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Buti – Buti

Dance Buti-buti
Meaning Little Boat
Dance Culture Sea Gypsies
Place of Origin Jolo , Sulu
Ethnolinguistic Group Badjao
Classification Social , Entertainment
Background / Content

The main occupation of the Badjao is fishing, pearl diving, boat building, fish net mending, and other activities that involve the community. The women share in the work by
harvesting bivalves from the beach at low tide, helping mend nets and prepare the men’s needs for the next trip out at sea.


The Badjao boat-dwellers, better known as “sea gypsies”, sharing with their neighbors,
the Tausog and the Sama Laut, the many secrets of the seas around Tawi-tawi and Southern
Palawan. They also share their traditions like dressing, food, music and dance. One such dance is
the traditional pangalay popularized by the three cultural communities with marked variations.
The Badjao who are born, raised and die in boats, called lipa or buti have such remarkable
affinity with their home boat” that a dance was created in its honor.


I met Jahara Basara, an elderly Badjao woman at the pier of Zamboanga City sometime in the early 70’s when she, together with a small Badjao community came to dive for coins thrown into the water by tourist from a cruise ship. What attracted me to her was not the little boy that clung to her back as she dove, but a quaint looking contraption in her buti-buti dugout. It was gabbang, a bamboo xylophone in the shape of a boat with bamboo slats set in three octaves, tuned to the pentatonic scale (taken after the Chinese).


Talking to Jahara attracted a small crowd. Soon, other instruments were pulled out from other nearby boats, two brass agongs (gongs) and a two-faced hand drum (gandangan). While playing on the gabbang, Jahara broke into a tenes (a type of song, which includes leleng and
binoa), singing about how a buti-buti boat’s gentle sway compares to the graceful walk of a Badjao lady, face all made up with ground white rice powder and sporting a smile with three gold teeth.


Deviating from the traditional pangalay, the buti-buti is an occupational dance that mimics the daily activities of men rowing, diving, casting and pulling nets, harvesting and bringing home the catch. Shellfish gathering is the women’s part in the dance. Rattan baskets are for their catch while the men, sling nets and paddles on their shoulders. Buti-buti’s style is casual and very natural with no marked transitions, no definite counts, nor definite numbers of dancers. Anyone who feels like dancing may join anytime.

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