CATEEL’S KUTOO FESTIVAL: A True Heritage Worthy To Be Proud Of

It was in 2011 that I was given the chance to sit as the Chairman of the Board of Judges for the Kutoo Festival, one of the highlights of the Araw ng Cateel celebration. It was a great opportunity for me not only to witness this colorful event and choose the best performing group but also to learn more about my hometown’s rich culture and tradition through this much-awaited event. Kutoo is one of the many old traditions in my hometown widely practiced even today.

Kutoo is a form of ritual or prayer done during a pre-harvesting process of agricultural crops, particularly palay (rice plants) which is considered the main agriculture produce of the town. Cateel is considered as the rice granary of the Eastcoast of Davao Oriental and this practice of Kutoo traces back even the olden times.

The celebration of KUTOO FESTIVAL has become our town’s tribute to the honor this tradition and has become a festival of thanksgiving for the abundance of agricultural products of our hometown. When Typhoon Pablo hit Cateel in 2012, the celebration was put on halt. But this year the Local Government Unit of Cateel initiated the “comeback” of this festival with the participation of the private sectors, public and private schools of all levels. This year, I was again given the opportunity to sit as the Chairman of the Board of Judges.

In the olden days, Kutoo is said to be typically performed by an old woman by way of harvesting a few stalks of palay while saying a prayer during the ritual. The pre-harvesting process involves showing respect and submission to the gods or anitos, specifically Tagamaling and Dagaw, the stewards of crops. This is intended so that the landowner/farmer will be blessed with a bountiful harvest. In the recent days, Kutoo is still practiced by some farmers but the offerings and prayers for the anitos and gods of the crops are no longer performed.

Today, the celebration of Kutoo Festival features a Street Dancing Competition participated by different schools in Cateel. Participating groups are dressed up wearing Mandaya attire and accessories mostly made of cloth known as dagmay dancing along the major streets to the beat of our Mandaya culture. Cateel is home to Mandaya and Mandaya culture and traditions are still practiced to this day – that includes Kutoo. The choreographed performances of the street-dancing and street showdown are patterned after the rituals of Kutoo. Adding to the colors of the festival, palay takes centerstage as the main props.

Kutoo Festival showcases not only our customary harvest ritual but it displays Cateel’s artistic, cultural and historical heritage. Being a festival fanatic who’s been around the country covering different festivals, witnessing our own festival is heartwarming. It is heartwarming because it is my own heritage and it speaks our own culture – the culture and tradition of my people. As I say it before and I say it again, Kutoo Festival is an eye opener for me to know that there is more to discover and more to be proud of of our town – something that the new generation can learn from.

Together with my fellow Cateeleños, I pray that this festival will flourish and this culture will be preserved. For it is a true heritage worthy to be proud of!


TAWI-TAWI’S AGAL-AGAL FESTIVAL | The Philippines’ Only Seaweed Festival

The Province of Tawi-Tawi is considered as the biggest producer of Seaweed Powder in the country. Because of its significance to the livelihood of the people and the economy of the Province, one grand celebration is made every year as tribute to its great value. This is the Agal-agal Festival which is said to be the only Seaweed Festival in the country. It is derived from the word Agal-Agal which is the local term for seaweed in the Sulu Archipelago.

The staging of AGAL-AGAL FESTIVAL coincides with the Kamahardikaan Sin Tawi-Tawi or the Founding Anniversary of the Province which happens every 25th of September. This year, the celebration was held in the town of Languyan, one of the 11 towns of Tawi-Tawi.Agal-Agal Festival shows how the community value the importance of the seaweed industry which has been part of their living. Being a Province composed of island towns surrounded by vast seas, Tawi-Tawi is endowed with rich marine and aquatic resources. The celebration also reflects these rich bounties of the sea that Tawi-Tawi takes so much pride of.

The festival features the rich culture and traditions of the Sama, Badjau, Jama Mapun and Tausug who peacefully and harmoniously live in the Province – colourful cultures and admirable traditions that are still lived and practiced to this day.

In this year’s edition of Agal-Agal Festival, 9 out of the 11 municipalities of the province participated in the street dancing competition and showdown. Each contingent showcased their well-rehearsed and choreographed dances and performances in their most elegant traditional costumes, colourful props, and upbeat traditional music that reflect the rich culture of their town. Pangalay which is a traditional dance of the Sulu Archipelago is greatly incorporated in their graceful performances.

