Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kadayawan 2009: Grand Opening

Like at any festival in this country, the Kadayawan 2009 had many activities leading to or in conjunction with the street dancing and float parade. Trying to see them all was a challenge – an gross impossibility actually hehe. We were there from the 21st to the 23rd only but the activities, attractions, celebrations were virtually the whole month! Anyway, Saturday and Sunday were the most important days – at least for us!

Grand Opening and Subay Sa Suba
This was one unique event that only me myself and I watched since my companions opted to hit the beds for a snooze as they all woke very early in Manila to catch their early morning flight. They missed a grand part of the Kadayawan. This “Grand Opening” was not really grand in terms of performances and the number of people in attendance. But the simplicity and symbolism in that short program made it all too grand – for me at least!

Schedule said the Subay Sa Suba and consequently the Grand Opening was to happen at the Tionko Field. That name was unknown to most people I asked. Good that I saw a sked that printed “(formerly Agro Field)”. Now I think I knew where that was – some big field after a bridge on the way to Matina. But I was disoriented hehe! I knew I was near the church but could not get my correct headings. And cabs were few in between as the city was already bustling with crowds of folks in festival mode! Asked a policeman who was just about to ride his police car. The reply “sakay na sir, ihatid kita doon”! Yey!

Mr. Policeman told me though that I may have been late for the event since it was scheduled to start at 8AM and it was somewhere around 9AM as we threaded through traffic! He was correct. We arrived at the field as the boats were already starting to arrive at the docks. “Subay Sa Suba” is some kind of a fluvial parade tracing the banks of that big river where what is now Davao is purported to have started. That activity is supposed to highlight love for nature and to encourage people to help preserve the river by keeping it clean!

Warning: If you are not ready for the limelight, avoid hitching a ride in a police car – even if the officer is so kind enough to offer it! Here goes:

On arrival at the field, the kind policeman drove to an area nearest the tents and stage so I won’t have to walk far. That meant he drove to an area off limits to vehicles. Thus, as I alighted, media men inched a bit forward and gazed at me. Some were looking me from head to toe – probably thinking, “who is this devil coming in like that in shorts and sandals”! I think one or two even already snapped pics of me. OMG a big TV camera was already aiming at me – am not sure if it was recording though! Then one of the girls (organizer) asked “from what embassy sir”? I am not new to this incident… so I sheepishly bowed and said I am just another onlooker and hitched a ride with the police car. The next question was “but are you a Filipino?” which I promptly replied with “dugay na uy”! Everyone laughed. Thankfully, the unnecessary attention on me was cut short since the politicians and guests were already walking towards the field from the bank of the river. Gosh!

Hey, this “Agro Field” is about the size of two football fields with wide enough space on the sides. It is some meters down below the highway. The “Grand Opening” was held at this end (nearer the highway) where they erected a stage, some tents with monobloc chairs for those in attendance and some tables with food (snacks). A kulintang group was constantly playing at the side of the stage to provide background music as everyone settled in from the river.

Then the program started. How? Ceremonies ceremonies… speeches speeches as usual! I liked it though that the focus of this opening program (the whole festival in fact) were the tribes and mother nature. Yes, there still are aboriginal groups in Davao, so I learned. They were there to perform and show their art and culture. Oh, upstage were also beautiful lasses representing each tribe together with their chiefs or village leaders. Even the invocation included a prayer from one of those leaders. I did not understand much of what he said in that long prayer but it was something like he was asking the gods to bless them, bless the festival, Davao, earth and a litany of politicians. It was interesting at first but when it got to specific names, it did not sound good to my ears.

Then… a pack of red shirted youngsters in jeans came running in a single pile from under a tree at the bank of the river. Hmm that should be about 50 meters or so. They went straight to the back of each of a hundred drums and other percussion instruments forming a semi-circle between the stage and the kiosks/tents! Then BOOM, the whole field throbbed to the simultaneous playing of those drums. Wow! I think my ribcage rocked as they pounded those drums! The masters of ceremony described that it was a hundred drums to signal the opening of the festival symbolizing something. [forgot what the something was hehe… sori po, tao lang!]While I enjoy drum sounds very much, I liked the symbolism of using drums. It kind of represents a mixture of cultures. The sound to drive away evil spirits (Chinese), the beat to offer prayer to the gods (tribal), and the noise to signify celebration (modern). Bright idea! And many of those drums were real BIG!

The tribes performed too. Oh, the theme was revealed via two rolls of tarpaulin that were sprung open near the stage and a number of gongs lined below the stage were struck each by a number of political figures in attendance. Each of those gongs were supposed to represent a year of something [sorry I forgot this one too hehe]

Searing Heat! This was a grassy field far from any tree and it was midmorning on a Davao sun. Gosh! If anyone stood or sat inside those tents (which were fully packed anyway) he won’t get to shoot pictures of what was happening. So, like the media folks and other tourists, I went roaming the field braving the sun. Some of the TV crews had umbrellas, I so envied them.

That was just it! A very short program and thankfully since it was too hot a day!

BUT, I enjoyed my close-encounters with those real tribal folks. I marveled at the fact that sometimes they don’t have a choice but assimilate into our modern conveyances. Examples? Well, saw one of their women leaders toting a cellular phone at times receiving calls or txtng! When not busy some of the kids would gather around her watching how the phone is used and asking her questions. I watched the kids play around, and they would remove their slippers when about to run! Another woman tribe leader wore a silvery wristwatch and had sunglasses on. I know she wore those to put her best foot forward. Conversely, if non-tribal folks like us would remove those to appear authentic in those authentic tribal wears, right?! Oh, I had mixed emotions watching a boy (probably 11 or 12) who couldn’t make out on how to prick the straw into his tetrapack where he eventually sought assistance of an elder.

Nice one Davao!

1 comment :

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