It all started in the 1970’s when then Mayor Elias B. Lopez initiated tribal festivals featuring the lumad (native) and the Muslim tribes of Davao City where they showcase their dances and rituals of thanksgiving. Lopez himself was from a Bagobo tribe.
In 1986, the government initiated a program called “Unlad Proyekto Davao,” whose main objective was to unite the Dabawenyos after the turbulent Martial Law era. The festivity was called “Apo Duwaling,” in honour of the three royalties for which Davao is famous for.
The word “apo” was taken from Mount Apo, the king of all mountains in the Philippines as it is the country’stallest peak at 10,311 feet above sea level. “Du” came from durian, the king of tropical fruits which has been described as having a smell “like hell” but has a taste that can be compared to that of “heaven.”
The term “waling” was from waling-waling, the queen of orchids whose ethic term means “graceful movement of a butterfly in flight.” They were once found only in the forests of Davao and Cotabato province. It was discovered in Davao around 1880 by Carl Roebellin, a German plant enthusiast for the Orchid House of Sanders.
At that time, “Apo Duwaling” was meant to showcase the Davao City as a peaceful destination for other people from all over the country to visit and to do business. This was post-EDSA Revolution.
Two years later, then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte renamed the festival as “Kadayawan sa Dabaw.” Kadayawan is derived from the friendly greeting “Madayaw,” a term taken from a Dabawenyo word dayaw which means “good,” “valuable,” “superior” or “something that brings good fortune.”
Mayor Duterte envisioned the festivity as a way to celebrate the bountiful harvest of Davao’s flowers, fruits and other produce as well as the wealth of the city’s cultures. Today, the festival continues to honor the city's richness and diverse artistic, cultural and historical heritage in a grand celebration of thanksgiving for all of city’s blessings.
In the early stage, ethnic tribes lived together harmoniously, in peace and friendship like the Bagobos, Mandayas, Manobos, Mansakas and T’boli and others. They were the ones who gave the province a name; Davao came from the word “daba-daba,” which means fire.
According to history, Davao’s ethnic tribes residing at the foot of Mount Apo would converge during a bountiful harvest. This ritual serves as their thanksgiving to the gods particularly to the “Manama” (the Supreme Being).
Various farming implements, fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice and corn grains were displayed on mats as villagers give their respect and thanks for the year’s abundance. Singing, dancing and offerings to their divine protectors were the highlights of this ritual.
Although times have changed, this practice of thanksgiving (pahinungod in local dialect) is still very much practiced by modern day Dabawenyos. This tradition flourished and evolved into an annual festival of thanksgiving. And that’s how Kadayawan sa Dabaw came into existence.
Today, Kadayawan has transformed into a festival of festivals, with a number of spin-off festivals in the region. The festival honors Davao’s artistic, cultural and historical heritage, its past personified by the ancestral lumads, its people as they celebrate on the streets, and its floral industry as its representatives parade in full regalia in thanksgiving for the blessings granted on the city.
Actually, the celebration interfaces three aspects: tribal, industrial, arts and entertainment. Commemorated every third week of August, it is a week-long celebration which is highlighted with floral floats, street-dancing competitions and exhibits that showcase the island’s tourism products and services.
The two big parades of the festival are often held during weekends. The street dancing, called Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan, is done on Saturday while the floral float parade falls on Sunday.
The street dancing has two main components. The first is the street parade, where performers groove it up while parading along selected points of the city (at the streets of CM Recto, San Pedro, Pelayo, Bonifacio, Ponciano, and Roxas Avenue). The second is the showdown, where the very same people perform on the same venue, which has traditionally been San Pedro Street. The parade normally takes place in the morning, the showdown from the afternoon to evening.
One pundit puts it: “The Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan is wildly popular because of the distinctively Mindanaoan beat and costumes. Several tourists come to Davao to watch hundreds of people dancing with vigor in the streets, clad in their native attire and carrying extravagant props that would give Hollywood studios a serious run for their money.”
The floral float parade, called Pamulak Kadayawan, is a spectacular finale – patterned after the Pasadena Parade of Roses in the United States – where flowers and fruits are set in colorful floats by business establishments, community assemblies and peoples’ organizations as they promenade on the streets symbolizing all the bounty sustainably enjoyed by the city’s residents. Want to see giant replicas of animals the size of a truck made up of nothing else but flowers? No problem. Go watch the parade and you will see one.
The competition is open to any person, group, organization, institution or company. It has three categories, namely small (maximum size of 8 feet x 16 feet), big (over 8 feet x 16 feet) and alternative (use of miniature cars, golf carts, mini tractors, push carts, karo, kalesa, pedicabs or similar vehicles, motorized, mechanical or animal driven).
Here’s what Dabawenyos will tell you about its festivity: “Kadayawan is an art form in itself. A festival perfect fit for a local government that tries to position itself as the cultural capital of the Philippines. This is the best time to catch the sights, the sounds, the colors and the scent all mixing together to encapsulate the rich diversity of a place which was long ago described as the garden of the gods.”