Published in SunStar Davao on August 25, 2016
Witerary by Jojie Alcantara (with photos by Rhonson Ng)
I have been actively covering the street parades of Davao almost every Kadayawan Festival since 2001. Being a proud member of the media juggling multi-tasking roles in the past as TV anchor for SkyCable and ABS-CBN, writer for SunStar Davao, photographer for M Magazine and travel magazines, it was a pleasure being in the middle of the “grand arena” where the action beautifully takes place. No one to jostle elbows with, no fellow photographer’s head and arms to obscure your view. I got the ringside seats, so to speak. All I had were the TV crew running after me as I interviewed celebrities while freely clicking away at every photo opportunity.
In 2012, I had a dual role, that of opening the live streaming coverage of SunStar Davao and Sunnex with the launch of Smart Communications LTE advanced technology, bringing Kadayawan to a global audience online with minimal delay.
All these have changed in 2013, when I retired from working on live TV broadcast. I had to request for my own ID, find my own place in the assigned areas of the parade route, along with other fellow photographers. I became incognito. This resulted into having to weave in and out of spectators which meant I had to watch my stuff because I tend to leave my bag open. When I was hosting for years, I had a PA to carry my umbrella and powder my itchy nose. Now I was sweating like a sumo wrestler in the midst of getting through a swarm of armpits. Okay, I was exaggerating there but you get the gist. Plus I am not that short.
Davao’s Kadayawan Festival has earned its prestige as one of the most beautiful ethnic celebrations in the country, and remains to be a dazzling spectacle like the street dancing performances and float parades. But there is such a thing about the Davao politeness and courteousness. The crowds you witness are so well disciplined you wonder if this was a hushed theater performance. And I say that in a very positive light. My best friend was in town and he’s a filmmaker who wanted to get rowdy crowd scenes, shouting, laughing, and a festive atmosphere during the parade. I guess he will try his luck in Sinulog next.
This year Rhonson and I was up and about at six in the morning where the assembly was set for the contingents, in Magsaysay Park. While it pays to be very early to shoot, the action takes place much later, but you still have a vantage point of composing and planning your shots. Also, he and I were leading the Fujifilm Photo Walk in this festival, and we got to around 46 participants who signed up, and disappeared from view (later they resurfaced in social media with beautiful entries to the competition, and we are still judging each at the time of this writing).
While Fujifilm announced its prize (an Instax mini 7s for the winner and blowup prints for all), I have also offered to give my personal Smart Bro Pocket Wifi for the winner among the Ateneo students and photography group whom I had a workshop with.
I will never tire of covering Kadayawan, even though there was a period of lapse in 2014 when marshals took their responsibilities too seriously and started roughly berating young photographers to the dismay of spectators, as I was a witness too.
This year, though, they were all smiles, with gentle but firm reminders to a crowd held back with only a piece of rope or railings. Once or twice the 911 staff came in with a wheelchair in tow for a collapsed spectator, but even that was done quietly without a fuss.
Our festival may have mellowed in time, but the thing of beauty is the sort of calmness you feel in the midst of a large gathering, a jovial serenity we have not experienced in the tumultuous years of the past when there were always a threat of security and red alert hovering beforehand. Davao has been on the upswing since we were recognized not only for being the home of the new President, but a model for other cities to emulate.
The Chief Information Officer Jeff Tupas mentioned Kadayawan as Davao’s “beautiful uniqueness”, and I quite agree. In paying homage to our 11 distinct tribes, the city has fully embraced the legacy of our ethnicity and diversity, paying respects to our traditional rituals, cultural values and ancestral spirits who shower us with bountiful harvest all year round, and making sure we locals do not forget our history.
We offer our gratitude and unity to our brothers and sisters of the lumads and muslim tribes: the Kalagan or Kagan, Maguindanaon, Maranao, Iranum, Sama- Badjao, Tausog, Tagabawa, Ata, Ovu Manuvos, Matigsalog, and Klata-Guiangan. Congratulations to our 31st year of celebration, acting Mayor Paolo Duterte, over-all chair and Art Boncato, official spokesperson for the local government unit of Davao, and the heads and members of each committee.
Kadayawan, from the dialect “madayaw” means well and good. We celebrate and share our blessings as we grow and progress in the eyes of outsiders. While I may not have my perks and vantage points anymore, my partner and I are still lucky to be capturing such wonderful smiles and scenes.
(Jojie Alcantara writes and shoots lifestyle and travel for the love of her islands. Rhonson is her photography mentor. View her blog in kodakerdabawenya.com or shoot her an email).