DAVAO CITY, Philippines?Mendoza Tayaw sits on one of the benches at Osmeña Park in Davao City, polishing long rattan strips to bind the floors and walls of the Matigsalog hut his tribe is building.
Rattan materials are now becoming rare and there?s hardly time to harvest them in the forests, so the people had to use nails instead, the 58-year-old Tayaw explains.
The Matigsalog house has floors of bamboo slats and walls made from the bark of old lauaan. It stands next to the Maranao and Tausug houses as part of a tree-shaded cluster at the indigenous village?the centerpiece of this year?s Kadayawan sa Dabaw, the city?s crowd-drawing festival of harvest.
Datu Carlito Guinto Sr., deputy mayor of the Matigsalog in the city, says that with its participation, people will get to know his tribe better and, perhaps, wipe out lingering biases against it.
?Maabi-abihon, matinagdanon ug matinabangon (Hospitable, friendly and helpful),? Guinto describes his people in Cebuano, ?That?s why no one among our people get any rich because we help everybody who is in distress,? he says.
Davao?s 10 tribes
The Matigsalog, who live in the hinterland areas in the boundary of the three provinces of Davao, Cotabato and Bukidnon, are just among the 10 tribes that the city government is honoring. The others are the Tagabawa, Obo-Manobo, Ata, Kalagan, Tausug, Sama, Maguindanao, Maranao and the K?lata/Guiangan.
According to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the city wants to show to the world that Davao is home to indigenous peoples living side by side with the Moro and the settlers.
Over the years, tourism officials have treated the Kadayawan as Mindanao?s ?festival of festivals,? a cultural fiesta timed with the harvest month of August and attracting both domestic and foreign guests.
This time, the city government is highlighting indigenous culture as the center of the celebration in honor of the first peoples who had lived in this part of Mindanao before the settlers came.
As the ?kulintang? (native percussion instrument) sounds off this year?s event, Duterte has ordered organizers to give attention to the indigenous peoples? struggle for their ancestral land, pointing out that their life and cultural beliefs would not be possible without it.
Fight for ancestral lands
?The life and culture of the indigenous peoples have always been linked to the land,? says the festival? website. ?If their land is lost, so is their culture and traditions. There is a need to defend the indigenous peoples? ancestral lands.?
This year?s Kadayawan has two main components?lumadnong kasaulongan (indigenous peoples festival), which extols their culture and arts, and the contemporary celebration that includes street dancing and the floral float parade. The latter is ?indigenous-inspired,? according to Baby Montemayor, vice chair for the private sector in the steering committee.
The festival evolved from the Apo Duwaling (which stands for Davao?s icon Mt. Apo, durian and waling-waling). It has lured a steady influx of foreign and domestic crowds over the years.
Sonia Garcia, tourism regional director, says her office has always noticed an increasing number of visitor arrivals months before the festivities. More than 60,000 tourists come for the Kadayawan, she says.
Most hotels and inns are fully booked as if it?s the Christmas season, according to Art Boncato, in charge of the publicity committee. Special flights are opened and discounts on goods and tour packages abound.
?Kadayawan has become a brand in itself?" says Boncato. ?Travelers around the world easily recognize Davao because of Kadayawan. It has become a brand, encapsulating everything about Davao in a week.?
Every year, the ?Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan? (Dancing in the Streets) has drawn delegations from as far as Bislig in Surigao del Sur, Cotabato and other parts of the country.
Each dance interprets the legend of a tribe, says Montemayor. ?That way, we get to know our roots, our beginnings. Although the dance steps are already contemporary, we still trace it back to the roots of the tribe,? she says.
Indigenous peoples? festival
This is apart from the dances during the Indigenous Peoples Festival, which will only be ?performed by the members of the 10 tribes in Davao,? Montemayor says.
Fruits are also expected to flood the streets. ?Nowhere in the Philippines can you find that,? Montemayor says. ?Definitely, we are the undisputed king of fruits.?
But Susan Palad, president of the Davao Tour Operators (Dato), and Gene Bangayan of the Kadayawan ways and means committee, admit that the fruit season may not be as good as in previous years because of the early rains.
Plant collectors are still coming to Davao to buy rare species that can only be found in Mindanao?s jungle, said Angel Puentespina, president of the Davao Tourism Association (Data). Some foreign tourists ?even fly from as far as Singapore just to see and buy our indigenous plants displayed in Kadayawan,? he says.
Also featured are the Ka-an Mindanao (food fiesta) showcasing indigenous cuisine; the lumadnong gama, a trade fair and exhibit of indigenous crafts and crops.