PALADONG doesn’t have the reputation of the Ati-atihan, Sinulog or Kadayawan, but it has maintained a certain identity for Hinatuan.

Photos by Blank Pixels

While the town’s pristine beauty – the famous Enchanted River, its serene white sand beaches, and the abundant sea life have spanned the country, its equally colorful and often haunting culture has yet to be recognized nationwide.

Paladong Festival is a yearly tribute to Hinatuan’s rich and long ethnic tradition. Started in 1998 as the highlight of the ten-day celebration of Araw ng Hinatuan and Patronal Feast through the initiative of the Local Government Unit, this celebration condenses a “more than a hundred years” of native tradition. Since then, it has become a cultural festival showcasing the identities and rich customs and traditions of four ethnic tribes of the municipality. The best of Manobo, Mandaya, Subanon and Mansaka are showcased in the most frolicsome street dancing and the final showdown in the grandest display of tribal costumes imaginable.

Paladong is coined from the kamayo word “ladong”, which means a ritual conducted by a “Ladongan” calling for the “abian” or spirit to grant him the power to cure. The Paladong, therefore, is a reminiscent of that spiritual invocation for the power of healing.

Since the festival is an inter-school competition every August 27, it is an opportunity for the local students to gather and showcase the cultural heritage of the municipality. The fascinating cultural display learned from the folks could remind the new generations on the original pioneers of the place and from a concept the way they were.

To the Hinatuanons, Paladong heralds the symbolic breakthrough of the long quest for meaning and identity. In more ways than one, Paladong continues to beckon to all that Hinatuan astounds with some unraveled cultural legacies.

Unlike other popular festivals, Paladong may not attract hordes of tourists but it certainly left a good taste in the mouth of the Hinatuanons. As the present Chief Executive, Shem G. Garay, put it in an interview after the staging of the 2019 Paladong Festival, “it was not just a merry-making that left litters in the streets, but it was living up to a higher plane of cultural awareness and unity.”