IN PHOTOS: Dayaw, PH’s indigenous peoples festival

Rhea Claire Madarang
The 'Dayaw' festival brings together indigenous peoples from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to share their culture and heritage

PRESENT WITH PRIDE. “Dayaw,” among other things, means to present with pride. This is one of the proud performances among Dayaw’s participating groups, the Iranun-Maguindanaoan cluster.All photos by Rhea Claire Madarang unless otherwise specified

With October as Indigenous People’s Month, the Philippines celebrated Dayaw, a 3-day festival with indigenous peoples from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao coming together and sharing their cultural heritage through music, dances, arts and crafts, stories, and more.

Dayaw means “to present with pride,” “to show one’s best with pride and dignity coupled with excitement,” and “to honor” in different Filipino languages. The universal meaning of the word “dayaw” connotes celebration, and thus was chosen by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), which spearheads Dayaw, as the name for the festival.

COMING TOGETHER. Over 40 indigenous groups from around the Philippines, as well as groups from other Asian countries, are participating in Dayaw, the Philippines’ indigenous peoples festival.

WELCOME TO DAYAW. Participating indigenous peoples’ groups pose in front of the welcome arch.

Kicking off on Sunday, October 8, over 40 indigenous peoples’ groups around the Philippines gathered at Rizal Park, with more than 30 performing their traditional dances, some cooking and sharing their cuisine with the public, and others demonstrating their crafts like pottery making and broom making. Some groups were also selling their crafts. At the venue also stood life-sized models of traditional houses festival participants and visitors could explore.

With the theme “Weaving Cultures,” Dayaw this year aimed to bring indigenous peoples closer together.

The festival began with a ritual prayer and a mini-parade onstage of the different indigenous groups at the Rizal Park Auditorium, followed by their on-the-spot cooking of traditional cuisine and crafts making. 

TRADITIONAL HOUSES. Festival participants and guests can go inside life-sized models of traditional houses like this Maranao torogan, usually an ancestral house for sultans.

RITUAL DANCE. Near the traditional houses, the Subanens from Zamboanga del Sur performed one of their ritual dances for healing before the festival began.

COLORFUL PARADE. During the festival opening, indigenous peoples group by group went up the stage in their indigenous attire, with some of them dancing.

MANOBOS AND MATIGSALUGS. This cluster is among those who danced and made music when they were introduced.

COLORFUL. The T’bolis also put on a colorful show.

IN LINE. The Atis waiting for their turn to go up the stage

ATTENTIVE. The Rombloanon and Tagalog cluster watching other indigenous peoples take the stage

PRAYER. Maguindanaoans and Atis open the festival with a prayer and ritual.

SHARING. After the ritual, native wine was shared.

CEREMONIAL OPENING. The ringing of the ceremonial gong officially started the Dayaw Festival.

OUTDOOR PERFORMANCES. Outside the auditorium were more performances, like this one from the Ilonggo, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Aklanon cluster.

PHOTO OPS. Many, like the Itbayat Ivatans were asked by guests and other festival participants to pose for photos.

COOKING DEMO. Different groups cooked and shared their cuisine at open-air huts in the park. This one is binakle, an Ifugao sticky rice cake.

TRADITIONAL SISIG. Kapampangans taught their audience the way they cook sisig.

SERVED THE NATURAL WAY. The Itbayat Ivatans from Batanes served their cuisine on breadfruit leaves, a common practice in their province.

BROOM MAKING. The Ifugao Kalanguya cluster demonstrated how they painstakingly make sturdy brooms. One broom takes half a day to make.

TRADITIONAL WRITING. Kapampangans taught and wrote kulitan, their traditional writing system.

MINI-BAZAAR. Some groups, like the Gaddangs here, also sell their crafts and other products.

Aside from indigenous groups around the Philippines, groups from other Asian countries Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, and Korea also came, with some even performing their traditional dances.

VIBRANT. Korean participants during the mini-parade onstage

GOLDEN. Thai participants performing one of their centuries-old dances.

SIMPLE AND COLORFUL. Vietnamese walking in ao dai, their traditional attire.

During night time, the different indigenous peoples’ groups and other Filipino dance groups also performed.   

CORDILLERA. The Bontoc, Balangao, and Applai cluster performing their traditional dance.

HISTORICAL. The Bicolano cluster performed a dramatic dance also illustrating their region’s revolt against colonizers.

BAMBOO DANCE. The Maranaos performing singkil, a traditional royal dance

MORE DANCE GROUPS. Other Filipino dance groups, like this one from Centro Escolar University, also performed.

BALLET. The Halili-Cruz Dance Company, known for its ballet, was among the performers.

Aside from performing for the public, the indigenous peoples and participants from other countries also shared their culture through visiting different schools in Metro Manila, as well as SM Mall of Asia, and performing their traditional dances. At the Mall of Asia is also an exhibit of cultural masters’ works , especially those by National Living Treasures, or Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA).

SCHOOL VISITS. The festival participants also visited different schools to share their culture. This is in Marikina High School.

BALANCE. The Sama Bangingi, Bajau, Dilaut, and Jama Mapun cluster dancing with balancing acts.

INTERACTIVE. The Blaan Sangir cluster asked students to join in their dance.

CULTURAL MASTERS’ WORKS. At the SM Mall of Asia is an ongoing exhibit of works by the Philippines’ National Living Treasures, as well as work from other countries. Photo by Leon Pangilinan, Jr./NCCA

 OTHER CULTURES. Works from other countries, like these from Vietnam, are also on display in the exhibit. Photo by Leon Pangilinan, Jr./NCCA

On October 10, the last day of the festival, different indigenous peoples’ groups shared success stories and best practices from their own communities on relevant issues like passing on and teaching indigenous traditions to the youth.

 SUCCESS STORIES. Some participants shared their stories on how their communities successfully preserved and enriched their indigenous culture. Photo by Leon Pangilinan, Jr./NCCA

At night, the festival ended with more cultural performances and an awarding of cultural teachers instrumental to preserving their respective communities’ culture. Dayaw culminated with a community bonfire, where festival participants frolicked and danced around in a circle.

 RECOGNITION. Gawad Gabay is an award given to indigenous people who taught and helped spread cultural knowledge and skills to their communities. Photo by Leon Pangilinan, Jr./NCCA

COMMUNITY DANCE. Dayaw Festival culminated with a spirited community dance around a bonfire. Photo by Leon Pangilinan, Jr./NCCA


Claire Madarang is a writer, researcher, and documenter whose work and wanderlust takes her to adventures like backpacking for seven weeks and exploring remote islands and bustling cities alike. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and epiphanies at Traveling Light