The Ilonggo cityscape, the deafening sound of drums, the cajoling of street dancers, and the deluge of people from different areas of the planet, all as one to celebrate Señor Santo Niño, the child Jesus. The sought-after loilo Dinagyang Festival is held every fourth of January every year. It commemorates the arrival of Malay settlers and the barter of Panay Island from the Ati natives.
The impetus began way back 1967 with the arrival of the replica of Señor Santo Niño, the child saint, from Cebu at the San Jose Parish in Iloilo. Back then, the festival was merely Iloilo Ati-Atihan resembling the other Ati festivals in nearby provinces. The term ‘dinagyang’ was first coined by Ilonggo broadcaster Pacifico Sudario, which means ‘merrymaking’. And in abid to make the festival unique, the name was made official. Also, to promote local tourism, the tribal competition was put into play through the effort of the local government and the Ministry of Tourism.
Fifty years later. The Iloilo Dinagyang Festival is now a much-awaited, world-class event joined by locals and tourists from around the world. Over the years, the festival grew. It gained worldwide attention with its performances expressed through music and dance. The festival also contributed to the economic, not to mention tourism, development of the city by pooling tourists and producing entrepreneurial opportunities to locals. Moreover, tribe members were also given the opportunity to perform internationally – in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan, to mention a few. Selected tribe members are even flown every year to participate in the annual Philippine Independence Day in the United States.
Iloilo Dinagyang Festival is also frequent winner in the annual Aliwan Fiesta. Dubbed as ‘The Metro Manila of All Fiestas’, Aliwan Fiesta is organized by Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC) together with the Cultural Center of the Philippines with prizes amounting to Php 3,000,000. Dinagyang was champion from 2010 to 2013, and 2017. To date, the festival is a strong contender in Aliwan.
The festival not only highlights the tribal competition but also pust a spotlight on a number of events – liturgical celebrations, fluvial procession, parade of lights, pageantry, and more. The Kasadyahan Festival preludes the tribe competition and is participated by different municipalities. On Dinagyang’s 50th year last 2018, Kasadyahan was upgraded to Fiesta Filipinas and invited by the Department of Tourism to compete and present provincial and municipal festival performances. Miss Iloilo Dinagyang is also an addition to Dinagyang’s roster of events – not to mention the parade of brands that sponsor more events along Diversion Road or in the city. Last 2018, the festival’s 50th year, Sarabia Jewelry signed as official jeweler of Miss Dinagyang and the pageant was endowed with an official crown.
Iloilo Dinagyang Festival 2019. There is a recent change in the accustomed main judging area. The historic Iloilo Freedom Grandstand was taken down after its last Flag Raising Ceremony, February 5, 2018. It will be relocated along Muelle Loney Street facing the historic Iloilo River to pave way to the redevelopment of Sunburst Park. The new grandstand is named ‘Dinagyang Grandstand’ and is scheduled to be blessed January 11, 2019 – in lieu with the Iloilo Dinagyang Festival Opening Salvo. Sunburst Park, where the former grandstand stood, will also be turned over by the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority.
All in all, the Iloilo Dinagayng Festival continues to celebrate Christianity embodied by the Child Jesus.