The Philippine Bamboo Musical Instruments
The bamboo is one of the most useful plants on earth. Blessed with a year-round abundant supply of this hardy plant, the Filipinos have found a wide range of functions. One of its interesting uses is as a musical instrument. The most famous and the grandest bamboo instrument known worldwide is the Bamboo Organ which can be found in Las Piñas city. It is a pipe organ made from bamboo and it is the only one of its kind in the world.
In the various regions of the Philippines are found a variety of bamboo instruments. These produce different sounds depending on the manner the instrument is played, that is, whether, blown, struck, or plucked.
Bamboos That are Blown - aerophones
These instruments are flutes or pipes made from pieces of young bamboo called buho. The instruments may look slightly different from each other but they are all blown.
The ulimong, palendang, and lantoy produce sound when air is blown into the instrument with the mouth. Among some people like the Ilonggot and the Mangyan, the lantoy produces sound when air is blown into the instrument with the nose through a small hole at the closed end. The tungali is a nose flute, too. Igorot swains use the tungali for courting their loved one. Maguindanaon lads play love tunes on their palendang. The Manobo use the lantoy to accompany their songs. Each pipe produces different pitches by means of opening or closing small holes along the tube using the fingers. The number of holes differs for each instrument. Delicate and elaborate melodies can come from these pipes. Another instrument, the sageypo, is also made of buho. It has no five finger holes and produces only one pitch. The Kalinga of the Mountain Province enjoy playing the sageypo. Ensemble music can be played by a group of five, six, or more players, each one holding a sageypo. The pipes are closed at one end and are of different lengths.
Bamboos That Are Struck – idiophones
Other bamboo instruments are played by striking. Many bamboo instruments are played this way.
The bungkaka is played by striking the instrument’s forked end against the palm of one hand. The tongue-shaped end of the tagiitag is beaten against a piece of bamboo held in the other hand. The patteteg is placed on the lap and struck with a long stick. The closed end of the tongatong is beaten on a solid surface.
The bunkaka, tongatong, and taggitag each has a small hole at one end of the instrument. This hole is closed and opened in a particular pattern to produce different tone colors.
These instruments come from the mountains of the North. They are called by other names among different Igorot tribes. Making music on these instruments provides long hours of enjoyment. The Igorots place much importance on their instruments, especially since these are used during rites and celebrations. The bunkaka and the taggitag are played to drive evil spirits away while traveling along mountain trails.
Bamboos That Are Plucked – chordophones
Other bamboo instruments are plucked like string instruments. Among these are the pas-ing of the Apayao and the tabungbung of the Negritos. Other groups from many parts of the Philippines have a similar instrument. These two instruments have an interesting feature: the strings which are made of thin strips of bamboo still attached to the main body raised by small wooden bridges for ease in plucking them. The main body is a piece of bamboo cut with both ends closed by the node. These bamboo instruments produce short, detached sounds that are distinctly different from the twangy sounds of the guitar.