Kaamulan Festival: A Celebration of Indigenous Culture and History
Kaamulan Festival is an annual event that showcases the rich and diverse culture and history of the seven ethnic groups that inhabit the province of Bukidnon in the Philippines. These are the Bukidnon, Higaonon, Manobo, Matigsalug, Talaandig, Tigwahanon, and Umayamnon tribes, who have preserved their unique traditions, beliefs, and rituals for centuries. Kaamulan Festival is considered to be the only authentic ethnic festival in the Philippines, as it features genuine tribal activities such as dances, songs, games, weddings, and peace pacts.
The word Kaamulan comes from the Binukid language, which is spoken by most of the indigenous people in Bukidnon. It means “to gather” or “gathering for a purpose”. The festival is a way of honoring the ancestral heritage and cultural identity of the tribes, as well as fostering unity and harmony among them. It is also a celebration of the founding anniversary of Bukidnon as a province, which happened on March 10, 1917.
The first Kaamulan Festival was held on May 15, 1974, during the town fiesta of Malaybalay, the capital of Bukidnon. The then vice mayor Edilberto Mamawag invited some tribal members to perform a few dance steps at the town plaza to enliven the fiesta-goers. The event was so popular that it gained national attention and was later adopted as the regional festival of Northern Mindanao in 1977https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaamulan. Since then, Kaamulan Festival has grown into a month-long celebration that attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists every year.
One of the highlights of Kaamulan Festival is the street dancing competition, where different groups of tribal performers parade along the streets of Malaybalay wearing colorful costumes and accessories made from natural materials. They also carry musical instruments such as gongs, drums, flutes, and bamboo zithers. The street dancing is accompanied by chants and songs in various dialects that tell stories of their history, culture, and way of life.
Another highlight is the ethnic ritual demonstration, where tribal leaders and elders perform sacred ceremonies that are usually done in private or secluded places. These rituals include the pangampo (prayer), panalawahig (offering), panumanod (spirit quest), panlisig (rite of passage), panalawag (peace pact), and panlibatuhan (wedding). The rituals are meant to invoke the blessings and protection of Magbabaya, the supreme deity of the Bukidnon people.
Other activities that showcase the ethnic culture and history of Bukidnon include the ethnic games, where participants compete in traditional sports such as spear throwing, archery, horse racing, and wrestling; the ethnic food festival, where visitors can taste various delicacies prepared by the tribes using local ingredients; the ethnic art exhibit, where artists display their paintings, sculptures, crafts, and other works inspired by their culture; and the cultural presentations, where different groups perform dances, songs, dramas, and other forms of entertainment.
Kaamulan Festival is a rare opportunity to witness and experience the authentic culture and history of the indigenous people of Bukidnon. It is a celebration of their resilience, diversity, and unity as a people. It is also a reminder of their valuable contribution to the Philippine society and nationhood.