The majestic gathering of warrior tribes, bonding in search for peace and prosperity was more than a fitting backdrop for visiting President Duterte’s call for friendship with China. Last Saturday’s Kaamulan festival in mountainous Bukidnon province also showcased the enduring indigenous culture that thrived in pre-Islamic and pre-Spanish times as depicted in extensive street dancing, culminating in a day-long presentation by some 5,000 performers.
Over a hundred thousand people, many travelled from afar, filled the sprawling Capitol Grounds of Malaybalay City to witness the spellbinding dances of at least eleven contingents of 500 each.
The rituals dramatized themes of war and reconciliation; conflagration and recovery; peace, brotherhood, friendship, courtship, harvest and thanksgiving.
“Kaamulan is unique in that it is a kaleidoscope of the rich and colorful culture of our ancestors that people, foreigners and Filipinos alike, came to see… All is not lost, as cultural festivals like this help preserve our identity as a people,” said Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, also a Mindanao native herself.
The only authentic ethnic festival in the country features the cultures of seven distinct tribes in central Mindanao, namely Bukidnon, Higaunon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Umayamnon.
She said the hand-woven garments, elaborate headdress, and handcrafted warrior gears, planting tools, as well as the intricate musical instruments show the Filipino ancestors sophistication and high degree of civilization.
Teo arrived with the President, along with special guest Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, on the invitation of Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, Jr.
“Quite a number of local families, in coordination with the DOT and the provincial tourism office, opened their homes to visitors for an overnight stay. This is genuine Filipino hospitality at its best,” said Teo.
The DOT head said Duterte’s acceptance of China’s offer of friendship reflects the essence of Kaamulan where tribal leaders forged peace pacts and trade relations. “I want friendship... In fact, we are brothers,” declared Duterte, admitting feeling a strong kinship with the Chinese, whom history attests had never committed any atrocity against Filipinos.
Duterte and Zhao led the groundbreaking of a P1 billion drug rehabilitation facility in Malaybalay which is funded by a Chinese group Friends of Filipinos. Beijing pledges to encourage at least two million Chinese visitors to the Philippines this year.