Out of Cebu: Davao City and the Kadayawan – Day 1

When I read the subject line of the email, I already knew what my answer was going to be. It was going to be a big, definite YES. I had been to Davao City several times in the past. But most if not all of these visits had been quick and simple. I never really got the chance to stay in the city for more than two days. Especially during the Kadayawan season when the city is most festive and colorful. So when the invite stated that it was going to be a familiarization tour of Davao City with focus on the Kadayawan Festival, I was more than ecstatic. This opportunity doesn’t happen very often. And more importantly, it doesn’t happen to every one! This was the chance that I’d been waiting for for a very long time. And now, it was finally becoming a reality. And the best part is, I will get to see all the action as an invited guest. How cool is that!

Davao City – DAY 1

It is quite easy to know that you’ve finally landed in the city of Davao. The local colors are evident and the overall feel is just really different.

As a Sugbuanon, every time I arrive in Cebu and get bombarded with amazing photos of the island’s best tourist spots at the airport, I always vividly imagine the stunning beaches, the majestic waterfalls, and all the cool mountain spots that I frequent. In the city of Davao, you will feel that you’re in a whole new country. The mood is different, the vibes are different, even the people are different. It may seem impossible, but as soon as you arrive in Davao, you’ll know that over there, things are just done differently.

Plus, this is what will greet you at the airport.

To be completely honest, I really had no idea what the Kadayawan Festival was about. And no, this wasn’t about reporting to an assignment unprepared. The truth is, I actually restrained myself from googling about anything related to the festival. Why? Because I wanted to make my experience as pure as possible. I am a wide-eyed child when it comes new experiences and discoveries. And I was pretty sure that the Kadayawan would be nothing short of breath-taking.

When we arrived in Davao, we were welcomed by the local team from the Department of Tourism. The team was composed of one lady and four gentlemen. They gave us welcome leis and gave us our itinerary and press kit. After a quick (and much-needed) breakfast at the airport (which was so good,) we were informed that our very first stop was the Lumad Games at the People’s Park. Sounds exciting!

Less than 30 minutes later, we arrived at the People’s Park. The park was teeming with life that day. And unlike the regular days when some sections of the park get very little attention from visitors, today, the park was busy, noisy, and just so alive.

There, I found out for the very first time, that the whole Kadayawan festivities were focused on the moro and lumad tribes of Davao City. During this season, they take center stage and the whole of Davao gets to celebrate their traditions, cultures, and customs.

These men belonging to one of Davao City’s 11 ethnic tribes gamely posed for my camera during the Lumad Games at the People’s Park.

This group, consisting of young individuals from the same tribe didn’t say no when I asked if I could take a photo of them. Thank you, guys!

This lovely lady readily posed for a shot when I approached her. Notice the intricate details of her head-dress, necklace, and upper wear. So beautiful!

This young couple, from a different tribe, sports a slightly different ensemble. Notice the beautiful bead-work.

These ladies were gracious when I introduced myself as a first-timer. After taking their photo, they told me to enjoy the Kadayawan. How sweet.

This lady was just standing all alone when I noticed her. I asked her if I could take a picture of her. She said yes by automatically leaning on this small tree and smiling for the camera.

One of the many people that I observed as I walked around People’s Park was this gentleman. Check out the beautiful necklace that he is wearing! And don’t forget the ones that he is selling!

This man was passionately playing this local instrument when I chanced upon him. I moved closer to take a shot. He gave me a nod and continued playing the instrument as though I wasn’t there.

This guy is wearing one of the most interesting head-dresses that I saw during the event. I’m not sure what it’s made of, but the little colorful objects on his head do look really amazing.

A few minutes later, it was announced that the tribal games were finally starting. The first event was the archery contest. The archery competition was participated in by authentic tribe members who used a bow and arrow in real life. It was so cool!

Then, it was time for a more challenging and more tasking competition. Two tribes showed off their strength and unity as a team during the tug of war competition.

Several other games were also played afterwards. However, I ended up walking around the park in the hopes of finding more interesting people to shoot.

And then I found this man. This is probably my most favorite shot during the whole Davao City visit.

A close second is this portrait of two bare-footed children. The photo is very captivating and the eyes of these two kids are very haunting. You couldn’t look away!

We stayed at the park until it was time to grab something to eat at a nearby local restaurant. When I visited Davao City several years ago, I remember coming to this exact restaurant. However, back then, the name of the restaurant was Penong’s. Today, the location is now occupied by Pidoks.

Waiting for us inside the restaurant were some of the best-tasting dishes I’ve ever tasted in Davao. To this day, I could still remember the actual taste of this mouth-watering chicken tinola.

And the grilled chicken was just as fascinating and and mind-blowingly good.

However, outdoing all other delicious dishes served during the event was this huge serving of Crispy Pata. It was delightfully addictive.

After our hearty lunch at Pidok’s, the group headed to the GMall of Davao. The GMall of Davao is one of Davao City’s biggest and longest-operating malls. Here at the GMall, this year’s Hiyas sa Kadayawan candidates were officially introduced.

Hiyas sa Kadayawan is very similar to Cebu City’s very own Sinulog Festival Queen. However, instead of making the ladies wear costumes, the Hiyas candidates get to wear their very own (and authentic) tribal wear.

It is interesting to note that like the Festival Queen competition here in Cebu, the Hiyas sa Kadayawan is a very well-attended event. Hundred flock to the usual venues just to watch and support the ladies of Hiyas sa Kadayawan.

Representatives of the Moro and Lumad tribes introducing themselves during the Hiyas sa Kadayawan mall show at the GMALL of Davao.


After the program, we went back to our waiting van to catch a ride to one of Davao City’s busiest areas during the Kadayawan — Rizal Park. The streets surrounding the park are usually closed off to traffic during the Kadayawan season to allow the considerable amount of foot traffic to freely move around.

Here are the Rizal Park, members of Davao City’s 11 moro and lumad tribes get some stage time to showcase their cultures and traditions through dance, songs, and other performances. And check out the enthusiasm from the audience members. It was a very amazing experience!

We stayed for a few more minutes before our driver and tour guide informed us that it was finally time for dinner.

Tonight’s dinner was served at Yellow Fin Seafood Restaurant — one of Davao City’s most celebrated and most frequented food destinations in the metro.

The concept of Yellow Fin is pretty simple. You check the fresh items available on display and have them cooked the way you want.

This very visually-stunning seafood planner is one of Yellow Fin Seafood Restaurant’s top-selling items.

After the very filling dinner, it was time to visit one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most favorite haunts — After Dark. After Dark is a small piano bar where patrons may also participate and showcase their very own clients. During our short stay there, I saw several individuals who were very prominent especially during the election season.

Do watch out for my next few blogs about my 4-day stay in Davao City for the 2016 Kadayawan sa Davao celebrations. It was a totally amazing experience and I can’t wait to share it with all of you guys! 🙂