DESPITE the scorching heat of the sun, people from all walks of life --locals and foreigners, guests and visitors, adults and children, even the physically-challenged -- came out to see the weekend celebrations of Kadayawan Festival recently.

Now on its 25th year, the celebration was even more lively and colorful as ever. For the first time, Sun.Star Davao editor-in-chief Stella A. Estremera witnessed the action live. She was very happy that she did. "See, what have you been missing all these years?" I told her.

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She was not alone though. Three of the finest photographers from General Santos City -- Michael H. Chan, Paul F. Llanos, and James Michael Montaño -- also came to observe Mindanao's festival of all festivals. All three were first timers.

"Although this is my very first to attend this event, I enjoy it already," said Chan, who was one of the official photographers when boxing phenomenon Manny Pacquiao took his oath as Sarangani congressman.

"This is one of the best celebrations I have covered in my career," said the boyish-looking Llanos. He was referring to Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan. Actually, it is a street dancing competition showcasing indigenous tradition through choreographed and theatrical street dance, narrating stories anchored on various indigenous cultures in Mindanao.

Observes an insider: "The Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan is wildly popular because of the distinctively Mindanaoan beat and costumes. Several tourists come to Davao to watch hundreds of people dancing with vigor in the streets, clad in their native attire and carrying extravagant props that would give Hollywood studios a serious run for their money."

There were two main components of the Saturday event. The first one was the street parade, where performers groove it up while parading along selected points of the city. The second was the showdown, where the participants performed on the same venue in San Pedro Street.

There were 22 entries vying for the top prizes. Fourteen of them came from Davao City, while the rest were from the provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Compostella Valley, Maguindanao, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.

Davao City contingents interpreted the Kadayawan sa Dabaw Festival or the folklores of Mindanao, myth or legends, and the celebration of the city's indigenous people. Participants from other provinces showcased the festival of their place of origin.

At the end of the day, only six emerged winners: Purok Sison Elementary School Performing Arts Group from Surallah, South Cotabato (grand prize winner), Esperanza National High School from Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat (first runner-up), Jesus J. Soriano National High School from Catalunan Grande, Davao City (second runner-up), Magallanes Elementary School from Magallanes Street, Davao City (third runner-up), Surallah Central Elementary School from South Cotabato (fourth runner-up), and Tribu Mapawa from Maragusan, Compostela Valley (fifth runner-up).

Kadayawan Festival wouldn't be complete without the colorful floral float parade called Pamulak Kadayawan. As a fitting finale of the festival, it showcases colorful floats decorated with thousands of tropical flowers from the city's flower farms.

"(Ours is) much better than Panagbenga of Baguio City in terms of quality of floats," James Zimmerman, the man behind the event since 2002. "It is not a run of the mill. (Sa Davao) maraming florists and artists."

Unlike the street dancing, there were only three winners in floral float parade but had three categories: small, big, and alternative. The one-million cash prize in the big float category were divided by LBC Air, Davao Merchant Marine Academy, and International Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The P300,000 cash prize as grand winner in the small float category was bagged by Synnex Concentrix while Amiya by Kisan Lu Lands and Anflocor took home the P200,000 and P100,000 cash prizes as second and third placers, respectively.

Alternative floats are those that use miniature cars, golf carts, mini tractors, push carts, karo, kalesa, pedicabs or similar vehicles, motorized, mechanical or animal driven. Barangay Sasa, whose entry was a hand-pulled yellow fish made of mums and ferns, got the P100,000 cash prize as top winner in the category.

The recent celebration was one of the best ever -- despite the limited budget that was poured into it. "Thanks sa lahat ng Dabawenyos who have supported and participated in Kadayawan 2010, kahit maliit lang ang budget, naging masaya naman at tahimik," City Councilor Al Ryan Alejandre, of the council committee on tourism and beautification, was quoted as saying.

Davao City Information Office and City Tourism Office head Rizal Giovanni Aportadera had the same view. "Kadayawan has always been a celebration of traditions, of culture, and our culture tells of our identity, of who we are. "I always say that every year has its pros and cons but every year is unique, beautiful and grand in its own way. What's important and what defines really our celebration is that we make the people happy, that people do indeed celebrate and go home happy," he said, speaking in behalf of City Mayor Sara Duterte.