Foreign diplomats to grace Bukidnon’s Kaamulan fest

Elsie Gail Ocaya, Bukidnon tourism officer said the month-long Kaamulan festival will do away with politicians to avoid the hassles of election politicking.

She said in the move they also would like to elevate the status of the indigenous festival to the international arena.

Ocaya said invitations had been sent to the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, China, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Korea.

But Ocaya said they are still awaiting confirmation from the ambassadors.

Ocaya said this year's theme is "Spiritual Awakening.”

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, who was Bishop of Malaybalay prior to reassignment in Luzon in the early 1990s, will give the keynote speech on the province’s foundation day on March 10.

Ocaya said an initial study has been done for the DOT to package Bukidnon as the southern Philippines' summer capital.

The provincial government, which allotted at least P4 million for the fest, will have a soft opening of the month-long celebration on February 10.

But the "grand opening" will be held on March 2 with an early morning traditional Bukidnon ritual called Panalawahig, which will be officiated by datus (tribal leaders) at the Kaamulan grounds. A Catholic mass would be celebrated at the Capitol grounds. After the rituals, major sponsors of the event would go around the city on a motorcade.

The Kaamulan festival is the province's major tourist attraction with ethnic street dancing competitions on March 3 as the major highlight.

Ocaya said the festival will once again showcase the province's rich cultural traditions with the participation of seven tribes from 20 towns and two cities. 

Apart from the annual street dancing competition on March 3, the annual ethnic sports on March 4 was also given more budget and exposure.

She said this is to help increase the public's appreciation of the cultural heritage of Bukidnon's seven tribal groups in addition to the street dancing, bazaars, sports tournaments, rodeo shows, nightly musical, dance and entertainment shows among others.

In 2006, the Kaamulan Festival featured for the first time an indigenous song writing clinic for students and the general public.

A group of Bukidnon-based artists told MindaNews they will mount another edition of Bansagen, an exhibit of Bukidnon contemporary art, their sixth in time for the Kaamulan.

Kaamulan is also a haven of trade fairs showcasing Bukidnon's cutflower, livestock, agri-food industries and the major industries operating in this agriculture-based economy.

Bukidnon is home to the Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Omayamnon tribes. Majority of its present population (at least 1.06 million in 2000) is composed of settlers and lumads who have inter-married with migrants from Luzon and the Visayas.

In 1977, Kaamulan started as a local celebration of the cultural heritage of Bukidnon's Lumads (indigenous peoples) held annually in September. Starting 1996, it was held from the second half of February to March 10, the anniversary date of the foundation of Bukidnon as a province in 1917.

"Kaamulan" came from the Binukid (dialect spoken by most of the Lumads) term "amol-amol" or gathering for any purpose, which could mean a datuship ritual, a wedding ceremony, a thanksgiving feast during harvest time, a peace pact or all these altogether.

The provincial government of Bukidnon and the Department of Tourism have promoted the festival as a tourist attraction.

Kaamulan is now among the Philippines' major festivals and the only "ethnic festival" in the country, according to the DOT.

The provincial tourism office admitted in 2006 that the festival is Bukidnon's only tourism promotion initiative. Ocaya said the provincial government allotted P3 million in holding Kaamulan 2006 with private corporations taking care of some attractions as major sponsors.

Critics have scored that the festival doesn't really make Lumads better off because its commercialized set up aims to boost tourism only and not the real welfare of Bukidnon's indigenous peoples. They said the provincial government should come up with a genuine development program for the indigenous peoples in the province.

Bukidnon Governor Jose Zubiri said they have taken steps to alleviate the plight of the Lumads. Zubiri said 20 percent of the province's annual budget is given to the Lumads in the form of medicine and food. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)