Singkil: Philippine Muslim dance
a cultural pride
experience the “real thing,” regardless of the cost they had to incur to do it.
The Philippine American Association of Madison and Neighboring Areas (PAMANA),
however, surprised the Madison community on July 19, when their dance troupe performed
Singkil during the 110th Philippine Independence Day celebration at Monona Terrace
Community & Convention Center. It was such an elegant, well-executed dance that attendees
gave the dancers a standing ovation. It was truly a remarkable performance, complete with
Muslim musical instruments, colorful sequined costumes, and bamboo poles (flown in from
Jacqueline Patricio choreographed the dance and performed the “Muslim Princess” part
excellently, with dignified, solemn poses while gracefully executing rhythmic steps in and out
of four pairs of bamboo poles being clapped by strong “Muslim attendants.”
Patricio likes to dance, growing up with sisters who were choreographers themselves, and
having danced in school both in the Philippines and in Boston where she grew up. “I thought
that Singkil would be a great dance for Philippine Independence Day,” she said in an
interview with Asian Wisconzine recently. “I also thought it would be a good chance for me to
perform a Filipino dance. This is ‘my’ dance.” She re-mixed an original Singkil music and
incorporated additional percussions.
Pride in sharing part of the Filipino culture through an ethnic dance was Patricio’s goal in
leading the PAMANA Dance Troupe to perform Singkil, and she succeeded in reaching that
goal. “I felt very proud because I knew that aside from Filipinos in the audience, there were
also Americans and people from other countries, and I’m proud to show them that, ‘Hey, this is
a dance from the Philippines.’ I was also proud because I was with a group of people that
really dedicated their time and effort. Everything was boiling inside me while we were
dancing. But the first thing that hit my head was, ‘This is the closest I would get to the
Philippines, showing the people our culture.”
By Heidi M. Pascual
Singkil is one of the most popular dances of the
Philippines, originating in the province of Lanao del
Norte in the island of Mindanao. Considered the top
Muslim dance because of its elegant costumes and
execution, as well as its extraordinary requirements for
dancers to weave expertly through crisscrossed
bamboo poles, Singkil is always a top choice for
grand finales of Filipino international dance troupes
such as the world-class Bayanihan dancers. Because
of the tedious process involved in learning the dance
thoroughly, along with the difficulty in making
authentic costumes, headdresses and props, Filipino
Americans find it extremely challenging to present this
beautiful dance of Muslim royalty here in the U.S. In
some cases, Fil-Am groups even “import” professional
Filipino dance groups to perform Singkil, in order to
(Above) Jacqueline Patricio exudes
the elegance of a Muslim princess in
Joshua Couey (right photo with Patricio), a Madison youth who is now a sophomore at the Milwaukee
School of Engineering, performed the “Muslim Prince” armed with a sword and a protective shield,
indicative of the role of the male leader in the local community. He has been dancing at PAMANA events
for some years now.
“This is my third year dancing at PAMANA,” Couey said. “And it’s a lot of fun; I truly enjoy dancing with
the group. So when they were looking for a ‘prince,’ I said, ‘Why not me?’” He has danced the Tinikling
previously, a dance that involves a lot of footwork and stepping in and out of clicking bamboo poles as well.
Couey pointed out that being a son of a Filipina, the Filipino culture is part of him. “This is a part of my
culture that I want to learn, so of course, I’m proud to do it,” he said. “And I love doing this whenever I can.
Dancing during our Independence Day brought me a lot of happiness, as well, because I was the one
performing as the ‘prince.’”
PAMANA’s immediate past president Ed Escall was very proud of the Singkil dancers because of their
hard work. “We started rehearsing Singkil last April,” Escall said. He played one of the dance’s attendants.
“We borrowed some costumes and musical instruments such as the kulintang and gongs from the Filipino
American Association of Wisconsin (FAAWIS) in Milwaukee.”
He credited Patricio for her dedication and hard work, and for sharing her talent that made the July 19
event extra special to all. He added that aside from the ‘perfect’ timing for everyone that made the
rehearsals possible, the volunteer dancers and crew really got involved and wanted to make it happen.
The PAMANA Dance Troupe performed Singkil again on August 14, this time at the Wis. Department
of Transportation’s special multicultural event. Apparently, the word has gotten out fast.
Congratulations to PAMANA and to the dance group led by Jacqueline Patricio. We hope to see more
performances in many venues throughout the State of Wisconsin!
Legend has it that SINGKIL originated on the day the diwatas (some form of nymph or fairy) played a
joke on Princess Gandingan as she was taking a walk in the woods. The diwatas caused an eathquake
that made the trees tremble and the rocks to roll and knock against each other. Not daunted, Princess
Gandingan skipped nimbly from place to place and no tree or rock ever touched her tiny feet.
There are many versions of SINGKIL. When performed by ladies of the royalty of Lanao, the dancer is
usually accompanied by a waiting lady, who holds a beautifully decorated umbrella over the Princess’
head wherever she goes. The dance has no definite number of steps or figures. Even the arm movements
are improvised and executed according to the mood and skill of the dancers.-PAMANA Program
“Muslim Maidens” (l-r) Julie Hansen, Becky King, Miriam
Wiley, Jamie King, and Malia Hansen
(Above) Jacqueline Patricio
poses for Asian Wisconzine.