History of Puppetry in the Philippines

Posted by on Apr 1, 2011 in Featured, Puppet Shows | 5 comments

History of Puppetry in the Philippines

Jose Rizal - our national hero

Puppetry in the Philippines started since the time of Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero, when he staged the play entitled  “CARILLO” or shadow puppetry. Rizal used a carton and a stick and he placed this at the back of a white cloth.  Then he used a candle light at the back of the puppets.
In the town of Angono, the giant puppets are well known. These are made of Paper Mache and bamboo sticks. They are using these in celebrating the feast of St. Clementine every last Sunday of November.
Aside from the traditional puppetry, there were puppet groups formed since 1972 up to present. These groups were inspired by the different puppetry art in other countries and those children programs seen on the movies and television.


Batibot is a well-known example of educational tv show targeted for children

Puppets are effective medium for kids’ educational entertainment presently often used in TV commercials in advertising a certain product. Also in field trips, school tours and mall shows. In the Philippines, children are well amazed by the magic behind the puppetry art.
Types or Style of Puppetry found in the Philippines

I.  Hand Puppet

Puppets made of foam and cloth. The puppeteer’s hand is inserted in the neck holding the flap to open the puppet mouth. Manipulations are limited to the mouth, neck, arms and hands. Sometimes, movements of the eye, eyebrows, ears, nose and hair are included. Puppeteers perform from below. The common position of puppeteer is kneeling down or standing up.
Some of the Hand Puppet groups in the Philippines are:
Roppets Puppet Production

These are the samples of their puppets. The group performs in birthday parties, malls, school tours, field trips, Barangay and other special events.  (Effectiveness of puppets in advertising and promotion) The group is considered tobe one of best groups who performs puppet shows in the Philippines and was awarded as Most Outstanding Educational Entertainment Company of the year 2001 by the National Consumer Council and who’s who in the Philippines. Now it has five (5) branches all over the Philippines.
II. Rod Puppetry

Puppets are similar to that of Japan’s “Bunraku”. Puppets are manipulated through a rod. Movements are the head, arm and feet.
Giant Puppetry

Life size puppets made of foam. Sometimes the head is made of fiber glass. Puppeteer is inside the puppet. Movements are walking, dancing and jumping.
Roppets puppet Production
III.  Stick Puppetry

A nursery type of puppets made of cardboard and sticks. Manipulation is through the movement of sticks. Puppeteers perform from below.
IV.  Shadow Puppetry

Puppets are made of animal skin and sticks. Puppeteer performs from the back of a white cloth with light at the back of puppets.
V. Black Theater

Puppets made of foam, rope, cloth, fake fur, wig and stuffing. The whole body can be manipulated. Puppeteers perform from behind, using black light to illuminate the design and color of puppets.

VI. String Puppets

Puppets made of wood, rubber, steel, fiberglass or polystuff. Manipulations are through strings. Movements are the head, arms, hand and feet. Puppeteers perform from above.
There are string puppets made in the northern part of the Philippines by the Ifugaos. Materials are yarn and thread.
Iskul Bus Pambatang Palabas

A puppet group which aim is to uplift the social, moral, environmental, health and spiritual values of children. Aside from bringin the puppet show to churches, community and school, thye group is also involved in the radio ministry. On 1998, Iskul Bus won the KBP Alay sa Kabataan Awards as Best Children’s Radio Program.

Perform a unique type of magic show. The magician is a puppet.

The first and only String Puppet Production in the Philippines. The production has made an original string puppet for the Filipinos. The body, head, arms and feet are made of bamboos. Costumes are the traditional clothes of Filipinos interpreted in abstract design.
Tali Galaw has been performing in museums, schools and cultural events.
Since the production is engaged in the manufacturing of string puppets, it also participates in special product selling during events like bazaar, product exhibits conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry, held in parks and open spaces.
Tali Galaw in its commitment in preserving and developing string puppetry, is conducting seminar on puppet making sponsored by the Technological Livelihood Research Center of the Philippines.

Efforts being made to preserve and Develop Puppetry in the Philippines

The Puppeteers Association of the Philippines has been conducting seminars and workshops in schools, churches and art venues. The Association also distribute to its members reading materials about updates in puppetry of other countries like U.S., Europe and Asia.
  1. Puppet groups maintain and develop the production of various kinds of puppets for presentation purposes.
  2. Organizing school tours, field trips and other shows for the interest of children and adults.
  3. Regular performances on televisions and theaters to preserve the life of puppetry art.
  4. Training of new puppeteers of all ages.
  5. Campaign tore-instate the subject of Humanities in the College level and include puppetry as medium for cultural education.
  6. Expanding into putting up more branches inprovinces.
  7. To publish the first Book of Puppetry in the Philippines.
  8. Contribution of the publishing of Encyclopedia of Puppetry released in France, last 2004.
Tali Galaw Synopsis

1. PISYAW (Pilipinong Sayaw)
A 2-part musical play. One is the Tiniklingdance. The other is the Ifugao. These are some of the few well-known traditional danes in the Philippines.
The music in the tinikling dance is played by a “rondalla”, a group of instrumentalist playing a “bandurya”, a small eight string guitar, together with Spanish guitars and cello bass guitar.
Two persons are holding two bamboos on opposite sides. As the music play, the bamboos are pounded on the ground every 2nd and 3rd beat of the ¾ bar and close the bamboos every 1st beat of the bar. Dancers hop into the bamboos.
The second part is the Ifugao dance. A traditional dance in the Cordillera Mountains, northern part of Luzon by tribal groups. A ritual dance as a form of worship to their Gods called Anitos.
2. Pistang Pinoy
A musical play portraying the Filipinos’ celebration of feast in the “barrio”. Scenario and things you can see during “Fiesta”.
3.  Fantastic Bones
A musical comedy featuring a band of skeleton puppets singing to the tune of “I Feel Good” by James Brown.

Antonio Liwanag

Tonc is currently working as an Assistant Director in Roppets Edutainment Production Inc. He's offering the most unique and quality educational entertainment for birthday parties and events for more than 25 years.

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