The Philippines’ vibrant and exotic culture that is expressed through many artistic forms has been influenced by a combination of its complex indigenous history, its colonial heritage and the influences of its South East Asian neighbours.

Original Filipino artistic efforts are found on ancient pottery dating back many millennia. Painting in the European tradition came into being in the 17th century and into prominence in the 19th century. Having its roots in church murals it developed to include other religious and landscape works. One of the first prominent artists was Damian Domingo called the father of Filipino painting. Felix Hidalgo and Juan Luna are also some of the country’s 19th and early 20th century artists recognized and acclaimed in Europe. The Neo Realist School of painting emerged after World War II and continues to thrive as seen by the exhibits in the many galleries of the country; it is showcased by the successful annual arts festival, a platform for new artists of various genres.

Filipino sculptors came to be recognized in the mid 19th century and reached their pinnacle with the Bonifacio Monument completed in 1933 by Guillermo Tolentino.

Music is big business in the Philippines with plenty of western inspired singers and bands trying to make the grade both in the classical genre and in the pop music scene. However its own traditional music featuring various types of gongs, string instruments such as the Kutyapi, bamboo flutes and drums is enjoying a renaissance as are songs in Tagalog.

Dances of various origins are found in the seven thousand islands that make up the Philippines and continue to flourish. These dances mark events in communities such as tribal rites, feasts, festivals, propitiation of spirits, deliverance from pestilence, births and deaths, harvesting and courtship.

Traditional Filipino crafts include metal working and many fine examples are found throughout the country displaying skills in silver, gold and ebony inlays with intricately designed and worked bowls, trays, weapons and traditional musical instruments.

Mat weaving with pandanus leaves is popular amongst the Samal tribe who use vibrant colours and intricate designs in their weaving. Embroidered gossamer garments of pineapple fibre, objects made from shells and bamboo, wood sculptures and pottery are also part of a long tradition of indigenous arts in the various islands of the Philippines.

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