Subli: A Traditional Dance with Religious Underpinnings
In Banuan, Batangas there is one dance that’s gaining a lot of respect & research- it's the 'Subli' traditional dance.
This dance is one of the most popular dance in the Philippines and the favorite in Batangas. This dance is simply ceremonial in nature and this is performed as homage to the Holy Cross. The Holy Cross is known by the locals as the 'Mahal na Poong Santa Krus', and the Holy Cross plays an important role in the development of the dance. In fact, the Holy Cross is considered at the center of the dance and without the Holy Cross the dance will not materialize.
The Holy Cross plays an important role and its role includes;
. It act as the emblematic and the decorative installations
. The performances and the other art forms that are related to this dance will usually revolve around the wooden cross that is draped with the white fabric and this is similar to the stole that is placed on the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ which can be seen during Easter Sunday celebrations.
Based on many literature on the subject, it was said that during the ancient times the natives who are living around the Taal Volcano area would usually plant these wooden crosses around the crater of the Taal Volcano and these natives would even immerse themselves in the waters of the crater just to ask the 'Poon' to save the them from the wraths of nature. Researchers and academics are still debating on the exact time this tradition started. They are all asking if this tradition has started even before the Spaniards came or when the Spaniards are already here in the country. In the end the academics cannot arrive on a specific conclusion saying that a final say cannot be proven by existing documentary evidence.
There were some documents that say that that this dance or the tradition originated some three hundred years ago in the barrio called 'Dingin' in Alitagtag, Batangas. According to Dr. Elena Mirano, the word 'subli' is from the old Tagalog word called 'sobli' meaning 'salisi' or the exchange of place. And this exchange of place is a prominent feature in the dance called 'subli' that is performed in most activities, festivals and celebrations. In the strictest sense, the 'subli' is the dance portion that is actually a devotion that is performed in honor of their patron, which is a large anubing wood that includes the face of the sun in silver at the center.
This icon which is the subject of the dance was actually discovered in the early stages of the Spanish rule and the area that is now known as the town of Alitagtag, Batangas. This icon is not only the patron for this town since this is also the patron of many towns in the area. The area is known for the long sequence of prayers which can be seen in verse, songs and dances and these are performed in the fixed sequence. The verses that are performed in the dance recounts the first journey of the manunubli of the early times as they thread the fields, the hills and the rivers in search of the miraculous cross.
The sections of the verse that are sung in the dance are sung by the participants to the fixed punto or the skeletal melody, and these are then elaborated in different ways by the many participating 'subli' troupe. Around five of the punto are usually used in the usual 'subli' performance. The puntos may be divided further into many parts and patterns and these many patterns will usually involve one, two or even eight pairs of men and women. This number of pairs is adopted since these are the numbers that are often practiced in Bauan. The dance is known for the stances, the gestures and the movements of the male dancers that are dramatic and free-wheeling.
Some of the dramatic movements of the male subli dancers include;
. Striking the ground with the use of the bamboo clappers that are held in both hands
. And other movements that suggest the movements of the martial arts
Others see the 'subli' as more than a dance, rather this is more of a 'kaugalian' that tells of the enduring belief and panata of the locals.
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