Lately I got hooked travelling to various places in Mindanao capturing festivals and people in the eye of my lenses. While I’ve been to Bukidnon several times already (for some mountaineering or hiking wanderlust), I never had the chance of witnessing their famed festival. Many say Kaamulan Festival is the only festival with the true ethnic tribespeople dancing along performers in the streets. That’s what I’m about to find out. Or we are about to find out.
So seeing a window on my hectic work schedule, me and Ligaya traveled 4 hours by bus and came right into Malaybalay City the day before the festival. We couldn’t find a vacant hotel. We were lucky to have friends Jocelyn and JoAnne who took us into their home’s warmth on short notice.
Like I said before, I’ve been to Malaybalay City before so I was thinking this trip should be something special or different. Aside from the festival, we’re going to hunt for Malaybalay City’s unique food nooks and specialty stores that offers a different look of Malaybalay City. We spent the whole afternoon roaming around the plaza grounds stalls, gazed at the dazzling flower gardens, then hiked through city’s high grounds, went horseback riding and even rummage at the ukay-ukay stores. I never knew you can pack such many activities in one afternoon! That night we ate at Malaybalay’s famous and cheapest pork barbeque turo-turo. Yes, forget about cholesterol this one time.
The next morning we hit the street early to position ourselves along the street and get better vantage view of the street dancing competition. That happened to be the middle of the parade area, together with the pro photographers covering the event. I don’t know how we get there, or why we where allowed to but surely some face thickening was involved. Anyhow, I’ve got a telephoto, good natural light, good weather, what use will it be if I can’t get a good vantage point?
There’s only two words I can describe this years Kaamulan Festival street dancing competition parade. Massive and real! Their floats are so huge it carries maybe at least fifty participants on top aside from the massive props! Real tribesmen also dance along with the performers during the street parade. No make ups, just the costume they have worn ordinarily before back in the old Bukidnon highland days. These performing tribesmen was what really caught us during the parade. It’s not surprising they evoked a strong sense of tradition and culture injecting it to the main performance. Nothing beats the authentic tribesmen performing their dance!
Our camera got busy. I knew the other participating dancers did very well doing their street dancing routines. Some of them, close to perfection. I’ve seen ethnic street dancing competitions and festivals before but for me, the real gauge of its beauty and uniqueness is on how the performance evoked a sense of bonding and history with me, a Filipino. How they woke up this sense of “ethnicity” and tradition in me that has been tempered by years of colonial dilution. That’s why I did focused on those authentic tribesmen dancing. To me they were the essence of Kaamulan Festival. We were there to join and celebrate with them. We’re re experiencing were we began.
That night when I reviewed our photos, I was so moved we did capture those moments of “tradition”, of a fading culture that if left untold, will be forever lost to the future generations of humanity. Kaamulan festival after all is for us to celebrate and re-experience our forefather’s long culture and tradition of “celebrating”.