Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Davao's Annual Kadayawan Festival Up Close

The sound of distant drums gently nudges me from bed. It was way before 5am, and the different contingents were preparing for the morning festivities. Davao's famous Kadayawan Festival was about to kick-off, and I wan't planning on missing the show. 

It was my first time to witness the Kadayawan Festival, and seeing the city of Davao prepare for months for this annual celebration got me in a celebratory mood. You just can't help but feel the Kadayawan vibe. And with the rhythmic beat of the drums, you find yourself getting into the groove as you head for breakfast at Marco Polo Hotel's Cafe Marco. After breakfast, it was time to pack my gear and head down to the street for the festival (for more on Davao's annual Kadayawan Festival, check out my previous posts in my other blog here at, and another feature and more photos of the festival here here at

With a seat at the private stage constructed by Marco Polo Hotel, I get a front row view of the festivities. And what a view. Seated in the shaded stage, you don't have to move closer, the contingents make a stop directly in front of the stage and perform their special routine.

Held every third weekend of August, the celebration is a thanksgiving for the end of another bountiful harvest, and Davao's rich agricultural and marine resources are a constant source of pride among Davao residents.

And as the different contingents perform their routines in a flurry of colors and choreographed movements, one can't help but be amazed with the elaborate details behind each performance, from the complicated dance and elegant costumes. Each  performer is adorned with intricate ethnic jewelry, and the colors are just mind-blowing.

Each performance portrays stories of love, courage, and triumph over evil, familiar themes from stories told for generations and retold in both music and dance.

Each performance lasts for around ten-fifteen minutes, before another contingent takes the stage in a seemingly never-ending procession of performances. The involvement, commitment and passion of the different communities of Davao is seen in each contingent and their performances. And rightly so. Winners have bragging rights for a year. Plus a cash  incentive as well.

The crowds cheer for their favorite contingents, and the performers respond. Shooting with a long focal length is a good idea, as it  allows you to zoom in and capture the subtle nuances of each performance.

And seeing the intensity in each performer's expression before they take the stage provides a much deeper insight into the Kadayawan festival. Nothing like seeing it up close.

And as the last contingent moves on to the next stop, the next group moves in and prepares for their performance. Lasting three days, Davao's annual Kadayawan festival unites the city and the different communities in a celebration unique to Davao. A thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, a celebration of local culture, heartfelt pride in their heritage, all this up close. 

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