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MONDAYS WITH PATMEI |Kadayawan Throwback: 7 Things We Learned

We had a very fun and informative Throwback Thursday talking about the evolution of the Kadayawan Festival last August 17 at the Holy Cross of Davao College (HCDC). It brought a new perspective and renewed appreciation of Kadayawan for all of us who took part in it.

An initiative of the Davao Historical Society (DHS) in partnership with the Institute for Davao Studies (IDS) of HCDC, the event was an inter-generational conversation among those who started the festival in 1986 when it was still called Apo Duwaling and those who continued it as Kadayawan and added new dimensions to the festival and the new generation of Davaoeños who were not even born yet when all of it started.

The four resource persons who led the conversation were Datu Bago Awardee Charita P. Puentespina, who served as President of the Kadayawan Foundation, the private sector organization that organized and managed the festival under then Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte; Professor Eduardo “Edfer” Fernandez, who served as City Tourism Officer under OIC Mayor Zafiro Respicio and organized the Apo Duwaling Festival; anthropologist and designer Susan Magno-Antepuesto, who was one of the creative forces behind Urog Etnika and Moda Mindanao that later evolved into what is now Habi Kadayawan; and National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Executive Director Oscar G. Casaysay, who was one of the prime movers of Kadayawan as then executive director of the award-winning Kaliwat Performing Artists Collective. He was the perennial chair of both the Moda Mindanao and the Hiyas sa Kadayawan.

Here are the most interesting things we learned about our beloved Kadayawan Festival from our conversations that Throwback Thursday:

  1. It first started in 1986, while the whole country was in transition from the 20-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos to the People Power-installed government of Corazon Aquino, Davao was also embarking on its own transformation from the dangerous “killing fields” into a safe and attractive place to live in and visit. Creating the Apo Duwaling Festival was Davao’s way of coming together in thanksgiving and celebration as one people from multi-cultural communities and showcasing Davao’s abundant harvest from its diverse flora and fauna. It has all the elements that made Davao unique from other places so the festival is also unique from other festivals in the country. It also served part of a campaign to bring back Davaoeños who left during martial law to come home to Davao and help rebuild it.
  2. Even before the era of crowdsourcing, the festival came to being through the inputs and participation of many Davaoeños. There was a name-our-festival contest where people submitted entries and voted for what they liked best. “Apo Duwaling” came in first and “Kadayawan” came in second. Kadayawan would later be adopted by Mayor Rody when he was elected city mayor in 1988.
  3. Inspired by indigenous practices, the festival would start with a “Pamukaw” where a group of musicians playing indigenous musical instruments, especially drums and gongs, would go around the city streets aboard a big truck waking up residents at dawn to prepare to celebrate. Then people would gather at the PTA grounds, which is now People’s Park, for thanksgiving mass and indigenous rituals. The various indigenous tribes will be led by their Byaneng or tribal princess to open the fair that featured different booths showcasing flowers, fruits, vegetables and other local products. This exhibit became the very popular Davao Agri-Industrial Fair that always featured an orchid show and beautiful works of landscape artists.
  4. Hiyas sa Kadayawan is not a beauty contest and should never be turned into one. It is not part of indigenous culture to have beauty contests, which is a western capitalist-created concept. Hiyas actually started as part of Urog Etnika, the precursor of Moda Mindanao and Habi Kadayawan. They were actually the male and female models of the fashion show who would wear the designs made of indigenous fabrics created by local designers. So Hiyas actually has no gender because the festival gem (hiyas) can be a woman or a man who can best model outfits using indigenous textiles. But when the tribal leaders wanted to bring back celebrating their Byaneng, Hiyas sa Kadayawan was transformed into a showcase of the rich culture of the different tribes and no longer a modeling search. And since the traditional Byaneng title is not won in competitions but part of one’s lineage, it cannot be the name of the search. Besides, the Islamized tribes do not call their princess “Byaneng.” The Hiyas sa Kadayawan is intended as a cultural showcase of Davao’s indigenous tribes and tells the story of how each tribe came to Davao and its contributions to the city’s development. All of the tribe’s representatives are their Hiyas so they are all gems of the tribe. The one who is bestowed the title Hiyas sa Kadayawan is the Hiyas who best showcased her indigenous knowledge, wisdom, talent and skill.
  5. Moda Mindanao was a creative competition in multiple categories — avant garde and streetwear fashion design; indigenous-inspired fashion accessories like bags and shoes; floral head dress and hand-held floral bouquets; and hair and makeup. So at one point, organizers were managing around 100 contest participants. Local designers then were asked to make in-depth research about the indigenous tribe whose textiles they will use and explain how they inspired their designs. So judges of the competition were artists and cultural workers, not fashion celebrities.
  6. The organization and management of the festival was mainly private-sector led with the local government providing guidance and support. So most funds spent for the festival were sourced from private funds. Government funds only covered security, administrative costs and competition prizes. All working committees were composed of both private and government representatives and there was an overall festival director to coordinate everything to make the celebration cohesive and consistent with the festival theme. All city councilors, city department heads, and tribal deputy mayors played major roles in the festival. Each committee created its own plan and budget for submission to the executive committee chaired by the city mayor. Hiring professional event organizers were not practiced because it was a community celebration that must be owned and controlled by the people. All who worked in the festival were volunteers with no monetary compensation.
  7. There was a policy discouraging commercialization of the festival so monopolies of events by corporate sponsors were not allowed. No exclusive deals were made because it was an inclusive celebration for all. The directive of Mayor Rody then was clear: “Stick to the basics, to the essence of why the festival was created in the first place.” And it was a communal thanksgiving and celebration of our indigenous cultural heritage, our bountiful harvest, and our diversity.

Kadayawan Festival is considered a huge tourist attraction now that contributes to our local economy. That is good. But our festival is first and foremost about us — about our community values that are rooted in our indigenous culture and respect for diverse identities. Kadayawan must move us into action in solidarity with the plight our our indigenous peoples, foster social cohesion, and shape our distinct Davaoeño identity.


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