Kaamulan Festival Street Dance In Photos: A Glimpse of Bukidnon’s Rich Indigenous Spirit

Bold, bright native costumes. Powerful drum beats that vibrate through the heart. The quiet dignity of tribal elders and leaders as they walked through the streets. And, dances where indigenous past (the story of the people and their land) and present (precise steps choreographed by professionals) meet.

Watching the indigenous tribes in Bukidnon dance in the streets at the annual Kaamulan Festival for the first time yesterday, I felt that the spirit of the indigenous people is very much alive, running, sashaying and smiling through the festival performers.

Dancers, Kitaotao Municipality (Manobo and Matigsalug tribes), Grand prize winner, First place, Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Manobo and Matigsalug tribes dancing as representatives of Kitaotao municipality in Bukidnon. Kitaotao is the winner of the Kaamulan Festival street dance competition this year.

Kaamulan is an indigenous word in Bukidnon which means “to gather,” according to the tourism brochures I browsed through on my way to this mountainous province.

In the Kaamulan Festival, the seven Bukidnon tribes gather and perform.

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The seven tribes of Bukidnon

An anthropologist and former Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension at Mindanao State University-Marawi, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Cagayan de Oro before I went to Bukidnon, begged to differ, though.

Dr. Nagasura Madale said that “Kaamulan” is about going back to one’s roots. He also pointed out the word “mula” in “Kaamulan.” His words personally resonated with me; in Tagalog, “mula” means “from,” and “pinagmulan,” a variation, means “the place one comes from.”

Kaamulan Festival is indeed more than just a gathering. I feel this festival helps natives from indigenous groups remember just how rich their culture and roots are. Indeed, there are some who have forgotten or are forgetting their roots. A Higaonon artist I met at Kaamulan told me that not many native Higaonons know the indigenous ways. He, as an artist, aims to show the richness of their culture to his fellow natives.

And, in watching this festival, spectators like me can also appreciate this wealth of indigenous spirit. And also, I believe that the spectators who come in droves every year help validate the Bukidnon natives that their culture is indeed important.

Below I re-live in photos what happened in the morning of the Kaamulan Festival street dance.

Pamuhat, ritual before the Kaamulan Festival Street Dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Pamuhat, a ritual offering performed by indigenous elders before the Kaamulan street dance. Bai (female leader) Inatlawan of the Bukidnon tribe (right) leads the ritual in native tongue. Beside her are datus (chieftains).I had the fortunate opportunity to talk briefly to Datu Masilsil (left) of the Higaonon tribe.

Bai Inatlawan of the Bukidnon tribe preparing the offerings for the Pamuhat (ritual), Kaamulan Festival, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Bai Inatlwan prepares the offerings for Pamuhat. I later learned from her that the ritual was done to ask permission from the spirits on the road for the street dance, and also for the performers to have enough energy for the dances.

Idlantungun Manuvu tribe dancer, Pangantucan Municipality, Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Rica dela Cruz of the Idlantungun Manuvu tribe, one of the tribes representing Pangantucan municipality, the first contestant for the Kaamulan Festival street dance competition

Dancers, Pangantucan Municipality (Talaandig and Idlantungun Manuvu tribes), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Pangantucan municipality dancers. The tribes at Pangantucan this year are Talaandig and Idlantungun Manuvu.

Talakag Contingent (Talaandig and Higaonon tribes), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

A dancer representing Talakag municipality, second contingent. Talaandig and Higaonon tribes are part of Talakag.

Talaandig tribe(bird) dance, Talakag Contingent, Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

A Talaandig tribe dance imitating birds

Tribal elders, Dangcagan Municipality (Manobo and Pulangihon tribes), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Tribal elders lead the Dangcagan municipality, the third contingent for the street dance competition.

Male dancers, Dangcagan Contingent (Manobo and Pulangihon tribes), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Dangcagan municipality dancers. Manobo and Pulangihon tribes are part of Dangcagan.

Valencia contingent (Bukidnon and Pulangibon tribes), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Valencia City, the fourth contingent, is the rice granary of Bukidnon, and thus portrays a bountiful harvest.

Dancers, Valencia contingent (Bukidnon and Pulangibon tribes), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Their dances are thus more about farming. The tribes in Valencia this festival are Bukidnon and Pulangihon.

