Kaamulan Festival | Malaybalay, Bukidnon
Places in the Philippines that claim to do cultural festivals must look into how Bukidnon stages Kaamulan Festival. It is one of the perfect examples of how to keep a celebration spectacular without losing the integrity of the ethnic culture it represents. Simply, they’re just doing it right.
Kaamulan Festival swings by in Malaybalay between the last week of March to about mid-April. Since its creation in 1974, it never fails to draw crowd despite several changes in schedule. Originally held every September, then moved to August & in the recent years in March.
Kaamulan Festival: On Tribal Fete & Legacies
From the Binukid word “amul”, meaning to gather, Kaamulan Festival brings together the 7 hilltribes of Bukidnon. They are the Higaunon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahananon, Umayamnon & the Bukidnon.
It is a feast that rejoices their motley of ethnic traditions like the conferment of datus, sealing of peace pacts & a jillion of tribal rituals. Also, it is a pageant of their different indigenous games, arts, music & dances strung together in a rare spectacle.
Above all, it is the grand thanksgiving celebration to Magbabaya for the bountiful harvests.
Seven Tribes, One Bukidnon
Each of the seven tribes in Bukidnon is traditionally defined by its dwelling & culture, art & literature, lifestyle & customs. They each have their own set of “batasan” or rules & rituals.
Every tribe has its own festival too, such as Sunggod Te Kamanga of the Manobos in Quezon, Talaandig in Lantapan & the Kalalagan in Impasugong among others. And Kaamulan Festival is what unites them all in one massive & beautiful merrymaking.
It is at this time when the plurality of their ethnic traditions become one in a grand celebration. While each exists as a separate tribe, you can’t help but admire how Bukidnon pulls off an image as one distinct highland people.
Lose it at the Kaamulan Festival
With a full line-up of month-long activities, Kaamulan Festival delights guests with glimpses of the heart & soul of Bukidnon. Fringe events include indigenous games, trade fairs, horse shows as well as dance & music clinics.
Then there’s Laga ta Bukidnon or the search for the most beautiful lady in the province. Some nights are reserved for now hardly-heard recitations of the limbay (poetry), antoka (riddles) & nanangon (folktales).
And as if it’s not enough, there’s the chanting of the olaging (Bukidnon epic) & the bayok-bayok (verses). Idangdang or traditional ballads also goes on air during this season. Listen to “dasang” too & be amazed at how they trace their genealogy in a debate.
Party-feeling pack, don’t fret! They have thought about you too. Get drowned in massive concerts performed by big named bands & lots of treats from sponsors. But hallmark parties here are usually done by Globe. So you know what fun it brings peeps.
Must-Experience at Kaamulan
There’s so much to experience during the Kaamulan Festival & yes, so much to love too! But always there are staple shows that mustn’t be missed. Among them are the street dancing & float parades.
Unlike other cultural street dancing shows, Bukidnon keeps true to its indigenous movements & music. Here, either overstylized choreography or copying from other folk cultures is a no-no. These are the same dances that their forefathers taught them, handed down from generation to generation.
On the other hand, its music & the instruments used are as real as anyone could get. From the heart-thumping beats of the “lebpad” & “bangkakaw” to the melodious plucks of the “saluray” & “kodlong”, everything is orchestrated as it was in the olden times.
The floats here are crazy huge too! However, they’re not only massive but also well-executed with various natural & modern materials. Each one shows creative expressions of their town’s art, culture, tourist attractions & products.
The rituals are a must-see. It’s good to experience for yourself how our time-honored folk rituals still survive to this day. And mind you, these rituals aren’t for a show. They’re the reasons for the celebration & very much part of the entire festivity.
All is Not Lost
Kaamulan Festival was once known as the only ethnic festival in the country. But it isn’t true anymore. Some small indigenous communities in the Cordilleras & other places are doing the same too. Also, a few towns are happily departing from the Sinulog template & going back to their roots.
Nevertheless, Kaamulan Festival is by far one of the best executions. It’s well curated & offers a splendid communal experience. It just strikes a good balance between cultural & economic values. Also, this is the only festival that gathers the most real old folks who are rarely seen on ordinary days.
In fact, Kaamulan Festival is what cultural tourism’s taste-shaping effect is all about. You see, it presents its festival with so much ethnic-feels otherwise not too appealing to the younger entertainment-driven audience. Yet, it sparks interest because of how the old is woven around the new.
It also offers guests casual interaction with the indigenous people, paving the opportunity to learn. Kaamulan isn’t just a showpiece to the world, it is educational & inspiring. Especially among citysiders, this gives us a chance to understand cultural diversity.
Saddling “high culture” such as that of the hilltribes by the more popular city culture is no easy task. But look, Kaamulan Festival is effortlessly winning at it. The reason is clear, they studied it well, laid down their intentions & stood in rarity.
As everyone rides the maddening festival phenomenon, Kaamulan is going the other way. Come to Malaybalay & feel the difference. Yes, because all is not lost.