The city’s still got moves. Older, much wiser (one hopes), and now run by younger people, it beats like a marathoner’s heart, and thrives like its orchids. When it comes to “p-partay”, celebration is off the charts.
The old Davao of my childhood held simpler parades then, and no festivals. The main theaters were San Pedro and Claveria streets, and everyone lined up to see people from the local government, civic groups and clubs, march in their uniforms, which consisted mainly of printed tees and buri hats. This was followed a few floats on trucks and last, by jeeps with mounted billboards that showed what movies were on in the local moviehouses.
Whenever we heard the oompah of the Tuba and the sharp cymbals and snares by the UM or RMC marching band, we would run in our tsinilesas, from Ponciano street, through the Looban, and out to Claveria, to ooh and ahh at the colors and the floats. Each year, as we got older, them parades got bigger, with more lavishly-designed floats this time, a few movie stars in back of trucks and pickups, and included a thoroughbred or two, ridden by costumed cowboys. The uniformed office marchers by then, had already been relegated to the last place, along with the candy-throwing vans of stork and white rabbit.
It was in the mid-80s when the street parades and festivities began to morph into the more spectacular shows that we now have come to know. Street dancers galore, to the max, to death, call it what you will, in endless sequence, pass you by in your cramped space on the sidewalk. For a whole morning, our downtown area would be closed to all traffic, and the only roads were east and west.
In my mind, the most sensational must have been during Davao’s 25th anniversary, when the whole of San Pedro, including its adjunct
sub-streets (Legaspi, Anda and Ilustre) was sealed off and then filled with street dancers who, in their multi-colored, and ethnic-inspired attire, danced, pranced and gyrated to one single drum music. That one may have surely taken the cake, but alas, in today’s times, less is more.
The present festival version, in a more sensible logistical move, may have done away with spectacle, but in its stead, a well-managed and more professionally-run weeklong series of events have taken its place.
For one, the word participative might not have found a better time to roost. The traditional parades of old up till now, had maintained its billing as the final great event. Through the years, it had gotten more participation, longer like that analog cell phone game, Snake, and grander, taking on a seemingly mardi gras allure. If, as a child, I could be transported to watch today’s parades, i’d probably go hungry and head on back to Ponciano. The whole of Davao might as well have joined it, and left the neighboring cities to man the sidewalks as spectators!
However, in the true spirit of festivale, our neighbors did all join in our activities and games, and celebrated along with rest of us Dabaweñyos. After all this was Kadayawan, a thanksgiving for settlers and the eleven distinct indigenous tribes in Davao.
With our open invitation, and the participation of the adjoining provinces and the rest of the world, the phrase, May your tribe increase, has been given a deeper meaning. The celebration spirit lives on. At least, in my child’s eyes, that one has never changed.