A child peeking through a float during the flower festival
A child peeking through a float during the flower festival

Bulging wide-open eyes with ferocious faces glare. Spear in hand, one of the men lets out a fierce scream. Then the group, garbed in bright red cloths that seemed to have been clumped together, with macaque skulls dangling on their chest and capped with headdress adorned with large feathers, started moving akin to roosters ready to pounce for a kill in a cockfight. “This is the Kabasaran Dance, originally a Minahasa Tribe Warrior’s dance but now we use it to greet guests like you” says a local Indonesian guide. That’s a different kind of enthusiastic greeting I may say as the Minahasa Warriors continue to dance at the street, the setting for the Tomohon International Flower Festival in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Minahasa Warriors in Tomohon
Minahasa Warriors in Tomohon

The Minahasa Tribe

The Minahasan Tribe of Austronesian origin is the dominant group in North Sulawesi. Said to be headhunters with a knack for consuming anything with four legs, they are known as formidable warriors. The name Minahasa meant “To unite as one” as despite originally having different groups and dialects, the people managed to unite in fighting a common foe. With their close proximity to the Philippines (about 905 nautical miles away), the movement of people and exchange of culture made the physical resemblance and language of Minahasans similar to that of the Filipinos.

Mt Lokon in Tomohon with flower fields and rice fields
Mt Lokon in Tomohon with flower fields and rice fields

The Cool City of Tomohon

Situated 700-1000 meters above sea level and about 30 minutes from Manado City, North Sulawesi is the city of Tomohon, the home for the Minahasa Tribe. The pleasant cool climate of this highland city is a popular retreat for the people of Manado. It is starfish-shaped and tucked between two active volcanoes, Mounts Lokon and Mahawu, responsible for making the region’s stunning landscape fertile for growing flowers, vegetables and palm sugar. Several tour outfits offer climbs for both volcanoes, each taking about 3-4 hours to summit. Climbers reaching the moon-like landscape of the crater will also be rewarded with a breathtaking 180-degree vista of the region. Do check with the local Volcanological Center in Tomohon first if it is safe to climb as seismic activity is common. The name Tomohon actually means the “people who pray” as the locals usually pray that the volcanoes will not erupt so no strong earthquakes will occur.

The Philippines represented in a float in last year's festival
The Philippines represented in a float in last year’s festival

The Tomohon International Flower Festival

To showcase the town’s blooming flower industry, they initiated the Tomohon International Flower Festival (TIFF). It’s much like Baguio’s Penagbenga Festival where floats made from flowers are paraded. As a twist, several school’s marching bands also gets to perform and compete for a prize. It’s a very festive celebration, even the Philippines was represented in last year’s TIFF with a jeepney themed float. This 2013 promises to be bigger and will be held from August 8-12, 2013.

A showcase of local dance in the festival
A showcase of local dance in the festival
School's marching bands gets to perform and compete for a prize
School’s marching bands gets to perform and compete for a prize
Where the rest of the floats are parked after the parade
Where the rest of the floats are parked after the parade
More Minahasa Warriors in Tomohon
More Minahasa Warriors in Tomohon
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Ferdz
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

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