Roots, fruits, and the Kadayawan Festival

IN A CITY like Davao, fruits and crops are royalty this time of year, during the celebration of the annual Kadayawan Festival.

Founded 30 years ago, the Kadayawan Festival has year after year invited visitors from all points of the earth to an event touted the Festival of Festivals. The word, loosely translated, means ‘celebration of bounty’.

Photos by Bing Gonzales

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Visitors need simply ask any local where the fruits are. Pummelos? Drive or walk towards the road near Madrazo Compound. There are also boxes of these ready for flights out of the city towards the drive to the Francisco Bangoy International Airport. Mangosteen? Lanzones? Rambutan? Bankerohan is your best bet, with the city’s biggest public market as the most relatively near the plantations in the third district.

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Word easily gets around about the seasons and the average price. As of this week, the per kilogram pricing for fresh durian ranges from P40 to P80, with the days approaching the festival dropping the price of the city’s king of fruits.

While there are the usual haunts for durian, say the corner streets of Rizal and Anda and the stretch along Magsaysay Park, the vendors of the sweetly pungent fruits have gotten creative over the years, selling the fruits from the backs of multicabs and pickup trucks.

But what has really been the state of the fruit basket of the country?

According to an earlier report, production for durian has been seen to decline this year because of changes in weather conditions.

Candelario Miculob, who leads the influential Durian Industry Council of Davao, said the harvest this year would be late this year to September instead of July or August.

To local buyers, this means the cheaper durian will flood the city’s streets a month later. To producers, this means lower sales for all their markets, even as they look for alternative buyers, even those abroad.

Data from Philippine Statistics Authority-Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (PSA-BAS) showed that the region was able to produce 62,768.76 metric tons of durian last year, which dropped from 70,063.66 metric tons in 2013.

Aside from the fruits paraded around the city’s streets, the Kadayawan Festival has always been a celebration of diversity. This time of year, the city and the rest of the world are reminded that here, there is life and there is peace.

Lumads (or indigenous peoples) from across different groups historically converged in the city and formed it through a reference to Mt. Apo and what would now be the Davao River’s namesake, Davao City.

In the recent years, the Lumads have enjoyed a greater participation to the celebrations. Last Friday we crowned an Ata, Floramea Manyawron, as this year’s Hiyas ng Kadayawan. Five tribes last week “battled it out” through 13 tribal games.

But there is another side to the Kadayawan that must be examined, an elephant in the room.

The Lumads from other provinces have even made this city their own haven, from the unrest of their own locales.

Since earlier this year, around 700 Lumads from Kapalong and Talaingod in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon have made the city their home, fearing the worst in their areas.

In an interview yesterday at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Datu Men Malibato, 42, of Gupitan, Kapalong, said the Lumads have themselves seen the direct effects of man’s slaughter of the environment to crops, including food staples like taro, corn and rice.

Harvest season, he said, no longer depended on the month, but on the prevailing weather.

Datu Men said that for years, the summer seasons of March has now become April or May, with the harvest season coming two to three months later depending on the crop.

For high value upland rice, the harvest cycle comes five months later.

Malibato belongs to a community with around 98 families, comprising around 600 people.

Dato Jimboy Mandagit, a Manobo form Bukidnon, said harvest seasons have not changed. But Mandagit said his people was not enticed to parade around the streets, choosing to fight for their advocacy of demilitarization instead.

The Lumads at the UCCP Haran compound have been camped in the area for months, demanding the pullout of military troops from their areas, including schools.

Mandagit’s sitio in Bukidnon is home to around 1,000 people.

Even with the city as his sanctuary, Datu Mandagit laments the crops that have been left back home. “We moved to Davao with only the clothes on our backs,” he said. “I’m sure that wild animals have eaten our crops by now.”

While thankful for the support of the city, singling out the moral support publicly given by Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte and the logistical support of Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, Lumads like Mandagit would rather stay at the camp rather than walk the streets.

“We are curious of course of what the celebration is all about,” the young Datu said. “But at every corner of the city there are soldiers and police.”

Some of the evacuees figured in a scuffled last month touted a misunderstanding by all parties concerned. Riot police figured in a brief fight with Lumads last July 23 on an operation touted as a “rescue mission” by legislator Nancy Catamco, who leads the House committee on indigenous peoples.

Mayor Duterte has since excused the police and said the problem to ideology, a complication intesified by the entry of more conflict last month. He had harsher words for the congresswoman, however. The military also promised an internal investigation.

The Lumad leaders said that even before the conflict, the fruits of their labor have always been barely enough for the needs of their communities. A harvest of corn, for example, would yield sacks worth of products, which they would transport via floating raft downriver, or via a hired motorcycle or horse. The choice has always been spend more or earn enough for products like rice and corn. “At times, it looks like we are just delivering the products with our expenses with transporting the products,” one of the leaders says.

The Lumad leaders said they sought the sanctuary of the city because of the good things they hear about the place, as well as the proximity to their own homes.

Asked if there were fruits in their own areas, Datu Mandagit said that Davao and Bukidnon had similar crops with our city, and shared in the celebration of the same abundance every year.

“Had we been visitors to the city instead, we would have given our own harvests away,” Mandagit said. “Our culture tells us to share what we have to others.”

For the duration of the weekend, tribes from all over Mindanao have all gathered towards the city, each with their own reasons. For some, it is for celebration, while for the rest, it is for hope for change.

Over the years, the city has led this role. Mediator between deity and earth, bridge between two sides of a river, a melting pot for peoples of different beliefs.

And we will stay that way for years, one Kadayawan Festival after another.

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