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Clean, safe Davao City is stage for Kadayawan's riot of color and dance

The 29th Kadayawan Festival went off in Davao City on the morning of August 16 without a hitch.

The weather cooperated nicely, while bomb squads, PNP officers, and members of Task Force Davao circled the city to ensure safety.

Even MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino was impressed with the tight security measures and the cleanliness of the city.

Gaily-dressed delegations from 17 groups were in attendance to dance and beat the agung and play the kulintang for the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan, or street dancing—one of the festival's highlights. Eleven of the groups are from within Davao itself (Lumad and Muslim groups), while the other seven hail from the surrounding provinces.

Kadayawan: A history

Kadayawan, or the “king of festivals” as it is known throughout the archipelago, is derived from the welcoming greeting of “madayaw,” a phrase also used to describe something that the speaker deems as good, beautiful, and important.

Therefore, what is being celebrated during the Kadayawan Festival every third week of August is the bountiful harvest of fruits and flowers.

In bygone days, it was said that the ancestral Lumad peoples from around Mount Apo would come together to celebrate their harvests and give thanks to the Supreme Being (Manama).

The Kadayawan Festival was finally institutionalized in the 1970s, when Elias Lopez, a Bagobo and former mayor of Davao, founded a series of festivals showcasing indigenous dances and thanksgiving rituals from several tribes.

In 1986, “Unlad Proyekto Davao” brought all these festivals under one banner, although they were called Apo Duwaling—an amalgamation of what the Davaoeños revere the most: Mount Apo, the durian, and the waling-waling, considered the “Queen of all Philippine Flowers.”

In 1988, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte renamed the festival “Kadayawan sa Dabaw.”

During the modern-day Kadayawan, the streets hum with the energy of pounding feet and beaten drums, as the main focus of the dancing is Davao's “Ten Tribes” or the Lumad. There are also floats of fruits and flowers traveling these roads.

The contest of Hiyas ng Kadayawan is also a highlight. It is an annual search for a young indigenous woman deeemed knowledgeable enough about her tribe's lore and wisdom.

The pageant often showcases Mindanawon myths and legends in full spectacle. — VC/JDS, GMA News