Palabunibuniyan Gongs

by Zonia Elvas Velasco
(all rights reserved, copyright 1997)


Kulintang is the gong musical instrument of Mindanao. The word kulintang is very confusing for a lot of people in Mindanao. For example, a Cotabato native has informed me that these instruments are called kulintang in Maguindanao and kolintang in Maranao. Yet, Usopay Cadar who is Maranao from Lanao has spelled his kulintang with a “U” instead of an “O” in his articles in Philippine Heritage. (I see this as a difference only in phonetics, and if one knows Philippine languages, an “o” is pronounced as “u” easily in different areas and vice versa.) Now, to make it even more confusing, Ricardo Trimillos, PhD (University of Hawaii) who did his advanced music studies in Sulu, calls the instruments kulintangan. Also in the book, Pangalay: Traditional Dance and Related Folk Artistic Expressions by Ligaya Amilbangsa, the instruments and the ensemble are called kulintangan. (Her book is about dance, music, costumes, folk arts and traditions of the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi archipelagos.)

Then, Pat Badillo who collected all his musical instruments from Lanao in the 40’s, was told by the Lanao-folk that kulintang refers to the single musical instrument composed of 7-8 gongs laid horizontally on a stand, while kulintangan is the term they use for the orchestra which includes other instruments like the gandingan, babendir and dabakan. He said it was explained to him, that once the other instruments of the orchestra are played with the kulintang, the whole ensemble is called kulintangan.


Prof. Felipe de Leon, world-renowned lecturer of Philippine performing arts, has told me that the Yakan tribe of Zamboanga call this instrument, Ngu-wintang, and the whole orchestra or ensemble is called Ngu-wintangan.


So Kulintang, kulintangan, kolintang, ngu-wintang? One thing is undebated. In Cotabato, this brass gong ensemble, the kulintang orchestra, is called Palabunibuniyan.


  1. Palabunibunyan by Aga Mayo Budokan
  2. A Training Manual for the Workshop on Traditional Philippine Instruments by Kristina Benitez, Fe Prudente of the University of the Philippines College of Music and the Cultural Center of the Philippines
  3. Sounds Around Lake Lanao by Usopay Cadar, Philippine Heritage Volumes 6, pages 1677-1681.
  4. Maguindanaon Music by Helen Tejero, Training Manual for Workshop on Traditional Philippine Instruments.
  5. Sarimanok File by Nagasura T. Madale, Philippine Heritage Volume 6, pages 1576-1581.
  6. Pangalay: Traditional Dance and Related Folk Artistic Expression by Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa
  7. Journal of the Society for Asian Music, Vol XXVII, Number 2, Spring/Summer 1996
  8. The Muranao Kakolintang, An Approach to the Repertoire by Steven Walter Otto, 1976

Resource Persons

  • Aga Mayo Budokan, UP College of Music
  • Fe Prudente, UP College of Music
  • Kristina Benitez, UP College of Music
  • Edru Abraham, UP College of Music
  • Bayani de Leon, Ethno-musicologist based in New Jersey
  • Danongan Kalanduyan, MA in Ethnomusicology, 1995 National Heritage Fellow, DirectorPalabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble, Artistic Co-Director Mindanao Kulintang Ensemble
  • Potenciano Badillo, Collector and Museum Exhibitor of Filipiniana Cultural Art and Antiques since 1920.
  • Ricardo Trimillos, PhD, University of Hawaii
  • Prof. Felipe de Leon, Jr., University of the Philippines, Commissioner for the NCCA, Philippines
  • I also wish to thank my friend Titania Buchholdt of the Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble for her suggestions and help in getting more information and references for this article.