BUKIDNON'S 'KAAMULAN' IS MOST AUTHENTIC FESTIVAL IN RP

Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, April 6, 2003  At first it seems like it is just 
the "same old" festival. But then, people won't call Bukidnon's "Kaamulan 
Festival" as the "most authentic ethnic festival" in the country for nothing.

As the first group of street dancers came in, clad in their traditional 
costumes in vibrant red, blue, green and yellow colors, wearing their 
heirloom jewelry...and then hearing the unique sound of thumping 
drumbeats... It was then I knew, that I was in for a show.

Hundreds of visitors including local and foreign tourists trooped here, 
recently to witness the well renowned Kaamulan Festival, which is 
celebrating its 26th year.

The highlight of this annual festivity is the gathering of the seven hill 
tribes, namely: Tala-andig; Higa-onon; Umayamnoon; Manobo; Tigwahanon; 
Matigsalug and Bukidnon. The province's 18 municipalities have at least 200 
participants each for the street dancing, which include the elderly members 
of the tribes.

For almost 4 hours, nothing could match and dampen the noise of the 
thousands of revelers who were at the cultural pageant dubbed as "An 
Evening of Bukidnon Dances," wherein the 18 municipalities gave a preview 
of their street dancing presentation slated the next day. After the 
spectacular showcase, the dance floor was opened and the revelers danced 
the night away.

In "binukid," a dialect widely spoken among the highlanders in the region, 
"Kaamulan" signifies a gathering for a purpose. It may mean a datuship 
ritual, a wedding ceremony, a thanksgiving festival at harvest season and 
many others.

But for the hilltribes, "Kaamulan" heralded the symbolic breakthrough of 
their long quest for meaning and identity. Above all, it provides an 
interesting ground for the unification of the many tribes of Northern 
Mindanao and the Filipinos as a whole.

 From the hinterland villages, Kaamulan came to the town fiesta of 
Malaybalay City, Bukidnon in 1974. The Municipal Government of Malaybalay 
featured the color and magic of ethnic folk arts in the celebration of the 
town fiesta then.

Kaamulan was first presented as a festival at the Pines View Park in 
Malaybalay City on Nov. 25-27, 1977 and was received enthusiastically by 
thousands of guests and tourists. For several years, the festival was held 
every September but was later moved to March to commemorate the creation of 
Bukidnon as a province on March 10, 1917.

Bukidnon became a part of Misamis province as a municipality in 1850. The 
place was then called "Malaybalay" (few houses) and its people "Bukidnon" 
(mountain people).
Created on June 15, 1877, Malaybalay is the oldest among the 22 political 
subdivisions of the province.

The tribes in the province of Bukidnon are indigenous and their names 
derived from the watershed they occupy. Each tribe is ruled by a "Datu" or 
a "Chieftain." The "Datu" is one who settles disputes and gives judgment 
whenever their unwritten laws called "Batasan" are violated.

The Bukidnons have different degrees of acculturation. The first degree 
Bukidnons are those leading the most traditional lifestyle. This includes 
those who lived remote from any center of lowlander habitation, deep in the 
forest and along the watershed of the main rivers. The second degree live 
near the fringes and directly within the bounds of the lowlanders. The 
third degree are highly assimilated and are generally able to send their 
children off to school. The fourth degree have fully assimilated the ways 
of urban living and hardly acknowledge the old ways of their background. 
The fifth degree are largely recent immigrants from other parts of the 
country and have made Bukidnon as their permanent home.

Their cultures and traditions are embodied in oral folk literature of the 
province. Marriage, in most cases, is done through parental arrangement. 
This, though, is now only found among the people in the hinterlands. 
Religion is monotheistic, believing in one God or "Magbabaya," the rulers 
of all, also has minor gods and goddesses under his command.

Their musical instruments are the "pulala" (bamboo flute), "salambing" 
(small agong) and "kudyapi" (guitar). They also have an indigenous 
embroidered cloth called "pinamulaan," the embroidery process is called 
"panulam."

Bukidnon is an agricultural economy. It is a major producer of rice, corn, 
sugar, coffee, rubber, pineapple, tomato, flowers, cassava and other fruits 
and vegetables. It is also a major producer of chicken, hogs and cattle.

Almost all large firms operating in the province are into either production 
or production and processing of these agricultural products like Del Monte 
Phils., Inc.

At the province's Capitol Site st., other festival activities were held 
such as a civic parade, a program highlighting the historic beginnings of 
Bukidnon, a trade and food fair, a dramatic presentation of tribal oral 
tradition, rituals featuring the culture and beliefs of tribal Bukidnons 
and a rodeo.

Aside from the merry festivities of Kaamulan, tourists also have the option 
to visit its tourist attractions.

The Monastery of Transfiguration of Benedictine Monks is 10 minutes away 
from the City proper. Visitors may buy hand processed Monk's Blend coffee, 
roasted and brittle peanuts , candles and some religious items.

A 20-minute ride from the city is the Impalutao Reforestation Project. It 
was established by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 
(DENR) in 1927 for nature lovers and environmentalists. Tourists may also 
take a dip at the Gantungan Falls after trekking along its thickly forested 
pathways lined with giant bamboos.

Del Monte Philippines Pineapple Plantation and Golf Club is the biggest 
single pineapple plantation with an 18-hole golf course. Established in 
1928, it is dubbed as a model site for agro-tourism.

Due to its elevation and mountainous terrain, the climate in Bukidnon is 
relatively cool and moist throughout the year. The major dialects spoken in 
the province is Cebuano followed by Bukidnon and English.

Malaybalay City, the capital town of Bukidnon, is about 850 kilometers by 
air from Manila and 91 kilometers by road from Cagayan de Oro City. There 
are 7 daily flights available from Manila to Cagayan de Oro. From the 
airport, airconditioned buses and vans are available that leaves every hour 
for Malaybalay City. (By Jaser A. Marasigan)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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