The KAAMULAN FESTIVAL is an annual fiesta of the 7 Ethnic Tribes in Bukidnon — the Matigsalug, Tigwahanun, Higaunu, Umayamnun, Manobo, Bukidnon, and Talaandig. It is a cultural celebration of the tribes’ legendary stories, ancient rituals, ethnic music, and traditional dances.
The fiesta is usually held in March, but it was moved to September this year to coincide with the Centennial Celebration of the province of Bukidnon, which was founded on September 1, 1914.
I was curious to experience it because George Tapan called it one of the best and most authentic fiestas in the Philippines.
Here’s a photo essay of my first ever Kaamulan experience in Malaybalay, Bukidnon…
The culmination of the Kaamulan festival is the street dancing and float parade by the 22 towns of Bukidnon.
The event starts with a Pamuhat cleansing ritual at around 6am.
This is followed by the formal opening ceremonies with the singing of the National Anthem, a simultaneous playing of the drums, and a morning fireworks display.
The best spot for photographers is at the starting point, with an unobstructed view of the parade opposite the Pine Hills Hotel.
You’ll fall in love with the young people of Bukidnon, especially in this university town in the capital of Malaybalay City.
The costumes are well-curated and inspired by authentic tribal dresses and jewelries.
One of the unique things about this fiesta is that actual tribe members go on parade with the civic community to showcase their culture and traditions.
The spears and the shields are replicated based on actual weapons from the tribes.
The music is performed live beautifully using authentic instruments…
…with synchronized stomping of the feet.
Listen to the Kaamulan Tribal Beat in the video above.
A full tribal band performs live music on top of the large float. It’s not your usual Drum & Lyre music.
The next generation is also involved in playing the instruments to ensure that this beautiful tradition is passed on.
The kids playfully perform and actively take part in showcasing their culture, like in this frog dance…
…and the monkey dance.
The floats are huge and very creative! They showcase the flora, fauna, and organic produce of the town. They also showcase tribal stories and mysteries, like the Kapre at the end of this float.
I love how the floats are not commercialized, unlike in those in the Pahiyas or Panagbenga festivals.
Each float costs close to a Million Pesos to create, utilizing the most intricate materials and designs from local artists.
Each float tells a story narrated by the emcee as it makes its way down the street.
I love the attention to detail, like the tomato earrings in this float, adorned with fresh flowers.
The bottom of this float is decorated with Betel Nut, popularly used for Nganga in this region.
Check out this float designed with corn kernels and cobs, white and red beans, mongo, and coconut husks.
I love the creative interpretation of these birds…
…and the snakes.
These ladies represent angry Diwatas…
…who lament the destruction of the forest depicted in this float.
Congratulations to the winning float design of the Municipality of Talakag!
Black Eagles hovering over the winning float.
The parade ends at the grandstand, where each town gets to tell their story through music and dance for 10 minutes.
It’s a beautiful sight to watch and a great way to learn and understand the rich cultural heritage of these ethnic tribes in Bukidnon.
After the parade, you can explore the Kaamulan Village with the different huts…
…showcasing the yummy food of the region…
…and the beautiful tribal fashion.
You can also check out the various outdoor activities like wall climbing.
Some people hang out at Bukidnon Brew Cafe (also known as BBC) for some air-conditioning, WiFi connection, phone recharging, and…
…the strong Bukidnon Brew paired with local cakes.
Best of all, you get to meet the lovely Bukidnon Beauties wearing their Kaamulan tribal fashion. 🙂
Kaamulanis from the Binukid word “amul”, which means “to gather”. It is a gathering of Bukidnon tribespeople for a purpose. It can mean a datuship ritual, a wedding ceremony, a thanksgiving festival during harvest time, a peace pact, or all of these put together.