Iloilo News & Events


By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Expectations for the Dinagyang Festival 2023 are running high, as organizers said they are “very prepared” to welcome locals and tourists who will join the face-to-face revelry after two years of isolation and restrictions.

The organizers also assured that this year’s activities will focus more on honoring the Señor Sto. Niño or Holy Child Jesus.

The Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI), the festival’s main organizer, revealed the preparations so far in a press conference on Tuesday.

The festival’s artistic directors, Elvert Bañares and Eric Divinagracia, said the tribal competitions (Dagyang sa Barangay, Kasadyahan, and ILOmination, etc.) will feature a free flow of storylines, with some changes.

Divinagracia said this year’s Dagyang sa Barangay is taking on a more inclusive and community-based face.

“We’ve opened the theme so that barangays could freely choose in creating their performances. When we roamed around [the barangays], it wasn’t just students. There were once selling dried fish, trisikad drivers, standers-by, and younger children performing with their fathers. These are community performances, so we are giving them space to create,” Divinagracia said of the Dagyang sa Barangay tilt.

Part of these changes, Bañares highlighted, is that the tribes cannot “spontaneously show” the image of the Child Jesus in the performances.

“I’m not gentle because this is not an international event. When it’s good, I praise it, but if it’s not, I don’t. For example, you put in an animal like a crocodile, the Sto. Niño cannot just come out of the crocodile’s mouth. The Sto. Niño [always] comes out of places like jars or anywhere else, so I asked the choreographers to make the storytelling seamless,” Bañares said.

Divinagracia also explained that the ILOmination, the evening parade event in Mandurriao, was specifically added as a symbol of brightening the city’s dark days during the pandemic.

“After two years of darkness in the pandemic, it is high time that we emphasize that Sto. Niño gives light and has been our source of light for all these two years leading forward,” he added.

ILOmination will showcase the Dinagyang Floats Parade on Jan. 21 in Mandurriao, featuring the seven competing tribes that represent the city’s seven districts, apart from the corporate-sponsored floats.

The corporate floats, according to Dinagyang Floats Parade committee co-chairperson Aldene Duyag, will feature themes of gratitude to the Child Jesus and representation of the city’s districts.

“For example, one sponsor of Dinagyang, a BPO, will be representing Jaro, so in their float, there will be something about Jaro, and for the competing tribes in that float will have human props,” Duyag said.

“It will not just be a floats parade of companies that will be too commercialized, it will be a floats parade that goes with the theme of Dinagyang and of course focusing on Señor Sto. Niño,” he added.

As part of the traditional devotion activities, four masses will be held daily (7:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 5:15 p.m.) with assigned tribes joining doing a 5-to-7-minute sadsad after the mass, to be followed by a “teaser” performance and a parade around Plaza Libertad.

The masses will start Friday, January 13, after the Opening Salvo, which will kick off with a parade at 4 a.m. around 10 barangays under the parochial supervision of the San Jose Parish Placer.

This year’s Hermano Mayor will be Mayor Roberto Belleza Jr. of San Rafael, Iloilo while the Hermana Mayor will be his niece, Nadine Dominisse Vacante.

Other religious activities by the church include:

Children’s Fun Day (Jan. 14, 10:00 a.m.);

–          Installation of Queen Juana 2023 (Jan. 14, 5:15 p.m.);

–          Motorcade of Sto. Niño de Cebu (Jan. 18, 1:00 p.m.);

–          Floral offering to the bust of the late Rev. Fr. Ambrosio J. Galindez, who started the traditional festival (Jan. 19, 4:30 p.m.);

–          Fluvial parade and foot procession (Jan. 20, 2:00 p.m.);

–          Grand Religious Sadsad (Jan. 21, 6:30 p.m.); and

–          Concelebrated High Mass to be presided by Jaro Archbishop Jose Romeo Lazo (Jan. 22, 6:00 a.m.).

Maria Flor Muralla, President of the Cofradia de Sto. Niño de Cebu (City Proper), reminded the public of how devotion to the Señor Sto. Niño changed the lives of the people who attended.

“[We] would like to invite everyone to please join the religious sadsad (dance) and experience the spirit of the [Sto.] Niño [de Cebu] coming into you. We have heard a lot [of stories] of feeling [something after] joining the sadsad,” she said.

The Dinagyang Food Festival will also make a return, at the Aldeguer, Arsenal, Delgado, Solis, Valeria, and Yulo Streets, and will be joined by members of Kaon Ta Iloilo and the Iloilo Hotels Resorts and Restaurants Association, among other food concessionaires.

These activities laid out for the Dinagyang Festival 2023, “Pasalamat kay Señor Sto. Niño”, will be focused on thanksgiving to the Señor Sto. Niño for its intercession during the COVID-19 pandemic which started in 2020, as the festival now returns to its physical set-up for the first time, after the last two editions were held in either a virtual or hybrid setup.


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