Multi-cultural Davao City

Published December 30, 2020, 8:00 AM

by Nick J. Lizaso


Nick Lizaso Column Box
Arsenio “Nick” J. Lizaso,
CCP president and NCCA chairman

Last Nov. 24, 2018 B.C. (before Covid-19), I was sitting with ordinary Dabawenyos at the RMC Gymas we were being regaled with another enchanting evening of music by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of its Music Director and Principal Conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura

Even before I assumed the position of president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), I was already a staunch supporter of the PPO. I believe in the power of music to change the lives of the Filipino people. And that night in Davao City, it was personally satisfying to see a sense of delight on the faces of the audience. For some brief moments of their lives, their spirits were uplifted by music that seemed to have come from heaven.

It was the first ever concert performed by the PPO in Davao City, to enable Dabawenyos to experience world-class live music without going to Manila for free. The concert was arranged with and facilitated by the cooperative and friendly staff of Mayor Sara Duterte’s city government as well as the Davao Tourism Office, which graciously and commendably hosted us.

In return, as we gave ordinary folks of Davao City their first taste of  world-class music, Davao City opened itself to us. 

The author with Mayor Sara Duterte

Davao City takes pride in many unique and fascinating things such as picturesque landscapes, different fruit plantations, virgin forests, and pristine beaches. Davao City is as you know home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines.

We know for a fact that the city serves as the main trade, commerce, and industry hub of Mindanao, and the regional center of Davao region. 

Everybody also knows that the city is the “Durian Capital of the Philippines.” That’s because this is where you can have your fill of durian varieties to your heart’s delight. The durian season is usually in season during August to October.

But our focus is on its native arts and culture.

(Courtesy of Davao City LGU)

What can be a better way to find the cultural roots of Davao Citythan going to the communities of diverse tribes of Indigenous Peoples who are all living here. There are around 11 tribes: Ata, Bagobo-Klata, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Iranun, Kagan, Maguindanaon, Maranao, residing in Davao City Matigsalog, Ovu Manubo, Sama, and Tausug. Amazingly, they live harmoniously together, in peace and friendship.

Our friends tell us that the best time to get a multi-sensory experience of Davao’s multi-faceted tribal culture is in August, which is when the Kadayawan Festival happens. This Festival is described as a “celebration of life, a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature, wealth of culture, and the bountiful harvest and serenity of living.” 

Over the years, it has evolved from a harvest ritual  into a tribute for the indigenous peoples  living in the city. Must-see activities during the festival are the Davao River Festival, Sayaw Mindanao, Lumadnong Dula, Tunog Mindanaw, Hiyas sa Kadayawan, Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan, Pamulak sa Kadalanan, and Floral Float Parade.

A highlight of the festival is Hiyas sa Kadayawan, something akin to regular beauty pageants, but in this case, each tribe is represented by one young woman. The contest is a gauge of how the candidates understand their culture and traditions through question and answer, talent, among others. This is probably a way to ensure that the wisdom of old ways and customs are passed onto the next generation. Other highlights include Tribuhaning Pasundayag (tribal cultural show), and Tribal Games, and Subang Sinugdan (fluvial parade).

If you can’t come to the festival, you can always visit the Kadayawan Village at Magsaysay Park where you can get a sight of the Lumad and Moros’ lives and traditions. You get glimpses of how houses of the eleven indigenous and Moro groups in Davao city are constructed. It’s a popular attraction in a sightseeing escapade in Davao as it expresses not only a deeper appreciation of the indigenous and Moro’s history but also an appreciation of Philippine native architecture.

Complementing Kadayawan Village is Museo Dabawenyo, which showcases the diverse cultural heritage and the rich history of the city. Within the museum, visitors can see stilt house replicas, weapons, and musical instruments used by indigenous people. It also houses a full gallery of antiques like armors, chairs, crowns, and lamps of Moro People as well as traditional Filipino clothing, Filipino bills, musical notes, clothes, and more. In just an hour or so you get an idea of  how natives lived, worked, educated themselves, and their way of life.

One noteworthy destination in Davao to include in your cultural visit is the Japanese Tunnel, part of a network of tunnels dug by Japanese Imperial Forces, which served as a hideout and troop and supply line during World War II. It remains an important piece of history. 

The PPO in Davao City

Of interest to amateur fossil hunters is D’ Bone Collector Museum, with its plethora of preserved and reconstructed skeletons of a diverse range of creatures great and small, including huge reptiles, domestic pets, simian tree dwellers, and other animals. The collection is courtesy of an American named Darrell Blatchley, who has been amassing his curious horde since he was a kid.

We came back to Manila with gift bags of the multi-sensory delights of durian and native crafts. But more memorably, we also brought home with us the soul-enriching diverse culture of Davao City.