Kadayawan: How the ‘Festival of Festivals’ came to be

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The country’s so-called ‘Festival of Festivals’, one of the country’s grandest festivals, did not become what it is today overnight.

Kadayawan sa Dabaw’s bloom, just like the seductive Waling-waling, happened after it went through some dry seasons.

Kadayawan, derived from the word “dayao” which means good, is now Dabawenyos festival of thanksgiving for a peaceful life and bountiful harvest.

Recent years saw how Kadayawan Festival became a time where everything in the city is displayed and shared ostentatiously: flowers, fruits, food, the colors, the music, and the art.

This is the time where happiness overflows.

Unknown to many, however, Kadayawan is not originally a Davao City festival.

It originated from “Kalibongan,” an annual festival among Ubo-Manobo natives in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato in the 70s. Kidapawan City was then the capital of the province.

Kalibongan was a festival initiated by the Mindanao Highlanders Association, Inc (Mindahila), an organization led by Datu Joseph Guabong Sibug, a prominent and respected tribal leader in Kidapawan.

During the mid-70s, during the Martial law years, the organization experienced difficulty in staging the festival.

Because of this Datu Sibug introduced Kalibongan to then newly-appointed Davao City Acting Mayor Zafiro Respicio — with a request that it will be celebrated in Davao City to attract tourists.

During Mindahila’s special board meeting, Kalibongan was renamed to Apo Duwaling Festival — a name derived from words Mt. Apo, Durian, and Waling-waling, the symbols of Davao City.

The first Apo Duwaling was held at the Davao City PTA grounds on September 26 to 30, 1986 with Unlad Proyekto, in coordination with the Davao City Tourism Office. The PTA grounds is now known as the People’s Park.

Apo Duwaling became a spectacle for both foreign and domestic tourists.

When Mayor Rodrigo Duterte assumed the mayoral post in 1988, Apo Duwaling Festival was replaced by Kadayawan. In 1995, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 10 institutionalizing the celebration of Kadayawan every third week of August every year.

Now on its 31st year, Kadayawan’s pageantry has been dramatically transformed to not only celebrate the colorful and unique culture and tradition of the 11 tribes of the city but also to highlight the life and the plight of the Lumads and the Muslims.

This year’s events are consciously dedicated to the 11 tribes. Festival organizers made sure that street parties and concerts are staged outside the downtown area — the epicenter of the celebration.

The festival will be opened on Monday, August 15, by Kinabuhi — a photo exhibit that will show the day-to-day life of the 11 tribes.

Also highlighting the festival are the cultural show called Tribuhanong Pasundayag; Dula Kadayawan, a sports fest for Lumads and Muslims; Hiyas sa Kadayawan or the Gems of Kadayawan; Subang Sinugdanan, a tribal fluvial parade; and Panagtabgo, a tribal convergence.

Kadayawan’s Indak-indak sa Kadalanan on Saturday and the Pamulak sa Kadayawan floral float parade on Sunday are expected to draw a massive crowd of locals and tourists.

“We hope to give meaning to the celebration by looking at the lives of our brothers and sisters Lumads and Muslim. This celebration is about them and will be for them,” said Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.

The Lumads and the Muslims are “the heart and the soul” of Kadayawan, after all. | CIO

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