FFE Magazine

Musical Instruments of the Philippines


  Filipinos are not new to music. We are a nation known for its singers and beautiful compositions that reflect our heritage. But did you know that the Philippines also has a treasure trove of music instruments that shows our complex appreciation of music?   Here are some of the most popular Philippine instruments that are deeply rooted in the indigenous tradition:   Percussion instruments These types of instruments are those that produce sound when hit using the sticks or the hands. The instrument itself vibrates and produces the sound.   Gangsa Used in: Cordillera provinces like Mountain Province, Kalinga and Apayao

The gangsa is a type of metal gong that is played with the hands or the stick. Playing the gangsa is a vital part in gatherings like weddings, feasts and rituals among the indigenous peoples of Cordillera. The playing of the gangsa is often done in groups and is often accompanied by dancing.   Kulintang Used in: Bangsamoro provinces like Maguindanao, Lanao and Sulu

The kulintang is a type of metal gong that is played using sticks. A kulintang set is usually made up of a minimum eight gongs having different pitches. It is traditionally played by women and is the melodic instrument in a kulintang ensemble. Kulintang playing is important to mark events like weddings and official celebrations. Players also use it to show off their skills to attract the opposite sex.   Agung Used in: Bangsamoro provinces, Palawan, Mindoro, Panay, Cebu

  The agung is a big metal gong that is hung on a stand and played using sticks. It can be played alone, by pairs or accompanying other instruments in a kulintang ensemble. The agung gives off a low, bass sound and is often played by men. Players can use two agungs having different pitches at the same time. Agung players usually show off their skills to ‘out-beat’ each other in friendly competitions.   Dabakan Used in: Bangsamoro provinces


The dabakan is a type of drum that is used to provide a bass beat for kulintang ensembles. It is usually played using sticks. The head of the drum is made out of animal skin (goat, carabao, deer, etc) and its body out of coconut or jackfruit tree wood. Ornate carvings usually decorate the body of the dabakan.   Sulibao Used in: Benguet and Mountain Province


  The sulibao is a type of hand drum that has a long body that resembles a tobacco stick. Because of its small head it has a higher pitch than the dabakan. Sulibao is used to accompany the gangsa in gatherings and helps the players maintain their tempo or playing speed.   Tongatong Used in: Cordillera provinces

The tongatong is a type of bamboo instrument that is played by stomping the closed end. Players can use two tongatongs of different pitches at the same time, or one tongatong and alternately muffling the top (open) end. The tongatong is used in ritual songs, chants and may be accompanied by the gangsa.   Bungkaka Used in: Cordillera provinces

The bungkaka or balingbing is a type of bamboo instrument that has a buzzing sound. It is played in groups by striking the split end on the palm of the hand. It is used to drive away bad spirits in mountain trails.   Kubing Used in: all around the Philippines, notably Bangsamoro, Cordillera and the highlands

The kubing is a type of bamboo jaw’s harp. It is played by holding it against the lips and allowing its reed to vibrate inside the mouth. Moving the tongue or blowing while playing the kubing can create many types of sounds. The kubing is a solo instrument and is considered the most intimate instrument in the Philippines as it is used for courtship. The southern kubings are usually larger and more ornate than the northern ones.   Wind instruments These types of instruments are played by blowing a stream of air on one end. The sound can be manipulated by closing and opening holes along the instrument.   Paldong Used in: Cordillera and Bangsamoro provinces

The paldong is a type of flute made of bamboo. The paldong has a notch on the blowing end that follows the contour of the player’s lips. It has four holes: three in front and one at the back. The southern types are usually bigger than the northern types.   Tongali Used in: Cordillera and some parts of Mindanao, Visayas and Palawan

The tongali is a type of flute made of bamboo. It is played by blowing air streamed through the nose. It has a shrilly tone compared to the paldong. Stories say that the tongali was used by rice planters to help young rice shoots grow.   Diwas Used in: Cordillera provinces


The diwas is a type of bamboo panpipe made up of five to eight individual pipes with various pitches. Each pipe only has one hole and the instrument makes sound by bouncing air back on the blowing (open) end of the pipe. In some provinces in the Cordillera, the pipes are also played individually and are then called saggeypo.   Tambuli and Budyong Used in: Southern Luzon (Tagalog regions); Mindoro and Eastern Mindanao


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  The tambuli and budyong are one-note trumpets. The tambuli is made from carabao horns while the budyong is made of giant conch shell of the species Cassis. Both are often used to signal villagers from long distances to warn of danger or to indicate approaching visitors. Budyong players are also known to use it for rituals. Because they play only single, sustained notes they are not often counted as musical instruments.   String instruments These types of instruments are those that produce sounds by the vibration of strings. The strings are either plucked or strummed with the fingers or hit with a stick.   Kudyapi Used in: all around Mindanao, Visayas and Palawan

  The kudyapi is a type of two-stringed lute that takes the shape of a boat. One of the strings plays a single note in a drone-like manner. The other string plays the melody by pressing it against frets. The kudyapi is used as a solo, improvisational instrument but it can also be played accompanying dances or singing.   Kolitong Used in: all around the Philippines, notably Cordillera provinces, parts of Mindanao and Palawan


The kolitong is a type of bamboo zither with strings made of fine bamboo skin. The strings encircle the hollow bamboo sounding board and frets made of bamboo are inserted beneath the strings to create variations in pitch. The number of strings range from five to eleven. It is played with the fingers or by hitting the strings with a stick.



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