MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 February) – They say that festivals are either more or less of the same stuff. Kaamulan, the annual festivity to supposedly highlight the cultures of the seven tribes of Bukidnon province, is both.

Through more than three decades, each year promises to be merrier than than the previous one. In the frenzy however to inject more adrenalin into the event, its very essence – the celebration of Lumad culture – has gradually been obscured.

The lineup of activities alone will easily give one the feeling that many things about the Kaamulan need to be rectified if the provincial government and the people behind it really believe that the Lumad and their aspirations should be at the center of the event.

I’m not saying that Kaamulan should strictly limit itself to the indigenous. Maybe it would not be entirely bad to allow other activities like sport competitions. Surely, even the Lumad themselves would love to see these things. But it should not reach a point where the primary purpose of the celebration is lost in the maze of fanfare that’s not even remotely related to indigenous culture.

In the past ten years or so, Kaamulan has seen the onslaught of more and more of what should ideally be less and less – beauty contest, various sports, nightly performances by musical bands, concerts by Manila-based singers.

One is left wondering why the Lumad and their supposedly colorful cultures have been left struggling for space and time in an event that has virtually yielded to commercialism.

The organizers will always point to the spectacular street dance competition as proof that, as hyped in the media, Kaamulan is a genuinely ethnic festival. Yet they often omit the fact that most of its participants are not Lumad but students and local government employees.

There was a time – I think in 2003 – that many of the street dancers were Lumads. That commendable effort however was not sustained. The old habit came back.

Moreover, the nightly orgy of videoke singing and drinking sprees in food joints at the capitol grounds has had become a source of headache for the police. If the organizers can stop this twin evil, I’d swear not to write a single negative article about the Kaamulan next year. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])