Indak-Indak winner criticized for misrepresenting Lumad culture

Aug. 21, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Not all were happy at the Kadayawan festival.

Several netizens criticized the winning group of Indak-Indak Dance Competition for their costume, which they claim lack cultural sensitivity.

The organizers were also blamed for what they say was commercializing and bastardizing the indigenous tribes which was the intent of the city’s festival.

The winning group in the open category, Sindac Anib Performing Ensemble from Bislig in Surigao del Sur, drew flak that their costume and performance was disrespectful to the Manobo that the group is said to represent.

The performers were topless and wore beaded G-string, where spectators look with glee on their buttocks.

The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Caraga Regional Director Ferdausi Cerna said that neither the Mandaya nor Manobo tribes in Surigao del Sur wear “bahag’.

The event organizers defended the group from such criticism.

“We saw nothing wrong with the performance of the contingents from Surigao. In fact, I went through their synopsis and it did not say anything about any tribe (in Davao),” said City Tourism Officer Generose Tecson.

Indak-indak organizer Harold Quibete explained that the competition rules provide free interpretation and adaptation of the indigenous’ culture.

“If you are going to read the mechanics, the open category is free interpretation, it may be a fable, a legend or a folklore, an adaptation and the (Sindac Anib) did not carry any tribe,” Quibete said.

“Indak-indak is really not an authentic activity pertaining to our 11 tribes. It really depends on the artistic inclination or adaptation of the choreographers,” Tecson added.

But Davao cultural worker Bejay Absin commented in social media that “free interpretation only becomes free when you are responsible.”

“As part of the mechanics, the story line, the inspiration were taken from that of the tribes. Nothing wrong with that. As cultural workers, we are (taught) to always give back. The easiest way to give back is to involve them, (and) to give them the chance to say (it) represents (them),” Absin wrote.

“They are taking from the tribes then misrepresent. Subjective interpretation is okay when they are grounded. We are talking here about culture, cultural heritage and identity,” he added.

Award-winning Maguindanaon film director Teng Mangansakan lamented that festival competitions do not authentically represent the indigenous and Moro culture.

“The institutionalization of bastardized cultural forms, evident in street dancing competitions from Basco to Siasi, do not promote the true culture and tradition of our country’s diverse ethnic groups,” he said.

“It’s not really a celebration of culture, it’s more like…fantasy costume and all. Misrepresentation and misappropriation reign supreme because the real intention is to win, not showcase a specific culture,” he added

Another netizen agreed that the said celebration of culture has capitalized on Lumads instead.

“Lumads are long forgotten. People just make these celebrations an excuse to pretend but in reality, there are no real efforts to study thoroughly the situation of the Lumads,” said Melissa Claire, a UP Mindanao graduate with Lumad ethnicity.

The city government admitted that some members of the group showed lack of cultural sensitivity, as they playfully exposed their buttocks to spectators taking photos.

“We no longer have control to the actions of the contingents after the performance,” said Tecson. “But had I been the audience asking for a photo with them, I would have told them to not pose that way.”

Sindac Anib won 1.2 million pesos in cash prize for the event. (

comments powered by Disqus