TravelTrained is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. See our disclaimer.

Kadayawan Festival Davao – Full Guide & Tips

Kadayawan Festival Davao

The cultural festivals in various parts of the Philippines are worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime. You can’t go to one without gaining a new appreciation for the area’s people, enjoying delicious food, and just generally having a great time while you are there. 

One festival on my bucket list is the Kadayawan Festival held in Davao. As one of the most-anticipated festivals each year, this event really showcases the effort and talent that goes into putting on these fantastic events.

It’s also held during August, which is one of the most beautiful times of the year for the area when the view of Mount Apo is clearest. So it’s a great time to make a trip to the area in general. 

Keep reading if you’re interested in learning more about the Kadayawan Festival and why you should also add it to your Philippines bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know about how the festival started and what you can expect to see and do there. 

Make sure you book a place to stay in Davao City in advance as is a big chance to get fully booked weeks before.

What is Kadayawan Festival?

Kadayawan Festival

Kadayawan is a festival in Davao City held by the local people to show gratitude to nature for life and thanksgiving for the good harvest they have received.

Kadayawan comes from the word “madayaw,”  in Mandaya, which means “treasured” or “valuable.” In Tagalog, the name means “gratitude and appreciation.” 

For a long time throughout history, the 11 ethnic tribes in Davao would come together to celebrate the abundant crops they received that year.

They would show their thanks by displaying fruits, vegetables, rice, flowers, and corn grains on the mats of their houses. Accompanying the displays would be songs, dances, and celebrations. 

During a time of martial law in 1986, the government of Davao encouraged the tribes to unite again and showcase their rituals. The government hoped that this act would unite these people during the highly turbulent times.

The festival officially became known as the Kadayawan Festival in 1988 under Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and it has been continuously celebrated each year. 

Kadayawan Festival Place of Origin?

Kadayawan Festival Place of Origin

The Kadayawan Festival history began way back in ancient times when the tribes of the Davao region visited Mount Apo to show gratitude to their deity for their bountiful harvest.

They would bring all kinds of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other items to the mountain as a gift to the “Manama” (Supreme Being) and “Bulan” (a moon deity).

The cultural background of the Kadayawan Festival is rooted in these ancient people who worshipped the moon, believing that it helped them gain a bountiful harvest.

Over time, the festival has changed. It is still a way to show thanks to the divine protector for the wealth of the harvest.

However, now the people display fruits, vegetables, and corn in front of their houses rather than bring them to the mountain. They also have street dancing competitions, singing, and other various celebratory events.

Where is Kadayawan Festival Celebrated?

philippines festival

Kadayawan is a festival celebrated in Davao City. The city is the center of Metro Davao, which is the second most populated metropolitan area in the Philippines.

In addition, Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines, is located near the Kadayawan Festival place. Many people also refer to the area as the “chocolate capital of the Philippines.”

When is Kadayawan Festival Celebrated?

Where is Kadayawan Festival Celebrated

The Kadayawan Festival date of celebration is in August each year. Typically it is held during the third week of the month. However, in recent years, the festival has been extended to last the whole month—running from August 1 to 31. The Kadayawan2023 festival schedule begins on August 15,2023. 

Kadayawan Festival Music

Kadayawan Festival Music

The musical characteristics of the Kadayawan Festival center around the primary instruments used in Kadayawan Festival, which include drums, piano, bass, and other types of similar rhythmic instruments. The style is lively and has an upbeat tempo that denotes a feeling of celebration.

A typical festival song will make you want to get on your feet and dance along with the performers in the street dancing competition. 

Is Kadayawan Festival Religious?

Is Kadayawan Festival Religious

The Kadayawan Festival is a cultural festival and not a religious one. The 11 ethnic tribes that celebrate the festival have different cultures and religions. The meaning of the festival is not to focus on one religion or worship but rather to unite the tribes with the common element of celebrating a successful harvest. 

What is the Tempo of Kadayawan Festival?

What is the Tempo of Kadayawan Festival

The tempo of the Kadayawan Festival and its accompanying music is fast, upbeat, and heart-pounding. The fast pace and drums beating during the celebration create an atmosphere of thanks and cheerfulness.

The repeating patterns of the music unite everyone watching and encourages participation. Excitement fills the air the entire time you are there. 

What is the Meaning of Kadayawan Festival?

What is the Meaning of Kadayawan Festival?

The literal meaning of the word “kadayawan” in the Tagalog language is “pasasalamat at pagpapahalaga,” which translates to  “gratitude and appreciation.” The name also derives from the word “madayaw,” which means “treasured” or “valuable.

