In a country where fiestas and festivals are celebrated all year round, witnessing an authentic Ethnic Festival is a rare experience. Seeing and experiencing it up close and personal for the very first time totally blew me away. The beat, the costumes, the dances, the rituals – everything becomes more significant. I’m talking about the Kaamulan Festival of the green Province of Bukidnon.
After many years of attempting to come to Bukidnon for this festival, finally, I made it this year. Thanks to my travel buddy Christopher Diaz and fellow Pinoy travel blogger Bonzenti Panganiban, both from the Province of Bukidnon, for persuading me to witness such a spectacular event. Had I turned down their invitation, I would have missed witnessing Kaamulan Festival for the nth time. I would have missed seeing the only authentic Ethnic Festival in the Philippines.
Kaamulan Festival is a cultural festival that showcases the rich customs and traditions of the 7 ethnic hill tribes of whole Province of Bukidnon. They are the Talaandig, Higaonon, Umayamnon, Manobo, Tiwahanon, Matigsalug, and Bukidnon, the early settlers of the Province. “Kaamulan” is from the Binukid word “amul” which means “to gather” and “Kaamulan” is a gathering for a purpose. Hence, the festival is an annual gathering of the 7 tribes of Bukidnon in celebration of their rich customs and traditions along with local dwellers of Bukidnon.
Held annually in Malaybalay City, the capital town of the province, Kaamulan Festival is considered as one of the biggest annual events in Northern Mindanao. It has drawn tourists all over the island and has slowly captivated the hearts of festival fanatics from different parts of the country. It displays the colorful artistry, innate talents, and diverse culture and heritage in the whole province. It adds more colors to the Province’s verdant hills, cool climate, lush forest, magnificent waterfalls, cold springs and vast lakes.
Kaamulan Festival is celebrated for a month boasting various activities and nightly affairs in the Province’s Capital from February to March. Kaamulan Street Dancing is the highlight of the event. It is the convergence of what the festival really is – an ethnic gathering of the seven Hill Tribes of Bukidnon.
Attending Kaamulan Festival was a new festival experience for me. The Ethnic Street Dancing was superbly unparalleled. Most of the festivals that I have witnessed in other places are those participated mostly by students and community-based groups who were portraying ethnic traditions of one town. Kaamulan Festival on the other hand is different. Based on my firsthand experience, 75% of the participants are real members of the ethnic group of the Province making it the most authentic Ethnic Festival in the Philippines. The main dancers, chanters, drumbeaters, ritual performers – most of them come from the seven hill tribes of Bukidnon. It was an event to behold as elders of each tribe perform rituals and dances truly one of its kinds. Their colorful woven costumes, headdresses, amulets, anklets, earrings and necklaces beautifully depict their rich colorful tradition.
As festival fanatic having witnessed Kaamulan Festival for the first time, I have to agree with the former Tourism Secretary Ace Durano when he said, “Kaamulan Festival is undoubtedly the only authentic ethnic festival in the Philippines”. It actually is – diversely authentic. This gives me a very good reason to travel to Bukidnon every March. After all, it is four hours away from Davao City.
So, if you like to witness an authentic ethnic festival in the country, remember the word KAAMULAN which means a gathering! Let’s gather next year in the very heart of Bukdinon and commune with the 7 Hill Tribes of the Province for another colorful celebration of Kaamulan Festival.