For many of us, sleep has been difficult to come by as of late. I’ve tried all sorts of things from meditation to melatonin, but my evening zzz’s have stayed elusive. It’s not until recently that I was reminded of how lullabies helped me fall asleep as a child. When I was younger, my mom or my tita would hum a Bisaya tune until my eyes felt like lead and I’d drift away into dreamland.
After trying it again recently, it didn’t work as well as it used to, but I was able to appreciate the beauty of all the Filipino lullabies that I’ve rediscovered. So if you’re having trouble sleeping or just want to relax and feel like you’re floating on air, give these lullabies a listen.
“Ili Ili Tulog Anay”
“Ili-Ili Tulog Anay” is an Ilonggo lullaby that makes you feel like you’re literally floating peacefully in the middle of a lake. The lyrics of the song translate to something along the lines of “Sleep, little one. Your mother isn’t here because she is out buying bread.”
The Philippine Madrigal Singers’ version is an especially beautiful performance of the traditional folk song—so much so that you might just end up staying awake to give it another listen.
“Sa Ugoy ng Duyan”
A lot of us grew up being serenaded to sleep with “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan.” The title of the classic lullaby composed and written by National Artists Lucio San Pedro and Levi Celerio translates to “the sway of the baby’s hammock.”
The lullaby expresses a child’s love for their mother and a longing to return to the time in their life when they were rocked asleep because of the love that they experienced. Don’t play this at 2 in the morning when you’re missing your mom because there will be tears.
One of the most common lullabies sung to me as a child was “Dandansoy.” The Visayan lullaby is soothing, but also remarkably sad. Upon first re-listen, the lyrics sounded like a goodbye letter to a loved one.
Like most lullabies, there’s actually a sad story behind the lyrics. As it turns out, the eponymous Dandansoy is actually being left behind by his sweetheart to return home. So yes, I’d like a tissue please.
If you’re not a big fan of sad-sounding lullabies, “Dungdungwen Kanto” has a bit of a jollier beat without sacrificing sleepability. This Ilocano song doubles as a lullaby and a wedding tune, which is why the lyrics and melody are more joyous than most. The song narrates a mother and child’s bedtime routine, from rocking the baby asleep to making sure that mosquitoes don’t bite the infant.
It’s an especially useful song if you’re trying to rock an actual baby asleep because the tempo is very danceable. If you’re trying to rock yourself to sleep, try gently tapping to the beat. You might lose yourself to the rhythm and then wake up in dreamland.