I have been to a number of festivals in the Philippines. In Mindanao, I have covered some of the most significant festivals that the Island boasts. And just when I thought I have seen enough, Agal-Agal Festival offered me a different festival experience – a different vibe incomparable to the other festivals I have witnessed in the country.

To be here in this southernmost part of the Philippines witnessing such spectacular festival is truly an honor. Given a chance, I shall come back and again relish another Agal-Agal Festival experience!

Shout out of thanks to the Department of Tourism – ARMM headed by Regional Secretary Ayesha M. Dilangalen for inviting The Travel Teller to witness this amusing festival of the country’s southernmost Province.

Wacth THE TRAVEL TELLER’s Video Blog of the Agal-Agal Festival HERE.

INDAK-INDAK SA KADALANAN | Kadayawan Festival 2017

Kasaganaan ng pamayanan
Kahiusahan natong tanang
Napulo ug usang kaliwatan”

Amid Martial Law extension in the whole Island of Mindanao, Davaoenos, Mindanaoans from nearby provinces, local and foreign tourists gathered in the major thoroughfares of the city to witness the much awaited, most watched highlight of Kadayawan Festival, the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan. This spectacular event has been considered as the biggest gathering of different festivals in Mindanao to compete and be hailed the grand champion. This has made Kadayawan the King of Festivals in Mindanao.

This year, eighteen contingents coming from different schools and communities in Davao City and nearby provinces assembled in the city’s downtown district for this most prized competition.

Kadayawan Sa Dabaw celebrates not only the city’s bounties of nature and the gifts of bountiful harvest but also highlights the rich heritage and diverse culture that define Davaoeños’ affluent history and colorful past. All these are all portrayed and beautifully reflected In their well rehearsed dances and choreography.


The vibrant colors of captivating Red and Yellow dominated the streets while the heart pounding drum beats reverberated all over the city’s downtown district. These were the colors and rhythms brought by 18 contingents as they performed rituals and dances of their respective places while dressed in multihued costumes and flanked by colorful props. The resounding ethnic chants and the deafening beat of the smashing drums ecstatically set the whole district in a jovial groovy mood.

Being a Dabawenyo, seeing these performances made me feel proud of the heritage of my city. This made me realized despite differences of culture coming from different ways of lives; we all got to embrace the multicultural diversity of the city. And despite great challenges like the threat of our serenity of living, we can still find the courage in us to find time and celebrate the bounties of our harvest, the gifts of nature and our rich culture. After all, we are Davaoenos, we are Mindanaons – WE STAND TALL. UNITED. RESILIENT.


The Travel Teller’s coverage of Kadayawan Festival’s Indak-Indak Sa Kadalanan

This street dancing event is one of the highlight of the weeklong festival and is absolutely a must-see. The major thoroughfares of Davao City are closed off to traffic for the entire event. This colorful parade features graceful dancers decked in splendid, colorful costumes and dancing to the beat of ethnic-inspired music. The streets come alive with millions of stunning colors from the dancers and their glorious costumes and props. The competition showcases local talents whose dancing prowess can make you dance to the beat of their music. It is a day of cheers and smiles – prepare to be amazed.

I’m proud of my roots. I’m proud of my culture. I’m a proud Dabawenyo. I AM A PROUD MINDANAOAN. …we are proud MINDAONE!!!

SARBAY FEST 2016: A Summer Ender to Remember

It has been two years now since my last Sarangani Bay Fest experience. It was incredibly cool and remarkably fun I promised to go there again for another year. Thankfully, I had a great chance to make it for this year and just like the old SarBay Fest experiences I had, it never failed to amuse me.

SarBay Fest 20164Tagged as the “biggest beach party festival in the Philippines”, Sarangani Bay Festival has become the most attended beach event in the South drawing hundreds of thousands of beach fanatics, partyphiles and beach sports enthusiasts to come to the coastal town of Glan for this annual event. The crescent-shape white sand coastline of Gumasa is home to this bay fest.

SarBay Fest 2016 18For the past years, Sarbay Fest was held annually in May. For some reason, the bay festival was moved on the first week of June this year, thus, making it the perfect summer ender especially for those who come here every year.

SarBay Fest 201618When it started ten years back, there were just about hundreds of people who came. But year after year, the festival grows bigger and has since attracted more and more visitors to come and join the celebration. The biggest recorded number of guests who flocked Gumasa during the festival is said to have reached more than 200,000 from different corners of the country. Such overwhelming attendance for one event garnered SarBay Fest as the biggest beach festival in the country.

Gumasa Beach on regular days.
Gumasa Beach on regular days.

