The Kadayawan Festival

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Last week Davao City held its traditional pagan festival, the Kadayawan Festival which was held 1 week late. Cited cause was the lack of funds though others believe the reason is probably security in nature. Lack of coordination was evident as most malls held their sale period on the original schedule.

Crowds were noticeable thinner this year though this trend started last year. The city’s mayor, Rodrigo Duterte does not seem too enthusiastic anymore about his job resulting in festival preparations that lack vigor. The dropping of invitations to “semi-professional” street dancing troupes might have also affected visitor turnout. And the rise in fuel prices and fares might have been contributory factors too. But security concerns might be foremost among the reasons for the fall in visitor numbers.

Since last year the city’s mayor has de-emphasized commercial shows while at the same time he tried to project the native cultures of the city. In this year’s celebration put to the fore was the showcasing of the 10 recognized native tribes residing in Davao, the Ata Manobo, Ovu Manobo, K’lata (or Guiangan), Tagabawa (or Bagobo), Matigsalog, Kalagan, Sama, Taosug, Maranao and Maguindanaon .

A contest called the “Hiyas ng Kadayawan” which is limited to the 10 tribes was held. This contest includes cultural skills and was won by the fair lady from the Kalagan tribe. The costumes they wore were entirely native.

An exposition of native food and products was also held in the main plaza. For days the natives were selling native viands, cookies and sweets and it was a feast to taste them especially¬† since most were sold on “friendship prices.” Various handicrafts were also on display and available for sale. All the sellers were in their native costumes all the time and their sight is already enough compensation for the visit.

In a nearby park downsized but livable versions of the the natives’ houses were on display which included authentic domestic wares. At various hours the natives which are always in native costumes perform their dances. Being authentic their movements and rhythms contrast well with the bastardized “Ati-atihan” one usually sees during fiestas. In enthusiasm though not in refinement the two Manobo tribes, the Ata (which roughly corresponds to the Agta or Aeta of Luzon) and the Ovu will probably win hands down.

On the main day of the celebration the major Davao tribes and various invited non-Davao tribes like the Talaandig, Dibabawon, Sangil, Subanen and T’boli performed in the main plaza. Eye-popping shiny but authentic costumes were plenty in display alongside native musical instruments. The crowds rushed the stage when it was the turn of the T’boli maidens to perform and I was able to see with my own eyes that their reputation was not undeserved.

It was only a bit sad when I realized that most of the performers were no longer young.

All the tribes’ display were side-by-side during the entire event and they intermingled and talked freely with all the due consideration and courtesy one could expect. When the exposition closed all that I was wishing was that if they can only hold it for a longer period….

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