Celebrating Music in Tagum City, Davao del Norte
A good hour and a half drive from Davao City, through seemingly endless banana plantations, lies the lovely city of Tagum. The provincial capitol of Davao del Norte, Tagum became a city only in 1998 through Republic Act No. 8472. It is well known as a throbbing hub of commerce and business in Mindanao, with a focus on agriculture and eco-tourism. If you’ve ever had banana chips, chances are, they came from Tagum, which supplies sixty percent of the Philippine market. The city is a milestone of progress, under the no-nonsense leadership of the incumbent Mayor Rey T. Uy, whose various civic programs seem eminently suited to take Tagum to the next level. One program that lies very close to his heart is the MUSIKAHAN Festival.
Held annually from February 21 to 27, the MUSIKAHAN Festival is a week-long celebration of music. It is an opportunity to highlight the musical talents of Tagum’s youth while bringing together people from other parts of Mindanao together for a common appreciation of music and friendly competition. Throughout the week, assorted musical programs are held in various venues around the city.
“I’m a frustrated musician,” jokes Mayor Uy. “Now, I'm just a listener,” - an understatement, since the Mayor and his wife, Chairperson of the MUSIKAHAN Executive Committee Alma L. Uy are the drivers behind this festival. In his first term, Mayor Uy established the MUSIKAHAN Festival, with a four-fold objective. One, to celebrate the wealth of talent and the richness of music and art traditions. Two, to showcase Filipino excellence in music. Three, to generate support for students and youth artists to enhance their skills in the field of music composition and performance. Four, to promote Tagum City as the Music Capital of Mindanao.
“Tagum City provides free music education to schoolchildren from age nine to fourth year high school,” explains Mayor Uy. “We’ve had nine batches around one hundred twenty students each and we have reservations until batch twelve.” By providing free music education, Tagum gives its youth skills they can use for employment, entertainment, religion and other aspects of their lives. MUSIKAHAN lets Tagum’s musical kids strut their stuff.
MUSIKAHAN Festival Events
The MUSIKAHAN Festival is an event-filled seven days festooned in color, costume and, of course, tunes. Main events tend to be the competitions, where communities get to represent.
- Raprapan, Sayawan, MUSIKAHAN
A monthly talent search for the best Tagum City-based young performing artist in various genres culminates in this finals competition.
Crank up the volume to eleven for Tagum’s very own battle of the bands. Held at the Freedom Park, this riveting event pits over sixty participants against each other for the honor of audio superiority.
- Harana ng Bayan
Love songs for your community, instead of the girl next door. In this competition, Tagum residents write a harana showcasing the unique traits and qualities of their barangay. The harana is performed in a music video as well as with a live performance.
- Huni Ug Kasikas sa Plaza
Easily the most colorful event of MUSIKAHAN, this drum & bugle/drum & lyre competition is the highlight of every school’s musical corps. The routines are intricate, the costumes are creative, and the energy of thousands of screaming schoolkids is just unbelievable.
- Avenida Musika
If brass bands are your thing, then this parade of marching brass bands should whet your fancy. Open to Mindanao schools, this contest gives new meaning to the term Heavy Metal.
- Himig Handog
This chorale competition has three categories: elementary, secondary, and adult. Each group performs three songs, including prescribed contest pieces such as “Isang Matandang Panalangin” by Verne dela Pena and “Sa Mahal Kong Bayan” by Lucio San Pedro.
Open to quintets, this vocal competition is open to Mindanao-based performers who will render at least three songs, including one in a capella.
In this competition, the rondalla plays, the dance troupe interprets. Contestants don Balintawak or Maria Clara costumes, depending on their category.
Apart from the core competitions of MUSIKAHAN, the festival also has special events lined up, including Pahalipay, where MUSIKAHAN artists visit hospitals to perform for patients, Lantaw-MUSIKAHAN, a trade fair showcasing musical instruments as well as the region’s eco-tourism spots, and the MUSIKAHAN Parade.
Melodic Futures Ahead
While the MUSIKAHAN Festival may be a recent addition to the festivals and celebrations around the Philippines, it is one annual event that truly holds promise. The MUSIKAHAN has been cemented into tradition through a city ordinance ensuring its continuity despite future changes in local administration. With Tagum City continuing to produce musical and performing talent, we can only expect the performances in Tagum to get better and better.