The Color of Thanksgiving: Kadayawan Festival In Davao

By Sherwin A. Funa (Philippines)
Weblog Correspondent of ASEAN-Korea Centre

Most travelers, photographers, and festival enthusiasts in the Philippines flock to the largest city in Mindanao every August. During this month one of the Philippines’ most visited festivals is being celebrated. Davao City, approximately 30 to 45 minutes travel by plane from Manila. This land is very know for the famous delicious Durian, beautiful orchid – waling-waling, and is home to the Philippines national bird, Philippine Eagle.

Few weeks before August, the Dabawenyos (locals of Davao) are already busy in preparing for the City’s biggest and grandeur event. And starting the second week of August, the month-long celebration filled with smiles, music, arts, colors, food and everything blissful begin, it is how Kadayawan Festival is known for.

Kadayawan is from the Mandaya (a local tribe) word madayaw which means a warm and friendly greeting used to portray anything that’s valuable, beautiful, good, or profitable. Kadayawan in Mandaya is anything that brings fortune, a celebration of life, a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature, the wealth of culture, the bounties of harvest and serenity of living. In the old times and according to the local folklore, ethnic tribes around Mt. Apo (the tallest mountain in the Philippines) usually gather during the harvest period to celebrate a bountiful harvest to give thanks to their gods particularly the all-powerful Bathala (supreme God). According to legend, the occasion is noticeable by happiness, singing, and dancing, as well as offerings to their divine protectors. Before, the celebration is called Apo Duwaling, names derived from the icons of Davao; Mt. Apo, Durian: King of Fruits and Waling-Waling: The Queen of Orchids. In 1988, it was changed & renamed back to Kadayawan by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Kadayawan, aside from being a thanksgiving celebration it also serves as a prayer to bless the people of Davao with a more harvest particularly to their famous Durian and Orchids which are the icon of the festivity. The said event is also considered as a good luck to the locals of Davao, its magnificence and popularity contribute a lot to tourism. But in general, Kadayawan is a fortune to the entire Philippines, because apart from the beauty and the celebration being an attraction, the annual festival serves as preservation and solidifies the kind of culture that we have.

There are three must-see and is the most awaited program in Kadayaman: The Floral Float Parade, Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan and Hiyas ng Kadayawan.

Floral Float Parade, is a road show of various creatively designed mobile floats of very colorful and stunning Flowers of Davao. Using different flowers and with incorporation of fruits of different sizes, shades and colors, are formed into different images and structures. This is one of the events that most photographers are after for; the magic of flowers and fruits with its vibrant colors and the vibe of every smile in the crowd who are watching the festivity are really worth a picture.

Very common to Philippine festivities are beauty pageants. One of the most awaited events in Kadayawan is the Hiyas ng Kadayawan. Gathering the best and beautiful ladies from different barrios and barangays in Davao, Hiyas ng Kadayawan is a battle of beauty, talent and brains that will become ambassadress of the celebration. Also, to win the title of being the icon of Kadayawan, candidates must also be knowledgeable of their indigenous culture. This is definitely one good way to instill and relive the culture to the younger generations.

Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan is a street dancing parade and competition. This is considered the main highlight of the Kadayawan festival. Several groups perform in their extravagant and colorful costumes, showcasing the rich culture and traditions of Davao and the rest of Mindanao through dance. Normally, they choreograph and synchronize dancing to the beat of the drums with all their props. The Fusion of charming little kids move and the above the line adult dancing is very entertaining. Every performance unified by the beat and harmony of the traditional music and presentation of local legends and practices are truly spectacular. The dancing, the fun and the joy are certainly contagious.

Aside from the events highlighted above, there are a lot more reasons to witness Kadayawan. With your visit to Davao for the Kadayawan Festival, you’ll also enjoy the majestic wonders of nature, delicious food, friendly people and rich culture. So mark your calendars and take the chance to experience it!

Photos by Meljoe San Diego

See more of his photography, visit

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