It is a celebration of diversity and thanksgiving for life and harvest, Davao City being rich in bounties of nature and agriculture, in addition to giving tribute to the city’s indigenous minority composed of eleven ethnic groups.
The yearly fest is organized by the city government of Davao through its organizing arm, the Kadayawan Executive Commitee (ExeCom).
History of Kadayawan Festival
Kadayawan Festival comes from dayaw, a word in Mandaya language that means anything that is good or valued. (Mandaya is an ethnic group who are inhabitants in various locations in Mindano.) The origin of the festival is from the ancient practice of ethnic groups in Davao that pay respects to the deity they call Manama and express their gratitude for a good harvest.
In 1970s, then mayor Elias B. Lopez established festivals for indigenous groups. These festivals were celebrations of their tribal customs and rites.
In 1986, Mayor Zafiro Respicio came up with the festival called Apo Duwaling, which is a combination of Apo (the name of the mountain considered to be the highest peak in the country), Durian (the name of fruit that the city is known for), and Waling-waling (the name of a type of orchid).
It was created to unify the people of Davao City in post-martial law period and to provide a spotlight on ethnic minorities which include the Lumad (Ata Manobo, Bagobo-Kalata, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Matigsalug, and Ovu Manobo) and Moro groups (Iranun, Kagan, Maguindanao, Maranao, Sama, and Tausug).
It was also shaped by Mindanao Highlanders Association Inc. (Mindahila), an association of leaders of ethnic groups. According to Philippine Daily Inquirer writer Jeffrey Tupas, Mindahila proposed the festival that was similar to Hinugyaw, later called Kalivungan Festival, of North Cotabato.
In 1988, then mayor Rodrigo Duterte rebranded the festivity to what it is called today. He also officially instituted the timing of the annual fiesta every third week of August through an executive order.
Kadayawan Festival was cancelled in 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic and activities were made virtual available for online viewing in the next year.
Kadayawan Festival Schedule of Activities
Kadayawan Festival has a line-up of activities that appeals to locals and international visitors alike. Some activities, such as agri-trade fair and markets, are open for weeks. They are opportunities for display various food items, spices, flavors, farm produce, plants, festival-inspired products, and tribal arts and accessories. There are also many cultural presentations, entertainment, cultural, tribal, and variety shows, and interactive experiences with ethnic minorities. Furthermore, there are competitions in art, dragon boats, songwriting, and crafts.
Here are some of the highlights in its schedule of activities.
Bantawan Cultural Presentations
Bantawan Cultural Presentations are weekend activities that give the space for presentations of ethnic culture, tradition, and celebrations. Tribal groups perform song and dance in Bantawan Amphitheater in Magsaysay Park.
Kadayawan Durian Festival
Kadayawan Durian Festival, also known as Durian Fest or Durian Festival, is a concurrent event that is organized by the Department of Agriculture in coordination with the tourism agencies, Durian Industry Association of Davao City, and private partners to facilitate network-building among growers, buyers, traders, and markets. It features Davao City’s famous durian (Durio zibethinus) and other local fruits like lanzones, mangosteen, marang, pomelo, and rambutan. It was first held in 2019, put on hold for the next two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, and re-staged in August 2022.
The Davao Region is responsible of over three-fourths of durian production in the Philippines, and Davao City contributes half of the volume every year.
Hiyas Kadayawan is a beauty tilt of candidates who are representatives of the eleven tribal groups. Each candidate must be confirmed to have been endorsed by the ethnic minority that they represent. Winner is selected according to a set of criteria based on cultural knowledge and skill, their advocacy for the progress of their community, and presence during the pageant and its many activities.
Indak-Indak sa Kadayawan
Indak-Indak sa Kadayawan is a street-dancing competition. It has two categories: school-based and open. Prizes are given to winners of the competition. It is an avenue to highlight ethnic minorities through a competitive display of songs and dance routines. Contingents who participate include schools, cities, and municipalities in the region.
Kadayawan Village, also called Kadayawan Tribal Village, is located in Magsaysay Park in Davao City. Established in 2017, it features eleven houses for each of the eleven indigenous minorities. These houses contain exhibits of their uniqueness, culture, artistry, and way of life through cuisines, customs, crafts, etc. Meanwhile visitors are given the chance to briefly glance, discover, and experience of what it is to be a part of a tribal group.
The official Kadayawan jingle is the song entitled “Kadayawan Kahiusahan” was composed by Popong Landero. It was released in 2017 and replaced a previous official anthem that was composed by Joey Ayala.
Davao City Hall is alight with festive colors daily for the whole duration of the festival from 6:30 to 9:00 in the evening.
Pamulak sa Kadayawan
Pamulak sa Kadayawan is a competition of beautiful float designs. It occurs after Indak-Indak sa Kadayawan. Categories include small floats, big floats, and alternative floats. They compete on being the most unique and visually appealing decorations in their respective floats that are in line with the theme of the festival.
Pitik Kadayawan is a live drum beating competition. Established in 2017, it occurs simultaneously with the Pamulak Kadayawan event. Contingents are made of musical groups using percussive and native instruments. Musical pieces that can be showcased can be an amalgamation of folklore, myths, tradition, etc., and official festival jingle.
Subang Sinugdanan, officially called Subang Sinugdanan Panagtagbo, is the kick-off activity of the festival. It is a dramatization of trading among tribal groups in the riverbanks of Davao River, one of the trading routes in Mindanao that was active in early times.
As a reenactment, different tribal groups reenact the barter of goods amongst each other at a time before the coming of the Spaniards. It features ethnic dance and music, and it highlights the harmony, unity, and civilizations that existed in precolonial era.
Tambayayong Kadayawan is the culminating activity of the festival. It is a showcase of the winning works and winners of the various competitions held for the entire duration of the festival calendar.
Where to go
Activities occur in Bantawan Amphitheater, Magsaysay Park, Davao City Hall, Sta. Ana Wharf, Rizal Park, People’s Park, San Pedro Square, arenas, various indoor venues, and major thoroughfares of the city.
How to reach Davao City
Davao City can be reached via air, land, and sea. One can book a flight to Davao International Airport, officially named Francisco Bangoy International Airport. Buses are also available connecting from various points in Mindanao. One can also buy tickets in ferries that embark in Sasa Wharf and Sta. Ana Wharf.
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