INTRICATE dances, colorful costumes, loud cheers, people in high spirits. Those are just some of the words to describe the experience of Bukidnon’s Kaamulan Festival.
As someone who seldom goes out of town, it was my first trip to Bukidnon and at the same time, my first Kaamulan Festival.
I was indifferent at first, as I tend not to be a part of large occasions (since I'm weak in crowded places), however the festive atmosphere, the graceful tribal dances full of stories, the rhythmic chants and the smiling faces of the mass seem to drag me with them, enticing me to join in their festivities.
And so I did.
Celebrating its 41'st year, Kaamulan is an ethnic festival that features the customs and traditions of the seven hill tribes of Bukidnon namely: the Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon, and Umayamnon.
Kaamulan, a lumad word for "amul" which means "to gather," is a month-long celebration held in Malaybalay City, the provincial capital, and is considered as the oldest ethnic festival in the Philippines. Tribal folks gather and unite with the locals to take part of the festivities in their beautiful woven costumes, dangling earrings, trinkets, necklaces, anklets, and headdresses, performing ancient rituals and chants.
With their ethnic costumes in red, yellow, blue, white and black, the participants for the street dancing competition, one of the highlight events of Kaamulan, gave their outmost best in performing their enchanting and graceful dances.
Culture, practices and traditions of the tribes of Bukidnon are manifested in every step as well as in the props the dancers used in showing the mesmerized audience the tribes' way of life such as farming, fishing, courting and healing rituals.
Beautifully designed floats also paraded the streets, each showcasing the rich heritage of the tribes of Bukidnon.
Aside from the street dancing and the float parade, there is also the ground cultural presentation of Bukidnon dances and rituals which were performed by the twelve municipalities and cities of Bukidnon: municipalities of Don Carlos, Kibawe, Pangantucan, Quezon, Libona, Dangcagan, San Fernando, Kalilangan, Lantapan, and Impasug-ong; and cities of Malaybalay and Valencia.
Declared as this year's champion for the Float Parade Competition was the municipality of Lantapan, followed by the municipalities of Quezon and Libona as the first and second runner ups respectively.
Malaybalay City, meanwhile, was adjudged as the champion for the Street Dancing Competition, first runner up - Valencia City and second runner up - Municipality of Quezon.
The Champion for the Ground Cultural Presentation went to the Municipality of Pangantucan, first runner up - Malaybalay City, and second runner up - Municipality of Kalilangan.
Several government officials also travelled to Bukidnon to witness and experience the Kaamulan Festival such as Undersecretary of the Department of Tourism Marco Bautista, Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go, and Senators Migz Zubiri and Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara.
Apart from the competitions, several stalls which feature the products of the indigenous people of Bukidnon, such as tribal clothes, trinkets, necklaces, earrings, bags and purses, as well as local delicacies and agri-products of the province were installed in the Capitol grounds.
A festival that gives meaning and identity to the hill tribes of Bukidnon; truly an experience worth being a part of.