Kutoo Festival: A tribute to Cateel's rich cultural heritage

Kutoo Festival: A tribute to Cateel's rich cultural heritage
Photo by Errol Kim Cabrera

I’VE been invited to several festivals this year and witnessed a number of street dancing competitions but Cateel’s Kutoo Festival is on a different level. One can really tell that it’s deeply rooted to the town’s rich cultural heritage.

It was on October 25, 2023, the culminating day of the town’s 120th founding anniversary. The festival, which is on its 20th edition, had two categories: Secondary/tertiary category and elementary category. It was participated by six school-based entries, each category has three contingents. The festivities were held at Centennial Park, Poblacion in Cateel.

Kutoo origins

"Kutoo" is a form of ritual or prayer done by Mandaya farmers in Cateel, Davao Oriental during a pre-harvesting process of agricultural crops, particularly palay (rice plants) which is considered the main agricultural produce of the town. With Cateel considered as the rice granary of the East coast of Davao Oriental, this practice of Kutoo can be traced back to the olden times.

What’s great about this is that the tradition continues up until today.  

According to the festival organizers and consultants, the celebration of Kutoo Festival has become the town’s tribute to honor this tradition. Locals largely consider the activity as a form of thanksgiving for the abundance of agricultural products in Cateel.

Unlike other festivals, Kutoo puts emphasis on the footsteps used by the participants. The choreographed performances of the street-dancing and main showdown are patterned after the rituals and seven footsteps of Kutoo.  

“Our culture is very much alive through the dances we have seen during their performances. Not only were we entertained, but we were also reminded of our vibrant cultural identity,” Cateel Mayor Emilou C. Nuñez shared.

She said that after eight days of fun activities, the Kutoo Festival was a perfect way to end the merrymaking with a meaningful bang.

“What a way for us to end the fun through the Kutoo festival sayaw sang dan competition ----- a competition that showcases the beautiful culture of the Cateel and its rich heritage,” she added.

For the secondary/tertiary category, The Cateel Vocational High School bagged the championship prize while Davao Oriental State University - Cateel Extension Campus ranked second. Taytayan Integrated School placed third.

For the elementary category,  San Rafael Elementary School was announced as the grand winner. The Cateel Central Elementary School ranked second while Hulid Elementary School placed third.

“It was not easy mounting a routine for a competition, but you did it anyway – that is a testament to your talent, skill, and passion for our culture and dance. You are all winners because you all did your best and you gave Cateel a great show,” Nuñez said.

It was my second time to witness Kutoo Festival in person but every edition the festival has its own way of communicating new surprises to its audience. For someone who was born and raised in Davao Oriental, this festival is something I am proud of. I hope that the local government unit along with the tourism department and its partners will continue to keep this tradition alive.

For suggestions, comments, and questions, email me at aceperez.manlalakbay@gmail.com. Follow me on social media @acejunerell. 


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