By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent

DAVAO CITY – The 32nd Kadayawan celebration kicked off at the Magsaysay Park on Monday, Aug. 14, with a new attraction: a village that showcases the 11 indigenous groups of this rapidly urbanizing city.

At the opening ceremony, dubbed Pag-abli sa Kadayawan, the different tribes played their music, performed their dances, and held sacred rituals for their respective hand-built houses in the Kadayawan Village.

The city’s 11 ethnolinguistic peoples – the Ata, Iranun, Kagan, Klata-Guiangan, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Matigsalug, Ovu Manuvu, Sama, Tagabawa, and Tausug – who have roots and ties in different parts of Mindanao, also have on display their crops, clothes, and handicrafts.

Other festival highlights, as in previous years, include the fluvial float parade, a reenactment of the first Davao settlement along the Davao River where the 11 tribes also take center stage, and the Dula Kadayawan, an exhibition of tribal and Muslim traditional games, both of which will be held today.

The customary beauty contest for Philippine fiestas also takes on a more cultural color in the Hiyas sa Kadayawan wherein the contestants, most of them urban-based and living modern-day lifestyles, will be tested on their knowledge on their respective indigenous roots.

Kadayawan – whose name is derived from the old word madayaw which has a number of connotations that include “good,” “valuable,” and “beautiful” – is a celebration of Davao’s cultural diversity and rich natural bounty. Its forerunner was a 1986 program called Unlad Proyekto Davao, intended to unite Dabawenyos after martial law. The festival was then called Apo Duwaling, which stands for three of the city’s icons – Mt. Apo, the durian fruit, and the waling-waling orchid.

This year, the celebration takes on a deeper meaning in the context of the toll and lessons from the still ongoing armed struggle and humanitarian impact in Marawi City.

“Kadayawan is a recognition of, and a call for us to transcend boundaries, and show the world we are a diverse community working as one towards peace, inclusive growth and environmental protection,” Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said at the July 3 launching of this year’s festival logo.

She reiterated this message at Monday’s opening ceremony, saying: “Let us not forget that despite our celebration, we have fellow Mindanaoans facing challenging times right now; let us pray they attain peace and unity.

“We are with you, we are one with you because we are one nation.”

More importantly, Ms. Duterte-Carpio continued, is that the city must go on in the face of the challenges and Davao must “soar high like the Philippine eagle.”

The city hopes this year’s Kadayawan Festival, more than ever, will depict Davao as home to diversity, strength, and progress.

“The goal is to show the world that it’s business as usual in the city,” Tourism Operations Office head Regina D. Tecson said.

For the other annual spectacles – the Indak-Indak street dancing on the 19th and Pamulak floral float parade on the 20th – organizers are introducing innovations to make it more convenient and entertaining for visitors.

“The big difference for the Kadayawan this time is that the directorate has decided to put up a dome along San Pedro Street,” Ms. Tecson said.

The cover will be built beside the central Eagle Stage in front of the city hall to provide more shade for both participants and spectators.

Those who do not want to join the crowd at San Pedro can still watch the Indak-Indak performances at smaller stages that will be set up in near the Marco Polo Davao Hotel and the Apo View Hotel, where participating groups will be doing their routines en route to the main stage.

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. president Ronald C. Go, this year’s festival co-chairperson, said that in the face of outsiders’ anxieties over the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Kadayawan would be an opportunity to show that all is well in the city.

He said: “It is life as usual and it is business as usual, and this is what we want to portray.”

The Kadayawan’s closing activities will be held on Aug. 20, and include a parade of floats and a concert of Mindanaoan artists in the evening.