Davao del Sur

Sagawak Festival

Sagawak Festival is the founding anniversary, also known as Araw ng Malalag, in the town of Malalag, Davao del Sur, Philippines every May 28. It is a fest that commemorates the establishment of the municipality and it also pays tribute to the indigenous people called Tagacaolo Tribe.

The 28th of May was proposed to be a special non-working holiday by virtue of House Bill No. 3904 that was authored by Representative John Tracy F. Cagas and received by the Congress on August 22, 2022.


Sagawak Festival come from sagawak, meaning “flowing of water.”

History of Sagawak Festival

Sagawak Festival was first launched during the 50th Araw ng Malalag in 2003 within the term of Givel Montejo Mamaril as the mayor of the town.

For years, the Sagawak Festival was organized every July 2, which was the date that the first set of officials assumed their respective position in the newly created municipality of Malalag in 1953.

The local legislative body passed Municipal Ordinance No. 10 on May 21, 1990 that instituted that May 28 is the date of the Sagawak Festival. In 2020, perhaps due to the restrictions implemented at the height of Covid-19 pandemic, its schedule was moved to August.

History of Malalag

It is not known how the town acquired the name Malalag. According to an account, it may have come from the Datu Alag who so much displeased a Spaniard to have been moved to exclaim, “Mal Alag” (Bad Alag). An alternative explanation is that it refers to the color of the river that spills down and traverses through the town, which is described to be yellowish or “malalag nga tubig.”

The birth of the municipality of Malalag was made possible through the passage of Executive Order No. 596, which coincidentally created the towns of Hagonoy, Doña Alicia, and Babak, signed by President Elpidio Quirino on May 28, 1953.

Its jurisdiction comprises the lands in the southern part of the town of Padada such as Malalag (where the seat of the government is located), Bulacan, Bolton, new Baclayon, Santa Maria, and Sulop.

The inauguration of the first appointed municipal officers led by Col. Antonio Lanzar took place on July 2 of the same year.

Its people primarily engaged in agriculture and subsist on the fruits of the land. It has significant production of crops such as banana, coconut, corn, mangoes, and sugarcane, and it is also a leading producer of bangus.

Tagacaolo tribe

Sagawak Festival is also an homage to Tagacaolo, the first settlers of Malalag.

Jesuit missionaries first wrote about the indigenous people in the 19th century and called them Tagacaolo, a Castillian transcription of the local name Tagakolu. The word tagakolu is a combination taga (where one lives) and kolu (forested mountains with water source). Its name also gives them distinction from Tagabanwa, which are people who reside in the lowlands. Other spelling variants exist such as Tagakaulo, Tagakaolo, Tagacaolo, or Tagakaulu.

As the name suggests, these people live in upland areas along riverine systems. As hunter-gatherers, they rely on what the forest and water provide such as food, game, and medicine. In 1886, it was estimated their population to be between 12,000 and 14,000.

Their community is led by chieftain called datu, and his leadership and influence extend on major aspects of their life. Inheritance is by way of primogeniture, where the first-born stands to inherit the property of the household.

They are at times described as belligerent as they were found to be at odds with members of the tribe that often lead to bloody conflicts, and yet they are also said to be gentle and had little defense against people hunting them for slavery or human sacrifice during the colonial period.

In the present, their population is over 120,000 spread across Davao Gulf.

Sagawak Festival Activities

The activities of the festival includes Byaneng ng Malalag (Princess of Malalag), traditional games, cook fest, concerts, parties, and the Sagawak sa Kadalanan o Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan (Street Dancing Competition).

How to reach Malalag, Davao del Sur

Malalag is about an hour and a half away from Davao International Airport.


Sagawak Festival Summary

NameSagawak Festival
CelebrationCulture, Founding Anniversary, Indigenous People
Contact(082) 272 0191
FounderGivel Montejo Mamaril
Indigenous peopleTagacaolo tribe
LocationMalalag, Davao del Sur
OrganizerMunicipal Government of Malalag
Other NamesAraw ng Malalag