So it is easy to see that the meaning of the festival is thankfulness for the valuable treasures provided by the earth. 

Kadayawan Festival Costume

Kadayawan Festival Costume

The people of Davao City unite for the festival in bright, colorful, and intricate costumes that show the uniqueness of their individual tribes and what they represent culturally. The costumes feature an elaborate festival headdress common to the Philippines, representing the performer’s specific tribe.

You’ll see vibrant shades of reds, yellows, greens, purples, and many other colors dancing through the streets. 

The performers also wear intricate and fancy jewelry to adorn themselves further. Some of the costumes include masks as well, but all of them are common in that they display the cheerful happiness that comes from celebrating the great abundance of the harvest. 

Kadayawan Festival Description

Kadayawan Festival Description

You’ll find many fun and unique characteristics of Kadayawan Festival. This festival’s one-of-a-kind street dancing competition shows the diversity of the people who live there and participate in it.

Pay close attention to the dances performed, as they each depict specific stories of the different tribes. They allow you to learn a lot about the culture of the area and the people who live and work in the area day-to-day.

The eleven tribes represented in the festival are the Ata, Bagobo Klata, Bagobo Tagabawa, Iranun, Kagan, Maguindanawon, Maranao, Matigsalug, Obu Manuvu, Sama, and Tausug.

You’ll also get to experience an abundance of good food, drink, and company. The festival attracts many international travelers and locals who refer to it as the “King of Festivals.” 

Since the festival now usually lasts a whole month, you have more opportunities to participate in the various events and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.

If you like excitement, you will want to check out the powerboat races and the horse fight parts of the festival. The horse fight will remind you of Spain’s bullfights. 

As with other festivals in the Philippines, there’s also a day with a beauty pageant called the Bya’Neng ng Kadayawan or the Miss Kadayawan beauty contest.

This contest differs from the typical festival beauty competitions. It features 11 contestants, each from the different ethnolinguistic groups in the city. 

Kadayawan Festival Highlights

Kadayawan Festival Description

The festival activities during Kadayawan are many and filled with excitement. You will not want to miss the Kadayawan Festival dance at Indak Indak Sa Kadalana, which includes ethnic dance performances and features street dancers in costumes that represent the 11 tribes of Davao. 

You will also want to catch the Ceremonial Floral Float Parade. The participants decorate their floats with flower arrangements, livestock, and other reminders of the bountiful harvest that they are celebrating. 

While enjoying everything that the festival offers, also indulge in some of the Durian fruit and mangoes, which are abundant throughout the celebration.

Kadayawan Festival Tips

Kadayawan Festival Parade

If you’re attending the “King of Festivals,” here are some tips to help make your experience more enjoyable: 

  • Wear comfortable shoes. The events are held at all locations around Davao City, so make sure that you won’t miss out on any of the fun because your feet start to hurt. 
  • Book your hotel in advance. Because the Kadayawan Festival is one of the most anticipated festivals in the Philippines, it gets very crowded. Make sure you have a place to stay overnight by reserving your accommodations early. 
  • Bring an umbrella, hat, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the heat and intense sunshine. 
  • Bring cash with you to purchase food, drinks, and souvenirs. 
  • You also don’t want to forget to have your camera to capture all of the festivities. 

How to Get to Kadayawan Festival

Davao City is pretty easy to get to either by air or by land. You can take a flight from Manila or some other surrounding cities, like Cebu or Zamboanga. Flights leave from these cities several times a day. You can also arrive via the RORO bus from Manila. 

Some Other Things to Do During Your Stay in Davao City

davao city philippines

Davao City is a lively metropolitan area with many other things to do during your stay there. You can visit the Davao Crocodile Park, where you can get a first-hand look at the crocodile farming system in the Philippines.

There are also other unique animals there, such as monkeys, bearcats, snakes, and birds. The “Pangil” or the largest crocodile in the park, is the main attraction. 

If you’re still up for checking out some unique creatures, make your way to the Monfort Bat Colony, where you’ll find caves filled wall-to-wall with millions of fruit bats. 

For a day of relaxation at the beach, hop over to Samal Island, which has beautiful white-sand beaches and beach resorts and is popular with both locals and tourists.  

Finally, visit the Malagos Chocolate Museum, the first interactive museum that focuses on chocolates and how they are made. You can taste and even make your own chocolate while you are there visiting.   

Best Places to Stay for Kadayawan Festival

More Festivals in the Philippines