Why Kadayawan is the Most Celebrated Festival in the Philippines

The Kadayawan Festival is celebrated in Davao City, Philippines every year. Filipinos love bright colors so generally, festivals are celebrated with an array of different colors. What I appreciate about the Kadayawan festival is that it’s celebrated by different ethnic tribes. This gives one the chance to see different cultures in one festivity.

The History of Kadayawan

Long ago, it is said that the people living on the foot of Mt. Apo (the Philippines’ highest peak) give thanks to their god for a bountiful harvest every year. Remember that Christianity was not practiced in the Philippines until a few decades ago, and so these people give thanks to their god “Manama”, who is a god of nature.

Different fruits, flowers and grains are displayed on mats as offering to Manama. The people prayed, sing and dance during the thanksgiving as well.

Although times have changed, the people of Davao still perform the celebration every year. While the way of celebrating have changed, it has just become grander and a lot more fun than before. When only the people living in the foot of Mt. Apo used to perform thanksgiving for a great harvest, now the entire city celebrates thanksgiving for a peaceful and more prosperous year.

kadayawan davao

Festival Highlights

As someone who has been living in Davao City for 25 years, I encourage you to come and visit my city during the Kadayawan Festival. Even though I grew up here, I still look forward to the celebration every year. The festivities just never ceased to amaze me.

One of the things that I look forward to every Kadayawan is the “Indak-indak sa Kadalanan”. This simply translates to “dancing in the streets”. On this event, children and adults from different sectors dance in the streets and showcase different tribes in Mindanao (our island). Their costumes are just amazing! I also love how this event shows the younger children what our culture really is, which is a great way to pass it to the next generation.

The streets during indak-indak are full-packed. The entire downtown area is also closed to expect a lot of walking. It’s also hot so don’t forget to always bring a bottle of water, sunglasses and a cap.

Tip: People will watch the dancing from the side of the streets so get to downtown early to get a good spot.

Because the indak-indak is the kind of event you want to tell your grandchildren about, I suggest bringing a camera and taking lots of pictures. Filipinos are very friendly and the dancers will be more than willing to have a picture taken.

Another highlight is the “piging” on the streets. A “piging” is a big tent with booths selling food and beer. These open at night, around 6 in the evening. Local bands often provide entertainment. Having a round of beer or two at a piging is a great way to learn how the people of Davao interact with each other. Just note that there is an alcohol ban in the city, which was recently moved to 1 in the morning. This means that no store can sell any alcoholic beverages in the city after 1 a.m without violating the law. The local government is quite strict about this so don’t expect anybody selling you beer after this hour.

The local government also organizes different activities per year. Last year for instance, we had a tattoo expo and a road bike challenge. For the latest information, please visit this site. 

indak-indak sa kadalanan davao

The Icons of Kadayawan

During the Kadayawan Festival, you’d hear the word “Madayaw” a lot. The name of the festival is in fact derived from “Madayaw”, which means “good” or “valuable”. Below are some of the things you’d also see a lot during Kadayawan.

The Philippine Eagle

The Philippine Eagle, also called the Monkey-Eating Eagle, is the country’s national eagle and is endemic to the forests of Mindanao. It’s the world’s largest eagle in terms of length, which is why the city has been using it as an icon for many years.

Davao City is also where the Philippines Eagle Center is located, which aims at rehabilitating and helping eagles breed. Although the Philippine Eagle is a very strong bird, they have become endangered due to hunting, and the center hopes to turn this situation around.

For more information about the center, please go here. 

Philippine eagle


Another popular icon during the Kadayawan is the Ylang-Ylang flower. The Ylang-Ylang, although found all over Asia, is primarily found in Davao City within the Philippines. It has become popular because of it’s sweet cent, which is also used in many perfumes.


Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

For some reasons only a Dabawenyo (person from Davao) will know, I’d like to tell you about our mayor – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Simply called “Digong” by the locals, he’s been the mayor of Davao for more than twenty years. While some politicians in the country are against what they call “political dynasty”, I wouldn’t have any other mayor than Mayor Duterte.

Digong is not only popular within Davao, but in the whole Philippines as well (and that doesn’t usually happen). This is because he is known for having an iron fist, especially when it comes to implementing laws in the city. He is the first mayor to ban smoking in public areas, and while many people were against it, they can’t do anything when the mayor reasoned that this is for the common good. He’s also known for not being afraid of anybody, even to the point of swearing in local (sometimes national) television when he knows he’s right.

A few years back, there was this controversy about the DDS or the Davao Death Squad (as they were named by the public). These “vigilantes” killed criminals in Davao, and the Commission on Human Rights suspected that this group were acting under Mayor Duterte’s orders. He actually challenged the commission to prove this, but the controversy died a natural death and the CHR wasn’t able to do anything about it although the killings did stop.

Because of the way Digong is handling the city, we have the lowest crime rate in the whole Philippines. People are free to walk the streets even at 3 in the morning, without a worry in the world. So, even if you’re a tourist, you’ll be safe in Davao City.

The Kadayawan Festival is celebrated every August. I’ll see you around!

What to Wear During Kadayawan:

Here’s a Short Video I Created About the Kadayawan Festival in Davao

Make your own slideshow with music at Animoto.

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