Abra Tinguian Identity in Songs and Chants

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By Benny Balweg

Snapshot Focus

Saturday, April 21, 2012

LIKE other tribal groups, the Tinguians of Abra offer songs and chants that are characteristically their own, or at least partly in common with other tribes in the Cordillera region, especially with those adjacent to them.

Songs are generally rendered by a group; chants are rendered by an individual. The melodies remain constant. It is the lyrics that are changing because they are occasion-specific. Some lyric compositions, however, remain being sung long after the occasion for which they were intended to be sung has passed. Both song and chant lyrics are impromptu unless they are used for performance.

The most common songs for which the Tinguians, both of highland and lowland Abra, is the salidummay, otherwise known also as dangdang-ay. No one knows anymore the meaning of either term although there is a certain medicinal herb in farmlands called dangdang-ay.


Authors of salidummay tunes are unknown, even impossible to trace. We only know that salidummay tunes proliferated during the harvest season when the young men and women came together , bayanihan-style, to harvest the ripened rice crops.

Aside from the salidummay or dangdang-ay, other principal songs or song melodies are the dawi, gaygayu, uwwawi, diwas, insa/immassa/ imma isa iisa, wassani, dandannag, pataytay, and ayaya or ayayya.

Dawi is sung strictly as funeral dirge but now it is allowed also during other occasions. It may have its origin from the sound that the sylvan insect dawdawi gives almost incessantly at sunset. Gaygayu is a song that expresses strongly emotional longing for home or loved ones, especially those that cannot be met anymore. Uwwawi, particularly in the so-called Budabosa area, is sung by a mother to lull her baby to sleep. Diwas or diwdiw-as is a woman’s song with a plaintive or haunting melody.

Insa or dang-ok or imma isa iisa is sung by groups pounding rice to be used in funeral watches. Only women sing it. Wassani is a response song to a speech or chant worthy of appreciation or admiration. Dandannag is sung when a person is dying. Pataytay is a song of acknowledgment in return when one is acknowledged by the chanter rendering the uggayam or even the balbalaguyos. Ayaya is rendered by women known for their ability to do so to express praise or admiration. The spirit dwelling in the sangasang, in Iloko pinading, also loudly sounds the ayaya to warn the community residents of an impending enemy attack or any other major disaster. The sound is more of a ululation without wording.

As to chants, the most common is the uggayam because ti can be used to express one’s thoughts and feelings in solemn as well as in casual occasions. It is a form of address or speech in metrical and rhymed verses, intoned in a regular pattern of melody. There are two kinds according to tone: one fitted for men and the other, for women, although men can also render the second if they choose to. Similar to the uggayam is the balaguyos or balbalaguyos. In it, the voice is well-modulated and supposed to be more melodious. People love it because it is very appropriate for story-telling and lesson-teaching, exchange of ideas like the Tagalog balagtasan, only more melodious. Akin to the balaguyos is the dalleng/dallong. It is a speech in metrical ballad rendered only by men.

A chant commonly used in more serious discussion and debate is the dangu. It is practiced by those of Banao (Kalinga) origin in the Abra-Kalinga border. The ayeng/ayong, on the other hand, of the Abra-Mountain Province border is sung in celebrations that are either joyful or sad. Very near the dangu but much more emotional is the adding, prevalent among inhabitanta of the Abra-Kalinga boundary areas. It serves as medium of discussion or debate or even mere expression of simple thoughts and feelings. The paliwat is reserved for men who participated in war exploits, including headhunting. Lately, however, there is an effort to use it to appreciate peaceful and extraordinarily useful achievements or contribution to society. Kullipan is a spirit song of BAoingan and Wachoyan to protect Tinguians from their enemies. Kalkalimusta is a courting schant while albaab and sangsangit are funeral dirges. Among subtribes, there are less known chants like one chanted while watching fruiting rice plants against rice birds and another to provoke laughter from a baby. But for the meantime, these enumerations should be sufficient to invite interested parties to visit Abra and be convinced that Tinguians are in fact peace-loving and art-loving.


I wish to thank my friend Henry Aliten for reminding me of April 24. It prompted me to write the above article on my contribution to the occasion.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 21, 2012.


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