By Antonio Colina
DAVAO CITY – From being a window to how the six Moro and five lumad tribes live, the Kadayawan Cultural Village in Magsaysay Park here has taken on another purpose: Breaking the cultural divide, debunking the myths about them, and preserving their vibrant culture and traditions.
Alvin Nasib, an artist who helped design the Meranaw tribal house, found himself in the thick of things overseeing the ongoing works to make sure all the important elements of the tribal house are in place before the opening of the 34th Kadayawan Festival last August 2.
Just like the rest in the tribal village, the 30-year-old Nasib and the others in the Meranaw tribe were in the final stretch of completing their house, putting some final touches to the three-story “Torogan,” a traditional house for the Meranaws of royal blood.
A bigger and more colorful replica compared to a previous one, this year’s Torogantook a month to re-build, and cost them more than P1 million, on top of the P250,000 financial support from the local government, according to Nasib.
The new house is adorned with heirlooms from the different royal families, passed on from the older generations of sultans and datus to another.
And among them is a wooden sculpture of Meranaw’s legendary bird “sarimanok” perched on the veranda, antique canons by the entrance, and musical instruments that will leave the visitors in awe.
One cannot miss the elaborate sarimanok-inspired “panolong,” a protruding house beam embellishing all sides of the house, and the colorful façade painted with a snazzy mix of yellow, blue, red, and green, giving the house its grandeur look that is fit for royalty.
The Meranaw’ s tribal house cannot escape one’s attention. It is among the many tribal houses in the Kadayawan Cultural Village.
Details like those reflect the culture and traditions of the Meranaw people and the vibrant colors, them as the “happy people,” according to Nasib.
But more than showing their culture with pride, Nasib said they have poured their best efforts to change the way people perceive the Meranaw, who he wants
the people to remember as a “united and kindhearted people.”
Since the tribal village was conceived three years ago, he said they were given the chance to educate the visitors about the Meranaws and, most especially, debunk the misconceptions about them, the worst being called as “terrorists.”
“We are not terrorists,” he said.
“This is what we want to show the people. There are different colors to the house, because that is what we are – we are happy people,” he said.
Rovelyn Ali Bontilao, in-charge of the Ata tribal house, said many things have changed since they started the tribal village along with other recognized
tribes of the city.
The exposure of the tourists to their culture has been instrumental in shaping the people’s cultural appreciation and understanding of the 11 tribes, comprising six Moro tribes (Taosug, Maguindanaon, Iranun, Kagan, Maranao, and Sama) and five Lumad tribes (Klata, Ata, UboManuvo, Matigsalog, and Tagabawa), she said.
Bontilao, who hails from Paquibato District, said lumads are filled with gratitude for the chance to showcase their identity by allowing the visitors to experience their culture and interact with the other indigenous peoples.
To her, the Kadayawan Cultural Village, opened in the Kadayawan festival of 2017, was instrumental in earning the respect of other people and promoting the preservation of their culture and tradition.
She said the tribal house allowed them to show to the people how they strive to keep their culture alive even in modern times.
“We want to show them that this is our house in the mountain, that we do not abandon our culture. We want to tell the people that they should not look down on us,” she said in vernacular, adding that many members of the Ata tribe are educated. Some of them serve as teachers and others are midwives.
During the Kadayawan, Bontilao’s tribe will sell various handicrafts, accessories, and delicacies. They have also prepared various cultural performances to entertain their guests in the village.
Hub for culture and peace
City Tourism Office head Generose Tecson said how the tribal village progressed in three years was “beyond our expectation.”
Just how the 11 tribes commune peacefully together amused many tourists even the diplomats who have visited the village, according to Tecson.
“Whenever we have visitors, ambassador, from out-of-town, we bring them there. The Israeli ambassador loves it there. We bring them there because it’s the best place where you can see the culture of our 11 tribes,” she said.
Tecson said she wants to improve the village. She hopes to get funding from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to transform the Kadayawan tribal village into a “hub for culture and peace.”
“My dream is to set up a Kadayawan tribal village that would be permanent, that has a cultural hall where they can perform daily, that has food section – a village where each one of them can showcase what they have,” she said.
Tecsons said putting up the village was intended to draw attention into the ethnic tribes of the city as they sometimes felt being excluded even during the festival that is celebrated in their honor.
“That’s the cultural side of Kadayawan. That’s what Kadayawan is all about. If you are into that, then you will see why there is Kadayawan when you go to the village,” she said.