(For those looking for the 2012 Budjang Tawi-Tawi results, please see update at the bottom of this page)
This past September 11th, marked the 39thanniversary of the province of Tawi-Tawi by Presidential Decree No. 302. Soon to follow will be the famous Kamahardikaan (Kamahardikaꞌan) Festival, this September 23 in Bongao.
Kamahardikaꞌan is the Sinama for “being honored or given the highest degree of respect.” Indeed Tawi-Tawi has become honored in the Philippines. It is frequently in the news. It is a name that rolls off the tongues and pens of many Filipinos even though they might know little about the province.
First thing to know: Even though Cebu-Pacific advertisements will tell you that they will take you to see the Tawi-Tawians, the people of Tawi-Tawi are the Sama, known to the Malaysians as the Bajau.
Though there were many political motivations for President Marcos’s creation of the province during Martial Law, many Sama envisioned the province as freedom to govern and lead themselves. The first governor of Tawi-Tawi was a Sama-Bicolano, Romulo M. Espaldon, the former Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Until this day Sama culture prevails in the province.
It is this beautiful Sama culture that the Kamahardikaan Festival celebrates. Highlights of the festival are the beauty pageant search for Budjang Tawi-Tawi and the Agal-Agal parade.
“Budjang” is the Sinama for a single girl of marriageable age. For the Budjang Tawi-Tawi pageant the term “Budjang” coincides with the english title “Ms.” used in pageants to refer to the candidates (i.e. Ms. Simunul or Budjang Simunul). There are always 11 candidates in the contest representing the 11 municipalities: Bongao, Langayun, Mapun, Panglima Sugala (formerly Balimbing), Sapa-Sapa, Sibutu, Simunul, Sitangkai, South Ubian, Tandubas and Turtle Islands.
Agal-Agal is the Sinama word for seaweed. Seaweed is the number one product of Tawi-Tawi, hence the festival is sometimes called the Agal-Agal Festival and the main event is the Agal-Agal parade.
If you are a Sama that loves your culture or an outsider who has become fascinated with the Sama and Badjao culture, then this is one of the festivals worth taking the trip to see. Governor Sahali recommends this festival to both local and foreign visitors. The 2012 Kamahardikaan Festival will be a five day event starting on the 23rd of September and lasting until the 27th.
The 2012 Kamahardikaan festival is now over. Many have been interested in the results of the 2012 Budjang Tawi-Tawi contest. We are pleased to announce that the winner was Ms. Bongao.