Thursday, August 22, 2013

Side Views: Indak Indak sa Kadalanan, Davao's Annual Kadayawan Harvest Festival

The sound of distant drums beat a constant rhythm, as the city slowly comes to life in a blaze of color and frantic energy. It's the start of the Kadayawan, Davao's annual harvest festival...

"Kadayawan" comes from the ethnic Mandaya greeting "madayaw" which loosely translates to something precious or valuable, beautiful and good. In thanksgiving to the region's bountiful harvest, the Kadayawan reflect's Davao's rich cultural heritage and diversity, as well as a positive outlook on the future with Davao as one of the country's most progressive cities.

Origins of the annual celebration can be traced back to the original indigenous tribes of Davao, who would gather to celebrate a bountiful harvest, and offer thanksgiving to the gods. In song, dance and generous offerings of fruits, flowers and bountiful harvests from the sea, the Kadayawan has since been an annual celebration for the city of Davao.

Contingents from different regions participate in the parade, competing for huge cash prizes and regional pride. And as each contingent perform their numbers in elaborate costumes, props and accompanying drums, one gets to realize the scale, devotion and hard work that each contingent has dedicated for this once a year gathering. As with previous previous festivals, The Marco Polo has a special stage set-up for VIPs and hotel guests directly in front of the hotel for a perfect vantage point of the festivities. The parade makes a stop at the stage before proceeding along a circular route through the city, and another stop at City Hall where the judges are located.

Legendary tales of heroism, love and passion are re-interpreted and retold through song and dance, all with the rhythmic and hypnotic beat of drums, big and small, whistles and chants. Each contingent performs an elaborate routine under the blazing sun, and with regional pride on the line, each performer in a cast of hundreds go about their well-practiced steps with some of the biggest smiles I've seen.

The common tale of overcoming adversity, of sacrifice and bravery, and the eventual triumph of good over evil, is portrayed in each performance, in a beautiful snapshot of the city's rich cultural diversity.

And if one is to look closely, one can sense an underlying theme in all the performances. That in order to defeat evil in its various forms, from giant ogres to ravenous serpents, from opposing tribes to unpredictable forces of nature, an individual act of bravery and sacrifice must be matched by communal effort, a familiar theme that was true then, and remains true to this day. The indomitable spirit of a united community overcomes all odds, as the performers show solidarity in their closing number.

In between pauses, each contingent relaxes momentarily, letting their guard down for a brief rest...

...and after recovering with a second wind, the different contingents repeat their performance once again, with even bigger smiles.

And the parade goes on throughout the streets of Davao, accompanied by the drums and whistles to provide a rhythmic backdrop to the complex dance routines. And like the stories they portray in song and dance, each contingent is a community effort, involving the best dancers of all ages, including young children from  their respective regions.

As the mid-morning sun continues to bear down on the city streets, the performers go on and tell their community's stories.

And as the next contingent moves in, each performance seems to be a notch higher, and this year's judges will have no easy task that's for sure.

As each contingent performs their climactic closing number, another contingent prepares for their turn.

And the opening jitters seem to fade away as they go through the routine, with matching emotions.

The spectacle was truly an experience, and this year, with close to thirty contingents participating, it was one awesome show. And to see all this up close from The Marco Polo's stage made it special.

The end of the performance provides just enough time to catch a breather, as the different contingents regroup and pick up the props from their performances, and continue down a circular route around the city streets. It was my first time to witness the Kadayawan, and seeing it up close is an experience I'll never forget.

Each festival has its own unique character, their own style and vibe, their own stories to tell. Each one very special. And Davao's Kadayawan is way up there on my list. Check out my post on The Marco Polo and its impressive facilities here at

Special thanks to Anthony Tan, The Marco Polo General Manager; and the Marketing team led by Emelyn Q. Mauhay, Director of Sales & Marketing; Patty Basa Tan, Media Communications Officer; and Phoebe Kaye Reyes, Public Relations Assistant for an awesome Kadayawan experience.

The Marco Polo is located at C. M. Recto Street corner M. Roxas Avenue 8000 Davao City, Philippines or call (63 82) 221-0888 for inquiries and reservations. You can also call the Manila Sales Office at (63 2) 893-0888 or send an e-mail to Visit their website at for more information. 

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