A Cursory Look at the Diversity of Cultures in Philippine Music

The Philippines has a wide variety of music but the majority of Filipinos nowadays are not aware of the rich and abundant diversity of their country’s music. Due to the widespread westernization in the country, specifically with American music, there’s only a small chance of hearing a traditional Filipino song being played on the streets or in public places.

Even if there are original songs composed by Filipino artists, they are usually of the pop genre, still heavily influenced by Western and other foreign musical compositions.

Highlighting the Uniqueness of the Philippines’ Diverse Music Culture

Felipe de Leon, who was given recognition as a National Artist for being one of the leading composers of classical Filipino music, had expressed concerns during his lifetime of how the beauty of the country’s native music will be wasted. Although he does not fault the younger generations as they have been largely exposed to Western music, but regrets that they are not given enough opportunity to cultivate love for their country’s native music.

According to the Filipinas Heritage Library, the Philippines has no less than eight major categories of genuine Filipino musical expressions, namely:

Native Filipino Music – Locally known as lumad by the indigenous and mostly animist people of the Mindanao, Cordillera, and Palawan regions. Lumads combine the myths, ritual, art, work, and daily activities of every ethnic group, while conveying meaningful stories.

Muslim Filipino Music – This category represents the music of the Islamized Filipinos of Palawan, Sulu, and the Mindanao islands and are called Moro music. Filipino Muslims are very creative in both art and music particularly in their skills at traditional native instruments like the “Kwintangan,” a traditional gong chime used as accompaniment for folk islamic dances.

Filipino Folk Music – This Filipino music genre comes mostly from the lowland villages in the islands of Luzon, Visayas, Mindoro, and Palawan. The music is a fusion of Southeast Asian and Latin culture that came around as results of Spain’s nearly 400 years colonization of the country. As such the lyrics are often very religious, expressing deep belief in God and reverence for Christianity.


Nationalistic Music – The songs in this category celebrate and recognize the struggles and victories of the Filipino people after going through multiple periods of colonizations from different foreign colonizers before they finally achieved independence as a nation. They were songs mostly compositions of Filipino patriots as a means of expressing their deep love for the country.

Filipino Concert Hall Music – This categorization represents the music created by highly-trained Filipino composers who took music as college education in conservatories of Western-style colleges in the Philippines. However, classical music never became part of the everyday lives of ordinary Filipinos, especially in rural areas.

Filipino Pop Music – A type of Filipino music that emerged during the late 18th century, which was also the time when Western music, often heard in town centers began to influence many creative Filipino composers. Up to this day, Filipino Pop music is the most recognized genre among Filipino youths.

Music Specifically for Mass Enjoyment

This kind of music can be found mostly in metropolitan areas and produced specifically for the enjoyment of the masses but still, originating from Western music industry. They are OPM songs that albeit composed with Filipino lyrics are Americanized in form and flair. This category is considered as the least localized music among the foreign-influenced type of music in the Philippines.

People’s Music – These are local compositions mostly by activist musicians who through their lyrics and use of local musical instruments convey messages criticizing the country’s social problems; including cultural erosion, neocolonialism, oppression and injustice.