The annual celebration of SarBay Fest has also boosted influx of tourist in the host town of Glan. In fact, Glan today is considered as one of the most important tourist destinations in the SoCCSKSarGen Region with Gumasa Beach as the prime tourist spot. Even on regular seasons, a number of tourists visit Glan. More than its beaches, Glan also takes pride being the tourtown of the Province as it hosts heritage landmarks dating American regime in the country.

SarBay Fest 2016 2 SarBay Fest 2016 5Because of the annual celebration of SarBay Fest, the road to Gumasa which used to be rough and dusty is now concrete and well maintained. Beach resorts are also sprouting along the white coastline. Every year, these resorts along with the few Lodging Houses in the town center are already booked even months before the celebration. That is why I always choose another option like renting a camper for travelling.

SarBay Fest 20162
Kite Flying during SarBay Fest

Like the previous celebration, this year’s staging of SarBay Fest are lined up with various events participated by different groups and individuals coming from different parts of region and neighboring provinces. Two of the highly anticipated bay events were still among the favorites – the Swim Across the Bay that starts from the coast of Maasim to the coast of Glan and the annual SarBay Bancarera participated by different individuals from the neighboring coastal towns of Glan.

Swim Across the Bay
Swim Across the Bay

For beach sports, beach volleyball, beach football and Frisbee competition were among the highlights. I learned that some of the competing groups came outside of Mindanao. Body painting was still one of the featured events and dubbed as Pinta Sa Baybayon. My personal favorite is the Sand Sculpture. I have to give credit to these artists who can create mind-blowing sculptures out of nothing – just the sands, their creative minds and their beautiful hands.

SarBay Fest 201612 SarBay Fest 201617 SarBay Fest 201615 SarBay Fest 20169At night, the party got started as SarBay citizens, as they call it, cheered for their bet in the annual search for Bay Bodies Ultimate Hunk and Babe. The candidates put the crowd on fire as they flaunt their muscled, toned and lean bodies apt to be called ultimate SarBay Bodies.

SarBay Fest 20166 SarBay Fest 201614SarBay Fest is also best known for its wild rave parties with local and international guest DJs. SarBay citizens are likewise known to have partied harder till dawn. Year after year, it grows bigger and bigger. This year, sponsor Talk N Text brought the DJ Lunatics for the foam party. It was one crazy night filled with great EDM, some booze, great company of crazy friends and of course the wild wild SarBay citizens. Although, the crowd went wild and high but it was natural high. You can read it everywhere, the use of illegal drugs and party drugs is strictly prohibited.

SarBay Fest 2016 10 SarBay Fest 2016 11 SarBay Fest 2016 12 SarBay Fest 201619 SarBay Fest 201616But more than the party, good times and amazing experiences, Sarangani Bay Festival stays firm and strong in its advocacy to protect Sarangani Bay which is a 215,950 hectares protected seascape. Organizing committee encourages all the SarBay citizens to party responsibly and take part of some environment-related events.

SarBay Fest 2016 14Partnering with Smart Communications, there were daily activities and featured events that aimed to educate and raise awareness for the protection and preservation of the marine life of Sarangani Bay. People were encouraged to collect garbage. For every 10 kilos of trash collected and handed over to the Organizer’s Stations, one gets a shirt or a prepaid load cards from Smart. Another campaign was the pledge to preserve the marine life of SarBay by buying a propagule for only Php 35.00. These mangrove seedlings will be planted by the organizers to identified the coasts of SarBay as part of its conservation advocacy. All these are part of the #ILoveCleanSarBay campaign which many party goers took part including myself.

SarBay Fest 201613 SarBay Fest 201611 SarBay Fest 20161Likewise, a triathlon event called Sarbay Swim-Bike-Run for the Environment also spearheaded by the Province of Sarangani and Smart was organized to help raise public awareness on the preservation of the rich marine life of Sarangani Bay. The clean-up drive on the very morning after the two-day festival was also very successful. It was followed by the releasing of baby pawikans back to the waters of Sarangani. It was heartwarming to see that many took part of the call for the #ILoveCleanSarBay.

SarBay Fest 20163
Releasing of Baby pawikans back to Sarangani Bay

I’m so glad I was at SarBay Fest this year. I partied harder like a real partyphile with the company of my old and new friends. Plus of course I got to take part of the #ILoveCleanSarBat campaign. Indeed, it was a summer ender to remember.

Beautiful Sunset of Gumasa
Beautiful Sunset of Gumasa