The enjoyable part of the Kadayawan Festival is the indak-indak dance competition where schools and groups coming from different regions showcase a modern interpretation of their region’s indigenous dance.
I say interpretation because what they present is a fusion of modern and indigenous dance and music, and with the addition of colorful props.
Indigenous dance from the Lumad and Moro tribes revolved on events and themes, from harvests to courtship to war, and imitation of animal movements.
Dance can be a unifying and thrilling experience. And once in Davao’s history, a dance is said to have unified tribes against the American colonies.
Davao historian Professor Macario Tiu from Ateneo de Davao gathered an oral history of what is called the Dance of Labi. This was performed by various tribes as a sign of unity in their resistance against the American colonial army when it arrived in Davao shores in 1901.
We know that the Americans came in the guise of friendship and big brothers to teach us about democracy. But they started usurping and occupying lands owned by the Lumad and the Moro and built plantations.
This was the basis of the resistance. And it was expressed in the Dance of Labi, which the Americans thought was just any other tribal dance. But it showed that tribes are ready to drive away the new colonoizers away.
One such leader was Datu Mangulayon, whose tribal origin is a subject of inquiry until now. Mangulayon was able to kill the American District Governor in Davao, Lt. Edward Bolton. He did so by pretending to offer Bolton a coconut drink when the governor was resting from a hot day. There and then, he hacked the unguarded Bolton.
The story did not end there. Tiu said the elders remembered the Americans retaliated in the most brutal way, by huwes de kutsilyo, where everyone and everything, from child to elder to dogs, are wiped away. Mangulayon was able to escape from the pursuit of the Americans through the help of the tribes in Davao who allowed him to seek refuge, before moving to other places.
This memory may have faded from our history books. But this is worth noting how the history of our tribes is one of resistance for the ancestral domain, and it was done through a cultural expression.
On an endnote, it is worrisome that at this moment of festivity, a Lumad group has spread their version of advocacy, doing red-baiting propaganda against the Manobo bakwit and schools. This Lumad group recently went to the United States to report cases of communist rebels attacking their people, but it has pinned blame on Lumad schools. It is a sad epilogue on what was once a united group of Lumad being divided in the State’s war and attack on the indigenous peoples and their cultures.