Rondalla: The Festival that Rocks the Philippines

Tagum City has no natural attractions to speak of – so it is making up for the deficit with a year-round list of attraction, events and festivals that would make anyone want to visit.

By Henrylito D. Tacio

The Indayog festival features both contemporary and traditional dance displays, performances and classes.

Tagum, 20 Jan 2010. Tagum City has no natural attractions to speak of – except for the black sand beaches. “We are aware of those shortcomings,” admits Rey T. Uy, the workaholic mayor of Tagum City. But Uy, now on his third term, has helped turn Tagum into what it is now: one of the 20 cities “most viable and most competitive business sites” according to a study by the Asian Institute of Management, as well as the major economic hub of Davao del Norte.

But for Uy, that wasn’t enough. He wanted it to be a great place to visit, as well as do business. So the city government – with support from other organizations and religious institutions – launched an impressive nine festivals and five city events. So now, “Anytime of the year, people can come to our city and enjoy the festivities and celebrations,” Mayor Uy says.

Mayor Rey T. Uy, has worked hard to organise a host of festivals and events that put Tagum on the map.

This year, the biggest event happens is from February 12-19. Tagum is hosting the Third International Rondalla Festival for plucked string ensembles. Aside from the Philippines , confirmed performers are arriving from China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Russia to showcase their skills.

Philippine participants are busy practising across the nation, and finalising travel plans for the long journey to Tagum. But barely will they have they left than the next musical influx happens – for the Musikahan Festival on February 21-27.

Ethnic groups all get their chance to celebrate at the Kaimonan Festival, using songs, dances, and music rituals.

This a distinct cultural event that celebrates the Filipino excellence in music compositions, performance, and production. “We want to provide the youth with more opportunities to excel in the music industry,” explains Cromwell Bonghanoy, Tagum city information officer.

May has two big events: Summer Sports and Flores de Tagumeño Festivals. The former is a celebration of sportsmanship and camaraderie through simultaneous tournaments of different sports events while the latter revives the Roman Catholic traditions of fiestas, introduced way back during the Spanish era.

The Rondalla Festival is the big one on the Tagum agenda, attracting participants from all over the globe.

On the third week of July, the streets of Tagum come alive with the observance of the Binuhat Festival. This is an advocacy celebration recognizing the rights and social contribution of the gay community in different fields – from technical aspects to business and academia, from creative to performing arts. This always brings wonderful, creative sights and sounds to the streets.

Durian Festival is celebrated during either August or September (depending on which month the fruit is in season). This month-long celebration showcases the delectable durian produced by beneficiaries of the government-initiated, “plant now pay later” program, and other durian growers too. One of the highlights is the interschool and professional culinary competitions that feature durian as the main component – everything from cakes, pastries, and bread to coffee, cocktails and mocktails.

The number of sports at the Summer and Flores de Tagumeño Festivals is enough to keep the keenest of athletes happy.

Then on October 10, Tagum celebrates Kaimonan Festival, a cultural event from indigenous people where different tribal songs, dances, and music rituals are performed for the glory of God (Magbabaya). They see this as a way of thanksgiving and merrymaking thanks to God’s generosity. Also observed during the Festival is the Panagsawitan, a traditional way of converging and sharing of blessings among members of the different tribes. It also rekindles the culture, norms and traditions of tipanod (original settlers) of Tagum City.

During the last week of October the Pakaradjan Festival swings into action, a special gathering of dominant Muslim tribes in the city, including K’gans (original settlers), Maranaos, Maguindanaos, Iranons, and Tausogs. During the festival, each tribe showcases its cultural talents. Pakaradjan is unique as a celebration of music, dance and cultural presentations, and throbs with the beat and rhythm of kulintang, dobakan and agong.

Next up on the festival list is the Food Festival, celebrated on the second week of November. It is an extravaganza of food from restaurants, hotels and catering companies and showcases their crafts and expertise in food preparation and hospitality management.

The Durian Festival means big eaters get the (slightly smelly) fruits of their labours.

Although Christmas is big on everyone’s minds at the end of the year, December is not only for Christmas. It’s also time for the Indayog Festival, celebrated on the second week of the month. Indayog is a celebration of dance arts in performances, competitions and education through both contemporary and traditional dances. Local and national dance artists, choreographers, writers and directors all flock to Tagum during the festival.

Those are the festivals. Now, let’s talk about the special events.

In April, kids and teenagers can enjoy the Earthfest Summer Workshop, and in November, the Kalinawa Art Foundation facilitates visual fine art shows and auctions. This provides opportunities for indigenous peoples and aspiring artists to earn a better living with their special talents.

Then, to round off the year, on the midnight of December 31st comes the welcoming of the New Year. This sees a spectacular 15-minute fireworks display right in the heart of the city.

“We are proud of our beloved Tagum City ,” says Mayor Uy. “Come and see exactly why.” Indeed, there’s no reason why you should not visit Tagum City anytime of the year. It’s one long fiesta by the sound of it!

Photos courtesy of the Tagum Information Office

Tagum is 55 kilometers north of Davao City and is about two hours from Mati and 4-5 hours from Butuan City.