Monday, October 27, 2008


Popularly known as the Mother of Philippine Folk Dancing, Francisca Aquino-Reyes was born in Lolomboy, Bocaue, in the province of Bulacan, on March 9, 1899. She was the eldest of three children of Felipe Reyes and Juliana Santos Reyes of Manila.

Although born in Bulacan, she received her early education in Manila: the Meisic Elementary School, Tondo Intermediate School and Manila High School in Tondo, Manila. She obtained her High School Teacher's Certificate (H.S.T.C.) in 1923 and her Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1924 from the University of the Philippines (U.P.). The Master of Arts in Education degree was soon to follow from the same state university.

She worked as instructor of physical education in UP wherein her great interest in folk songs and dances were noted by the university president Jorge Bocobo, who sent her throughout the Philippines to undertake research on folk songs and dances. And together with Antonino Buenaventura, and Ramon Tolentino (her first husband who died in 1939), she was tasked to collect and record native songs, dances, music and costumes.

It has become a tradition for the three to travel to the remotest barrios every summer to gather materials from various indigenous groups. As she took notes of the dance steps and movements, Buenaventura recorded the music, while Tolentino took still and moving pictures.

She had documented about 50 basic steps and 200 folk dances of various modes and colors. Her research indicated interesting patterns: people near the sea danced about fishing and rowing; those in the coconut regions made use of coconut shells in their dances; and those in the rice-producing provinces depicted various steps in planting and harvesting. She also observed that people from economically self-sufficient regions produced lively dances and music, while those in the provinces were livelihood was a constant struggle created slow, melancholy and mournful dances and music.

Francisca Reyes-Aquino also took graduate studies in physical education in the college of Physical Education at Boston University. She also attended a summer session at Harvard University.

When Jorge Bocobo became Secretary of Public Instruction, he appointed Aquino to the Bureau of Education. In her new post, she actively promoted the revival of of folk dances through the public schools. She organized the bureau's Folk Song and Dance Club. The other organizations she founded were the Philippine Folk Dance Society and the Filipiniana Dance Troupe (as part of the US Special Service during the liberation). She also served as consultant to the Bayanihan Dance Company.

As a prolific writer, she authored 15 books and many articles on folk dances. In 1959, she was elected as representative to the World Conference of Teaching Profession in Washington, DC. And in 1962, she received the much coveted Ramon Magsaysay Award for her valuable role in recording and preserving Philippine folk dances.

When she died at age 84 on November 21, 1983, she was honored with a state funeral. She was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:36 AM


Blogger nutart said...

I find this post quite moving that Madame Francisca Reyes-Aquino is buried at the Libingan ng Bayani. Imagine, even Imelda marcos is still pushing that the late Ferdinand Marcos be buried there?

October 27, 2008 9:10 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very fitting resting place for a hardworking patriot like her. How I wish there'd be many more of her kind within us.

October 27, 2008 11:26 PM  

Blogger Ebb Tide said...

What a beautiful tribute to a dedicated Filipina woman! It's inspiring that teaching could make a woman horoic and be buried at the Libingam Ng Bayani. Thanks also for dropping by my blog.

October 28, 2008 12:53 AM  

Blogger JayAshKal said...

Another not-so-well known hero (at least for this ordinary Pinoy!). Researching folk dances, music and their history is one of the best way to preserve some of our Pinoy culture.

Another informative post Eric.

October 28, 2008 5:39 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

One of the great pleasures at my elementary school, Bernadette, were the folk dances we had to learn and perform during special holidays, especially when commemorating Andres Bonifacio which our school was named after.

Also, our family photos wouldn't be complete without those images of us kids donning those native costumes at those school events.

Hence, without Madame Francisca Reyes-Aquino's efforts and dedication, we probably wouldn't have known about the joys of our native folk songs and dances :)

I'm sure her name reigns supreme at the famous school in Makiling :)

October 28, 2008 7:15 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm sure there already are, Major Tom :) We just have to showcase their awesome contributions now and then.

October 28, 2008 7:17 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I don't think it was only her teaching, Ebb Tide, but mostly her research efforts that helped revive our folk dances through the public schools.

October 28, 2008 7:21 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you, Mario! Just making good on my intention to showcase our not-so-widely-known heroes :)

October 28, 2008 7:22 AM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

Another one of those "unsung, unkown" heroes so to speak. I loved folk dances and had participated in all dancing activities in school and I never learned about her, imagine that.

Thanks again.

October 28, 2008 8:11 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Neither have I, Photo Cache, until I was browsing through the list of our National Artists.

It's also amusing how a seemingly obscure accomplishment provide so much joy to all school students and professional Filipiniana dancers, including their audiences worldwide :)

I, too, had so much fun in those school performances during my youth!

October 28, 2008 10:36 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

if by way of chronological events, Eric, I would say that Madame Francisca paved the way for the PWU Bayanihan Dance Troupe, Ramon Obusan, UP Filipiniana, UE as well the different dance troupes of major provinces to evolve and have the Philippines something to crow about in the world of folkloric dance!

The Philippine High School of Arts at the National Art center in Mt. Makiling as folk dance as a major course and not just as an elective in dance. Its folk dance instructors are just as passionate of their art as of the classical ballet danseurs.

October 28, 2008 6:03 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The performance by the PHSA students in Luneta was very impressive, Bernadette. No wonder!

Your comment further confirms the major contribution of Madame Francisca on our lives in general. Thanks for sharing your insight, Bernadette!

October 29, 2008 9:56 AM  

Blogger Unknown said...

It is nice to know that a national artist/hero was born from our little barrio(Lolomboy). Thanks for posting this article.

J.S. Mariano

August 08, 2009 5:02 AM  

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