Kadayawan Festival - Davao City, Philippines

Week-long Philippines Festival on the Third Week of August

Kadayawan dancers in Davao City, Philippines
Image © Constantine Agustin/Creative Commons

The Kadayawan sa Davao is a week-long celebration in the southern Philippines city of Davao. It's by no means traditional, although it brings together many traditional elements from the many cultures who call Davao City home.

Kadayawan was first celebrated in the late 80s, and has evolved since into the cavalcade of events and parades that "Dabawenyos" (Davao citizens) celebrate today.

Kadayawan resembles many harvest festivals from all around the world - and as Davao City has much to be thankful for, it takes a week to celebrate all the blessings!

The city's moderate weather, the fertile soil bearing bumper crops of flowers and fruits, and the many tribes who manage (more or less) to live side by side in peace: all of these take turns on center stage during Kadayawan.

"Kadayawan" - derived from the Mandaya tribe's traditional greeting "madayaw" - describes an object of goodness or profitability. Every third week of August, Dabawenyos take stock of their goods and celebrate them in different ways - from parades, including tribal dances and cavalcades of floats - to trade fairs that bring together goods from surrounding provinces. (Check out this calendar of Southeast Asia festivals.)

Kadayawan Highlights

The ten tribes, or lumad, of Davao City, are featured prominently in the celebrations, each making appearances in cultural events across the city, with their arts and crafts becoming fodder for art lovers and souvenir hunters.

If you want to watch the lumads' cultural performances, you can catch them live at venues across the city in an event called the Panagtagbo. The Panagtagbo exhibits the arts and culture of the ten indigenous tribes of Davao - the Ubo Manobo, Ata Manobo, Tagabawa, K'lata, Maguindanao, Tausug, Matigsalog, Maranao, Sama and Kalagan - finding expression in dance, costumes, and revelry.

Look for the Panagtagbo at the People's Park or at the NCCC Mall (both are accessible by taxi), at scheduled intervals announced at the Davao City website.

If you're a little more bloodthirsty, attend the horse fights ("paaway kuda"), where stallions are incited to battle it out for a mare's favors. This is part of long-established lumad tradition, gruesome as it may be; if you object to animal cruelty, you might want to give this one a miss.

Kadayawan culminates with two high-profile parades. The first one, the Indak Indak sa Kadalanan, is a street dancing parade featuring teams of children marching in choreographed splendor along Davao's main streets. The parade ends in front of City Hall on San Pedro Street, where each team pulls out all the stops to impress the judges.

The second parade – the Pamulak Floral Float - features flower-laden floats showcasing the blooms of the region, and is set for the last day of the festival. Flowers and fruits are arranged within floats sponsored by businesses and civic organizations - these floats are marched down Davao City's streets. Floats are judged and given awards based on their creativity.

What to Do During Kadayawan

Davao City is full of other activities to enjoy alongside the Kadayawan celebrations.

Fresh fruit can be bought and enjoyed on the spot. The adventurous should take this opportunity to eat the malodorous durian fruit fresh from its spiny husk! You can go on over to the fruit vendors lined up alongside Magsaysay Park and try the durian on for size. Bring your camcorder, and record your reactions for posterity!

Don't leave Davao without trying kinilaw - a dish resembling ceviche, consisting of absolutely fresh fish cooked with nothing but vinegar. You can try kinilaw and other Davao specialties (like grilled tuna jaw) on Luz Kinilaw along Salmonan, Quezon Boulevard.

Nature & Adventure Travel. Davao's location between Davao Gulf and Mount Apo places it in a Goldilocks zone for adventure and nature travelers. The hilly back country is honeycombed with biking trails, and the nearby sea beckons for divers who want to get a close-up look at the diving spots scattered around Samal and Talicud islands. The Davao River is also a whitewater rafting hotspot.

Further afield, mountain climbers can take a bus headed to Kidapawan to ascend the Philippines' highest peak Mount Apo, or go north to Kapalong to have a go at the municipality's network of caves. For more, read our list of Nature & Adventure Travel Activities in Davao City.

Shopping at Aldevinco Shopping Center along C. M. Recto Street. Aldevinco is Davao's first shopping center, and it's made a name for itself as Davao City's prime go-to place for souvenirs. You can buy traditional tribal fabrics, batik clothes, antiques, and even knives and swords! You'll find something to like among Aldevinco's over 100 shops; shoppers are encouraged to haggle their prices down, but be sure to do it with a smile! 

Getting to Davao City; Getting Around

Davao City is served by the Davao International Airport (IATA: DVO, ICAO: RPMD), which receives flights from Manila through Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Once in Davao, getting around by taxi is extremely easy and relatively cheap; popular taxi services can be hailed from a curb, or summoned over the phone. Three of the more popular taxi services in Davao are Friendly Taxi (phone: +63 82 2215252); Holiday Taxi (phone: +63 82 2211555); and Mabuhay Taxi (phone: +63 82 2351784; +63 82 2341360).

The popular Philippine minibuses known as jeepneys travel all throughout the city, though you'll need to get advice from a local on the best routes to get you where you want to go.

For more info, read about transportation in the Philippines.

Where to Stay

The hotels in Davao City tend to cater more towards the business, budget and beach crowd. The most luxurious hotel you'll get for your money in Davao is the Marco Polo Hotel. You can also select resort-type hotels like the Waterfront Insular Hotel, or centrally-located business hotels like Casa Leticia.

As taxis are easy to get and relatively inexpensive, most hotels within a few miles of the city center will do, distance-wise.

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