Bukidnon is not entirely new to me. Back then, I use to trek up the mountains of Bukidnon on a quest for solitude and peace in the calm of its forests. In a few instances, I’ve met and mingled with tribes folks, watch them perform their rituals, hear their stories and learn new things about surviving the unforgiving terrains of their sacred grounds. Every after this short commune I feel this growing but a bit strange “sense of connection” with them.
I went back to Bukidnon last October to witness Bukidnon’s festival parade and street dancing, dubbed Kaamulan . As in any festival I went to, I look for the connection and the understanding of that people’s culture and tradition via the festival dances they perform. Not exactly the best methodology for immersion, but a good approximate for outsiders like me who had limited time to do so.
“Kaamulan” is from the Binukid word “amul” which means “to gather”. It is a gathering of Bukidnon tribespeople for a purpose. It can mean a datuship ritual, a wedding ceremony, a thanksgiving festival during harvest time, a peace pact, or all of these put together.- Province of Bukidnon Official Website
So now I know, that this festival is just one of the many reasons for the tribespeople to gather.
There are seven tribal groups that originally inhabited Bukidnon. I’ve only had a chance of seeing two or three of these tribes folk. Kaamulan is perhaps the quickest window for outsiders like me to see the rich culture and traditions of these tribespeople.
As an ethnic festival, the Kaamulan celebrates the customs and traditions of the seven tribal groups that originally inhabited the Bukidnon region, namely, the Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Umayamnon. Several tribal folks representing these seven hill tribes of Bukidnon gather in unity with the local dwellers in town, wearing their intricately woven costumes studded with trinkets, anklets, earrings, necklaces, leglets, headdresses and amulets. They dance together, chant, perform ancient rituals, and compete in indigenous sports.
The once fascination for Kaamulan became a quest for finding the strange connection between my identity as a Filipino and our lumads, vis a vis my photography. My photos therefore were not anymore about the competition and how spectacular the festival is. It is grand, authentic and beautifully celebrated from all angles, no questions about it. I’m just happy I am there and my camera is capturing one of the most beautiful and captivating festival there is in the Philippines. See for yourselves!
(You may view more of my Kaamulan photos in my Flickr page, here or on my photography site or its facebook page The Twelve Inches Behind )
Perhaps that strange “connection” just reaffirms the thick “lumad” blood running through every Filipino’s veins. And that fascination is simply confirming an identity that has been overshadowed by decades of western cultural conquest.
(Thanks Kuya Bonzenti and Jeannette for hosting me, Bukidnon Provincial Tourism staff with Mam Joe Anne and Barry, Mam Jo Sy and Mam JoAnne climbing buddies turned super friends)