand was worn by a datu who had served the tribal community for quite some time.

            The observed common costumes of the newly studied Higaonon dance performers were worn and utilized during the demonstrations as enumerated and described below. These costumes and adornments were traditional among the Higaonons of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.                                    

The Male Costumes

a. The Shirt. It is a tailored marine-collared polo shirt made of  plain black, white, or red cloth, depending on  one’s tribal status or position. It is accented by  any 2 of 3 colors in joint triangle design or diamond shaped cuts placed horizontally along the lower part of the sleeve, vertically in the front and at the back, and sometimes alongside the collar.


b. The Pants. Tailored pants of the same color as that of the shirt, or any other color, accented by other Higaonon colors placed along the 2 outer sides of the pants and horizontally along the bottom and knee lines.


Female Costumes 


a. The Blouse. A hip-length bell-sleeved blouse made of any 1 of the 3 Higaonon colors with a one-button opening at the back, accented by the same design or cutting horizontally along the neckline, along the lower part of the sleeve and along the abdominal line.

b. The Skirt. An ankle-length and shirred skirt commonly of the same color as the blouse, or any of the 3 plain colors  accented by the same cutting, horizontally along the knee and the lower leg to the ankles.   


Accessories and Props

                        All the five dances use Higaonon accessories made of beads, the design or style of which depends on the creativity of the one who made it. On the other hand, three among the five dances use props. The Dinugso dance uses “tim-un” or a small fire placed at the center of the dancers. The Binaylan dancer uses two handkerchiefs held by both hands, while the “Saot” uses two props; a spear and a shield.


                        Though the five newly researched dances utilize the same accessories with those of other tribal communities, the color of the beads used in the Higaonons’ accessories harmonize with the color of the dancer’s costume. The dimensions of other accessories can vary according to the gender of the dancer as they are described below.        

Female Accessories         

a.      The Lumbong. It is a headdress made of carefully chosen beads to match the color of the dress, put together in strands and in intricate designs and color combination with a bell or “Kulong-kulong” at the end of every strand.

b.      The Salay. This is a necklace from the same beads and color combination of the lumbong, though perhaps in different designs or styles. It is thinner than the Salay for the male Higaonon.

c.      The Balading.      This is a big and white circular pair of earrings made originally of “Tipay” or shell, or a dangling earrings made of the same lumbong and salay beads.

d.      The Baklaw. It is a bracelet intricately designed using similar beads asthe other Higaonons accessories and with a “kulong-kulong”. A Baklaw for the female Higaonon is narrower than that  for a male Higaonon.

e.      The Singgil. It is an anklet for a female Higaonon made of similar beads and “kulong-kulong” as used in the accessories of the other dances.


Male Accessories

a.      The Tangkulo.      This is a Higaonon male headdress originally made from horse hair. Scarcity of horse hair has prompted the use of a neckerchief adorned with beads and several “kulong-kulongs”.

b.      The Salay. The Salay is a necklace wider than the salay for Higaonon woman but is made of similar beads, designs and “kulong-kulong”.

c.      The Baklaw. This is a bracelet made from similar beads and “kulong-kulongs”. The Baklaw for a male Higaonon is wider than that for a female Higaonon.

d.      The Tikos. A Tikos is an anklet made of beads and “Kulong-kulong” for male Higaonon, placed just below the knee to prevent cramps.     


Musical Accompaniment

            The study reveals that only one dance did not use any musical accompaniment, but instead used the sounds coming from the motion of the feet of dancers. The rest of the researched dances, namely, the Binanog, Inamo, Binaylan and Saot originally used an “agong”, a musical instrument made of brass which produced sounds when struck. The high cost of an “agongpromted the use of indigenous materials such as can, bamboo, wood and the like.


Dance Steps and Patterns

            The study reveals that while the five newly researched dances had almost the same step patterns, variations in the arm and hand movements of every dance were noticeable.  The observations of the dance steps and of the arm and hand movements were as follows:

            The Dinugso had the step variations of brush, tap, step, place and leap-raise, step, cross-front, cross-rear, while dancers join hands in a reverse “T” position.


            The Binanog utilized the chasing steps in four different arm and hand movements-hands clapping at shoulder level, hands flipping while arms were extended in one direction, arms extended sideward at waist level and arms extended to the second position.

            The Inamo made use of three variations of steps in three respective arm and hand movements. These were step, close, step while hands were on hips; jump with fully bended knees while arms were in second position, and walking steps while one hand is over the eyebrow, as if the dancer was looking for something.

            The Binaylan employed three steps in three arm and hand movements, which were: the step, step, step while arms were in “T” and reverse “T” positions;  step, step, hop, hop with hands on hips, and heels-raise, heels-down while arms were in reverse “T” position.

            The Saot took five step variations in one arm and hand movement. The steps were: step, step, hop; step, close, step; step, hop; leap, step, step, pause and running steps while one hand was holding the shield positioned in front of the body, and the other hand holding the spear.