Dancer, Damulog contingent (Manobo and Dungoanon tribes), Kaamulan Festival Streetdance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, PhilippinesA child performer representing Damulog municipality, the fifth contingent

Elder dancer, Damulog contingent (Manobo and Dungoanon tribes), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

An elder dancer for Damulog. This Kaamulan, the tribes in attendance for Damulog are Manobo and Dungoanon.

Tribal family, Kitaotao (Manobo and Matigsalug), Grand prize winner, First place, Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

A tribal family at the forefront of Kitaotao municipality, the sixth contingent. Kitaotao is also the winner of the 2013 Kaamulan street dance competition.

Dancers, Kitaotao (Manobo and Matigsalug tribes), Grand prize winner, First place, Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Kitaotao dancers. The tribes in Kitaotao are Manobo and Matigsalug.

Children dancers, Don Carlos Municipality (Manobo tribe), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Charming Manobo child performers for Don Carlos municipality, seventh contingent

Dancers, Don Carlos Municipality (Manobo tribe), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Manobo dancers representing Don Carlos

Dancers, Malaybalay Municipality (Bukidnon tribe), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

The last contingent, Malaybalay, roused loud cheers from their home city.

Happy Dancers, Malaybalay Municipality (Bukidnon tribe), Kaamulan Festival Street dance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Happy child dancers for Malaybalay. The Bukidnon tribe represents Malaybalay.

Grand prize winner, float, Talakag Contigent, Kaamulan Festival Streetdance 2013, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

Talakag’s float is the grand prize winner of the float competition.

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Kitaotao dancers jumped and cheered upon hearing of their victory in the street dance as well as the ground presentation competition.

It was a morning of gathering, celebrating, and remembering.

But more than just indigenous people’s pride and spectators’ appreciation of their culture, I believe “Kaamulan” – going back to one’s roots – has a deeper meaning. The festival for me is an invitation to reconnect to the ancient indigenous wisdom many of us Filipinos have forgotten or are forgetting. While technology is a welcome advancement, I believe we should not forget ancient wisdom, especially that which connects us as human beings to nature. And people from the indigenous tribes, especially the elders, live this wisdom. I believe people from cities can learn as much as – or even more from – indigenous group elders – as much as the indigenous people can learn from them.

Watching the festival strengthened my desire to know them more. I actually came close to tears a few times. I felt gratitude, overwhelming gratitude, to have this chance to see the rich spirit and culture of indigenous Filipinos, flow through my entire being. The effect on me was visceral and difficult to fully capture in words.

Getting such a meaningful glimpse of the vibrant spirit of the indigenous people during the Kaamulan Festival makes me excited about what I will experience when I get to know them more in the future.

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Part of the Kaamulan soil painting by Higaonon artist Mawee Bangcong. “Kaamulan” is also written in baybayin above the Roman letters. Baybayin is a pre-colonial Filipino writing system often mistakenly called as alibata.

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20 thoughts on “Kaamulan Festival Street Dance In Photos: A Glimpse of Bukidnon’s Rich Indigenous Spirit

  1. Great post! I love the pictures, too! I haven’t been to any of the festivals featuring our IP communities. And, this one would’ve been perfect for me. Definitely next time. 🙂

  2. This is a very nice post. I think I was right beside you when you took the second Pamuhat photo. 😉 It was my first time to experience Kaamulan myself, and to be immersed in Bukidnon’s rich culture for 3 days was really amazing. The drum beats won’t leave my head just yet. Haha.

    • Thanks, Kristianne! Yes, I still have Kaamulan hangover too. Would love to see your write-up about the festival too. =)

  3. Very colorful post! What an amazing experience that must have been for you to witness. How wonderful that you had the opportunity to speak with some of the participants as well.

  4. The anthropologist had it wrong. the root word of kaamulan is “amul”. The word “mula”can only be formed from kaamulan by virtue of the suffix “-an”. And yes, “amul” means to gather. And kaamulan, as we Higaonons use it, usually refers to a wedding.

    • Thanks for the input, Anijun!

      I’m curious – if “Kaamulan” also refers to a wedding, does it have another meaning aside from “gather”, perhaps that of commitment?

  5. Pingback: 6 ways to immerse yourself in the local culture of your travel destination | Traveling Light

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