Iloilo Dinagyang Festival
Hailed as one of the biggest events in the Philippines, the Dinagyang Festival is a world-class activity attracting more than a million domestic and international visits every year. It has been awarded by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines as the ‘best tourism event’ for three consecutive years (2006, 2007, and 2008) and is highly regarded for its legacy and innovation. Having been in the limelight for more than fifty years, the festival has been named as the ’Queen of All Philippine Festivals’.
The sought-after Iloilo Dinagyang Festival is held every fourth Sunday of January every year. It commemorates the arrival of Malay settlers and the barter of Panay Island from the Ati natives. It began in 1967 with the arrival of the replica of Señor Santo Niño, the child saint, from Cebu at the San Jose Parish in Iloilo. Prior to its grandiose celebration, the observance of the feast was confined to the parish. The Confradia then patterned a celebration from the Ati Atihan of Aklan, where natives cover their bodies with soot and ashes, and dance in the streets, mimicking the ‘ati’, an ethnic group in the Visayas. Later on, the term ‘Dinagyang’, extrapolated from ‘dagyang’ meaning ‘merrymaking, was coined by Ilonggo broadcaster Pacifico Sudario. Moreover, in a bid to make the festival unique, the name was made official. Furthermore, a tribal competition was put into play through the effort of the local government and the Ministry of Tourism.
Fifty Plus 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 flourished. It gained an international following through tribe performances expressed through music and dance. The festival not only highlights the tribal competition but also puts a spotlight on a number of events – liturgical celebrations, fluvial procession, a 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. The festival also contributed to the economic and tourism development of the city by pooling tourists and producing entrepreneurial opportunities for 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 sent every year to participate in the annual Philippine Independence Day in the United States. The festival also garnered several awards. Apart from being dubbed as the ‘Queen of All Philippine Festivals’, it has been hailed as the best tourism event in 2006, 2007, and 2008 by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines, and highlighted again in 2021 as grand winner of its Pearl Awards. It is also one of the festivals to get the support of the United Nations for the promotion of the Millenium Development Goals, and cited by the Asian Development Bank as ‘best practice’ on government, private sector, and non-government cooperatives.
lloilo Dinagyang Festival is also a 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. As of date, the festival is a strong contender in Aliwan.
Iloilo Freedom Grandstand
To further narrate the journey of the festival, the historic Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, where the previous tribe competition took place, was taken down after its last Flag Raising Ceremony, February 5, 2018. It was relocated along Muelle Loney Street facing the historic Iloilo River to pave the way for the redevelopment of Sunburst Park. The new grandstand is named ‘Dinagyang Grandstand’, and later reverted to ‘Iloilo Freedom Grandstand’ and was blessed January 11, 2019 – in accordance with the Iloilo Dinagyang Festival Opening Salvo. Sunburst Park, where the former grandstand stood, was turned over by the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority.
Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc.
Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. takes centerstage. Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI), then headed by chairman Rito Carlos Peňa, took oath September 16, 2019 at Hotel del Rio. The duly registered non-stock non-profit organization will oversee major festivals in the city. The oath taking was graced by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treňas, City Tourism Officer Ms. Junel Ann Divinagracia, and Rev. Fr. Raymundo Edsel T. Alcayaga, OSA of the San Jose Placer Parish. The first set of duly elected IFFI officials (2021) includes Rito Carlos Peňa as Chairman, Felipe Uygonco as Vice Chairman, Jobert Peňaflorida as President, Ronald Raymund Sebastian as Vice President, Angel de Leon as Corporate Secretary, Roland Uy as Treasurer, Ivy Gurrea as Asst. Treasurer, and Board of Directors Philipp Chua, Honorato Espinosa, Rogelio Florete, Molly Grande, Jose Marie Layson, John Alexander Que, Allan Ryan Tan, and Luis Tinsay.
Leveled Up Celebration
The Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. is set to be the City Government’s partner for Dinagyang 2020 and onwards. With the new administration and partner organization, Dinagyang will be an enhanced and ