THE eagle, the mountain, the flower, and the people.
Unity in diversity and celebration of life’s bountiful harvest had always been the centerpiece themes of Davao City’s annual Kadayawan Festival.
But more than the colorful and festive celebration is its underlying cultural and historical significance to the city’s past and being cultural heritage.
Kadayawan is a festival that originated from the annual festival of the Ubo Manobo natives called “Kalibongan” or Grand Festival in Kidapawan City during the 1970s.
Kalibongan was organized by the late Datu Joseph Guabong Sibug, the tribal leader of the Mindanao Highlanders Association, Inc (Mindahila).
But the festival was faced with challenges during the Marcos regime, when the entire country was under Martial Law.
It compelled Datu Sibug to introduce the festival in Davao City during the administration of acting mayor Zafiro Respicio in a bid to sustain Kalibongan as one of the major tourist attractions on the island of Mindanao.
Kalibongan was later renamed Apo Duwaling festival, which represented the three iconic symbols of Davao City: Mt. Apo, Durian and Waling-Waling. This was also an effort by Davao City local government officials to reunite the people of Davao, who were so much divided, shattered or demoralized by the Martial Law.
In 1988, then mayor Rodrigo Duterte changed the name of the festival to Kadayawan sa Dabaw. He subsequently issued Executive Order No. 10, institutionalizing the Kadayawan through an annual event held every third week of August.
Orly Escarilla, the head of the Museo Dabawenyo, the change in the festival’s name – from Apo Duwaling to Kadayawan sa Dabaw—signified inclusivity. It also placed greater importance to the 11 tribes of the city.
The 11 tribes are the Bagobo-Klata, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Matigsalug, Ata-Manobo, and Ovu Manobo of the lumad; and the Moro people of Sama, Kagan, Maguindanao, Iranun, Maranao, and the Tausug tribes.
“Kadayawan was derived from the Mandaya word ‘Madayaw,’ which means something good or superior. The name is not only reflective of Davao as a beautiful city but also gave value to the various tribes inhabiting our land,” Escarillo said.
Escarillo agreed with the view of local historians and organizers of the festival that its background and relevance centered on the tribes and their struggle for land, while celebrating the successful harvest of communities surrounding Mount Apo.