Discovering Davao City: Kadayawan Festival

A dance performance for Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival.
Celebrate Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival for a unique local experience you’ll never forget.

August is a festive month for Davao City because it’s harvest season. To celebrate the good harvest, the Dabawenyos (locals of the city) hold the annual Kadayawan Festival. This fete has been tagged as the “King of Festivals,” with week-long activities spanning a large area of the city.

Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival is a pillar of the city’s culture and heritage. It brings locals and travelers alike through good music, food, and dancing!

Where is the Kadayawan Festival Celebrated?

The Kadayawan Festival is celebrated in Davao City. Better known as the Crown Jewel of Mindanao , it is the largest city in Mindanao, Southern Philippines. Davao is an urbanized and independent city that is hailed as one of the safest cities in Southeast Asia.

Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival isn’t the sole attraction of the city. In fact, it is home to Mount Apo, a dormant stratovolcano, that attracts plenty of mountaineers every year. Its elevation of 2,954 meters above sea level makes it the highest peak in the Philippines.

Durian is everywhere and more importantly—CHEAP! This highly polarizing fruit is known for its unique flavor and strong aroma. While eating the fruit isn’t for everybody, alternatives like Durian candy and coffee are sold everywhere so that you can still enjoy the taste of this nutritious fruit.

The world’s largest eagle, the Philippine Eagle, has its safe haven in Davao City. This monkey-eating eagle is endemic to the city’s forests.

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The Origin of Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival

The roots of Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival can be traced back as far as ancient times. It stems from the paganism of early Philippine ethnic groups. Back then, these tribes would gather at the foot of Mount Apo during the full moon, believing that was the time the gods would descend upon the earth. The full moon was often addressed with names like dayaw or kadayaw, hence the name of the festival. The tribes would perform rituals to express gratitude to their deities, Manama (the Supreme Being) and Bulan (the Moon god). Gifts of fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice, and corn grains were offered for the great year they had. Furthermore, they would sing and dance as thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest season.

In 1986, Davao City’s government jumpstarted the modern version of the festival, making it a cultural celebration for its citizens. It was a means to promote the city as a calm and visionary capital despite the Martial Law. It was originally named “Apo Duwaling,” after the city’s main tourist attractions: Mount Apo , Durian, and the Waling-waling orchid. It was later renamed “Kadayawan sa Dabaw” in 1988 and is, decades later, still celebrated.

Hanging Durian fruits from Davao City
Pungent but extremely nutritious! The Durian fruit from Davao City is something you should try at least once in your lifetime.

When is the Kadayawan Festival?

The Kadayawan Festival in Davao City has always been held in the third week of August. However, in 2019, the celebration was held month-long starting from August 2 to 31. In 2020, it was celebrated from 10 to 17 August. And just this year 2023, it was held from August 10 to 20.

Kadayawan Festival Activities

Although the festival’s roots were focused on ritualistic celebrations, developments were made over the years. Today, this month-long extravaganza showcases cultural heritage through street dancing, parades, and music performances.

Now that you’ve gained knowledge about the celebration, here’s a list of Kadayawan Festival activities that you will enjoy:

Pag-abli sa Kadayawan

Pag-abli can be directly translated as “to open” which is the main point of this event. It marks the official start of the festival. The city mayor will offer a preview of what to expect in this year’s Kadayawan celebration. Afterward, an overload of dance performances and musical showcases ensue all night long.

Hiyas ng Kadayawan

One of the most anticipated activities during the Kadayawan celebration is the annual search for a young lady who is knowledgeable of her native culture and wisdom through a pageantry of Mindanaoan myths and legends. The ethnic tribes will each choose one representative who will compete for the title of Hiyas ng Kadayawan. Not only is the beauty of the city’s culture featured, but the beautiful local ladies as well.

A Filipina aiming for the Hiyas ng Kadayawan Festival in Davao City.
Witness the battle for beauty and brains with the Hiyas ng Kadayawan Festival in Davao City.

Dula Kadayawan

Today, Kadayawan isn’t just about celebrations and dance rituals. It showcases Lumad and Moro games or tribal games. What makes this event important is that it displays heritage and grassroots. This event aims to foster awareness and reconnect roots. Another purpose of this activity is to pass on traditional games to the younger generations.

This battle of speed, skill, and strategy includes games like:

Sisibow

Players try to hit a shorter piece of bamboo wood with a longer one. The shorter piece is whacked in order to hit three more pieces of bamboo from a distance.

Solopot

The players have to hit a hanging target—a banana heart—using blow darts.

Sakoro

A race of fetching water using bamboo.

Totaringki

A fire-making contest that uses only indigenous materials like bamboo and dried moss. Pieces of bamboo are rubbed to create friction until they fire up the dried moss.

These are only a few of the games played during this event which allows you to experience culture like no other.

Indak Indak sa Kadalanan

Take part in the Kadayawan Festival by dancing along with the contingents. Indak means “dance” and kadalanan means street. Hence, this event is primarily a street dancing competition in colorful costumes. A variety of tribes parade the streets with colorful tribal costumes and culturally significant dance routines. It draws participants from all over the region where contingents can win monetary prizes.

The event takes the streets by storm. The streets will be adorned with fruits and vegetables. There will be rhythmic drum beats and loud chants from the dancers. It is the most anticipated event of the entire celebration.

Pamulak sa Dalan Kadayawan (Kadayawan Floral Parade)

The floral parade is another attraction of Kadayawan. Since the purpose of this festival is to celebrate a bountiful harvest, the Pamulak is a shining monument of all that. It underscores the diverse flora in the Davao region. Hundreds of flowers and vegetation are paraded all over the city. Often, the Pamulak sa Dalan Kadayawan is the closing event for the feast.

Travel to the Beautiful Davao City

The beauty of Davao City is shown through the picturesque view of one of its islands.
When you see the beauty of Davao City, you’ll say that it’s truly more fun in the Philippines.

If there’s a must-visit tourist destination in the Philippines, then it should be Davao City. This metropolis might come as a pleasant surprise to travelers. With its wide array of destinations, ranging from highlands to the beaches, rest assured that it tranquilizes your soul in great happiness. It is, after all, a city of magnificence that awaits you to explore. On your next trip to the Philippines, make sure you mark Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival on your calendar.

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