CULTURE and beauty unite once again after two years at the return of the Hiyas sa Kadayawan this August 2022, introducing new young ladies who will represent the varying ethnolinguistic tribes of Davao City.

The eleven beauties are Emelyn Armodia, 21 years old (y.o.), of the Ata tribe; Krezyl Joy Ungab, 21 y.o., of Bagobo-Klata; Leizly May Mendoza, 21 y.o., of the Bagobo-Tagabawa; Dianaruth Campong, 22 y.o., of the Matigsalug; and Lady Ray Bangga-an, 22 y.o., of Obu-Manuvu.

Moro candidates are Erika Kandog, 21 y.o., of Iranun tribe; Alneza Bangasin, 25 y.o., of Kagan; Jiara Mae Sakal, 26 y.o., of Maguindanaon; Beauty Rose Gandarosa, 26 y.o., of Maranao; Sitti Rohilmina Emani, 18 y.o., of Sama; and Maisara Mendoza, 24 y.o., of Taosug.

As the Hiyas of their tribes, the candidates possess wit and talent, and knowledge of their culture to be able to represent their tribes with pride and soul.

They are also active in their respective communities and have the ambition and drive to develop and take their tribes to new heights.

Advocacies

Cultural heritage and identity are the major foundation for the advocacies of the Hiyas candidates. Their advocacies are mainly driven by culture preservation, education, and livelihood programs.

For many of the candidates, it is important to teach their fellow young indigenous people (IP) about the traditions of their tribe, such as cultural dances, clothing, and music to ensure it is preserved by the next generation.

Ungab said she intends to do this by reviving Bagbo-Klata’s traditional games that were started by their ancestors, while Gandarosa said she wants to do story-telling of Maranao culture through performing arts.

Education also plays a huge role in their advocacies, especially since many indigenous people are often deprived of quality education.

Emani shared she wants to provide scholarships to promote education to the Sama tribe since she said many of her fellow tribe members often turn to work or livelihood without finishing their schooling.

“Karamihan sa amin hindi nakapag-aral kaya (Many from our tribe are not educated that is why) they look down on our culture. I want to promote education para maipakita na kaya namin mga Sama tumayo at kung ano kami (to show them what we are and that we, as Sama, can stand on our own),” Emani said in tears.

Bangga-an from Obu-Manuvu, said she plans to focus on community development by displaying learning materials on the three foundational skills of reading, writing, and counting per IP community.

To give the tribes an opportunity to earn a living, the candidates also advocate for workshops on sustainable livelihood programs such as producing traditional products.

Bangasin of the Kagan tribe said she wants to cooperate with the different tribal leaders in order for each of the tribes to come up with a product that is unique to them and have it displayed in Pasalubong Centers in the city.

“Because our presence needs to be felt all throughout the city,” she said.

Taking a stand

The candidates showed that they not only possess beauty and cultural knowledge, but they also take a stand on important issues affecting their tribes.

Maisara Mendoza said she wants to advocate fair treatment towards the Taosug and other Moro groups, especially those IPs living in rural areas.

At the same time, in light of issues involving IPs and recruitment to rebel groups such as the New People’s Army (NPA), lumad candidates expressed that education is vital to teach IPs and lumads to take a stand for themselves.

Armodia and Ungab said lack of education is one of the reasons behind lumads joining rebel groups. Ungab, who mentioned that she and others from Bagobo-Klata were being recruited by the NPA, said rebel or terror groups often underestimate lumads.

“Their thinking is that they can easily recruit lumads because they have no knowledge or they can easily pursue them,” Ungab said.

Armodia added, “I will educate them on our rights as Filipino citizens. We stand and dili mi mag pa-manipulate (We will stand and we will not be manipulated) because we should live as peaceful citizens here in Davao City.”

Pride

Whether they may be lumads or Moros, discrimination is rampant among native or ethnolinguistic tribes, often fueled by the public’s lack of knowledge of their values and traditions.

Leizly Mendoza said she was proud to see the Bagobo-Tagabawa’s traditional outfit worn by Vice President Sara Duterte during the State of the Nation Address last July 25, 2022. She said it not only represented her tribe but other cultural communities in Davao City as well.

“Sacred among traditional clothing (Our traditional clothing is sacred). Sana the next time makita ninyo kami (Hopefully the next time you see us), you will not discriminate us," Mendoza said, referring to some of the criticisms the vice president received for wearing their traditional attire.

At the same time, Kandog and Bangasin want to preserve their respective Moro culture since they said their identity may be forgotten or lost in today’s modern age. They also want to promote their tribes’ peace-loving nature to oppose the contradicting views of some non-Moro people.

“We came from a long line of peace-loving people. We will defend our identity but we do not start conflict. If we find ourselves stuck in a conflict, we communicate, compromise, and see both parties come up with a peaceful solution,” Bangasin said.

Despite the discrimination, the candidates stand tall and take pride in their heritage.

The uniqueness of their culture and traditions is what drives them to preserve their identity, thus they want to raise awareness to let other people know about their colorful culture as part of the Philippines’ ethnic identity as a whole.

“I believe that we as IP, we are talented and skillful people. If we have the willingness, desire, and determination to develop our talents and skills, we will be able to show other people what we are and what we do,” Campong said.

Each of the candidates will showcase their talent and wit during the cultural presentation at the Bantawan Amphitheatre in Magsaysay Park on August 6, 2022 which is open to the public.

Dabawenyos can also witness who will be crowned as the next Hiyas sa Kadayawan during the most-awaited coronation night on August 17 at the RMC Petro Gazz Arena. ICM