MANILA, Philippines – If you happen to be in Davao City in the month of August, particularly during the third week, don’t be surprised if all the malls, stores, and restaurants are full of people. It’s the time of the year when people flock to the city to celebrate Kadayawan sa Dabaw.
The celebration reminds you of Thanksgiving Day, one of the most anticipated holidays in the United States. All of the malls are offering almost items on sale. Most of the hotels are packed as they are offering promotional packages.
The streets are smelly as durian, the controversial king of fruits, can be eaten anywhere, anytime. But durian is not the only fruit you can have during the festivity, which is celebrated for one week. Other fruits available during the time are mangosteen, rambutan, lanzones, marang and pomelo.
Kadayawan is derived from the Mandaya word madayaw, which means “good, valuable, superior or beautiful.” The festival is structured as “the celebration of life, a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature, the wealth of culture, the bounties of harvest and serenity of living.”
As Davao City Councilor Leo Avila III puts it: “I believe Kadayawan, as a festival of thanksgiving, allows us to be grateful for our blessings as a people in a bountiful land. It gives us an opportunity to appreciate how nature can reward us if we take good care of it.”
The festivity actually started in the 1970s, when then Mayor Elias B. Lopez initiated tribal festivals featuring the lumad (native) and the Muslim tribes of Davao City where they showcase their dances and rituals of thanksgiving. It was then called “Apo Duwaling,” in honor of the three royalties for which Davao is famous for: Mount Apo, durian and waling-waling.
At one time, the festival’s annual theme was “Ten Tribes, One Vibe.” Later, however, it was discovered that there were actually 11 tribes, namely: Iranun, Sama, Bagobo-Klata, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Maguindanaon, Kagan, Matigsalog, Maranao, Ata, Tausug and Ova Manubo.
As the celebration focuses on these tribes, a lot of events are showcasing their cultures and beliefs. One of the highlights is the selection of Hiyas ng Kadayawan. Unlike beauty contests, this is a quest for the young woman who understands her culture and traditions, according to Davao City Council Al Ryan Alejandre, chair of this year’s festival executive committee.