            In this study the dance steps and patterns of each dance were arranged into figures with specific counting patterns to facilitate easy learning of the dance. The researcher used Fracisca Aquino’s way of arranging dances.

Cultural Implications and Beliefs Reflected in the Dance

            Like the observed and documented tribal dances, bodily movements had particular connotations. The circle formation and the joining of hands showed group solidarity and unity, which was common in the tribe. The arms in reverse “T” position exhibited the tribe’s gestures of thanksgiving and praises for good harvest, good health, goodwill or the like, which the tribesmen believed to be coming from their “anitos” or their powerful gods and goddesses. The bending of the dancers’ knees signified the tribe’s reverence or adoration to their gods and goddesses to grant them abundance of harvest, and good health. The three mentioned movements were predominant in the Dinugso and the Binaylan.                               Meanwhile, the imitations of animal movements, which were observed in two of the five Higaonon dances- the Binanog and the Inamo, stood for the tribesmen’s befriending gestures and respect for animals around them and their love of Nature. The Inamo and the Binanog are two imitative dances that depict, respectively, the movements of the monkey and the hawk. Moreover, the Higaonons believe that imitating the movements drive away the prey if not befriend the creatures whom they believe are protectors to give them access to enjoy the gift of life that Nature offers. The imitations of the “Bagani’s” movements in the Saot dance, on the other hand, means the honor and respect of the tribe to their tribe defenders, particularly to those who have died. Higaonons believe that the Bagani’s spirit can reincarnate among the Higaonon’s younger generation and that by reminiscing over the Bagani’s heroic acts through the Saot will develop young minds to live with the Bagani’s spirit.

The Higaonons’ Ways of Preserving their Cultural Identity

            The Higaonon Tribal Community of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, through the leadership of Mayor Leonida P.  Manpatilan hold activities for the tribe to be recognized. These activities are held not only to venerate the events of the past, but also to inculcate in the  minds of the youth the culture of the tribe, which then leads to its preservation.         

            The researcher asked the tribal authorities of the tribe’s means of culture preservation of the tribal dances and secured the list and the description of different yearly celebrations held to which the five newly researched dances are regularly performed:

                  The Kaamulan Festival is celebrated every September twenty seven to highlight the “Araw ng Esperanza.” It is a thanksgiving festival of the Higaonon tribe for the bounties received during the year and is expressed through tribal or ethnic dances, chanting, wedding ceremonies, food festivals and others.

                  The Town Fiesta or community thanksgiving of the people of Esperanza is yearly observed in honor of the town’s patron Saint, Ignatius of Loyola. A fluvial parade at the Agusan River, a concelebrated mass,  street dancing, and a food festival, among others, complete the town fiesta celebration.

                  The Dumalongdong is a week-long ritual performed at no definite time. It is done only when there is a sick person or a problem plaguing the tribe, to ask guidance and enlightenment from Dumalongdong, the tribe’s God of Wisdom. Dumalongdong as a celebration is the highest form of ritual of the Higaonon tribe. It is celebrated with dance festivities and merry-making to culminate the ritual.


            Based on the findings, the following conclusions are manifested:

                  The dances shared common costumes and accessories that were traditional of the Higaonons of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. A plain red costume was worn by a datu noted for his bravery and loyalty to the tribe. The Higaonons use an “agong” to accompany their dances. However, the high cost of the said instrument prompted them to use indigenous materials like bamboos, cans, wood, and the like. The dances revealed some beliefs and practices of the Higaonon tribe. The arms in the reverse “T” position of the dancers in the Dinugso and Binanog dances exhibit the tribe’s gestures of thanksgiving and praises for good harvest,  good health, and goodwill. Unity and solidarity among the Higaonons are shown in the dancer’s position of the arms especially in the Dinugso and Binanog dances. The Higaonons have their own ways of preserving their dances that express their culture and traditions as manifested in their yearly celebrations.



1.      The study is not enough to contain all the intricacies of the Higaonon culture. A more comprehensive study focusing on Higaonon culture and laws should be conducted so that the rich culture of this tribe can be documented and disseminated.

2.      Local officials should spearhead programs inviting graduates belonging to a certain tribe to enroll in postgraduate studies and encourage them to conduct researches regarding their very own tribe so as to recognize the existing ethnic tribes in the region, particularly in the Province of Agusan del Sur.

3.      Ethnic dances should be included in the teaching of folk dances especially in schools where these ethnic dances are discovered.

4.      Teachers teaching ethnic dances should have enough background of the dance they are to teach, concentrating not only on the origin, costume, accessories, props, and the characteristic body movements, but also on the cultural beliefs and practices reflected in the dance to facilitate correctness in interpretation and execution.

5.      The government should recognize minority groups and give them due importance by initiating and encouraging programs that will attract many if not all members of the tribe to come out in the open and be proud of their culture.

6.      To achieve maximum dissemination of Higaonon culture as characterized in the five newly researched dances, these dances should be treated equally with other dances, by including them in the repertoire of dances taught in schools, not only in places where these dances are discovered, but also in other schools in the area.





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The Researcher with several Datus during the Kaamulan   Festival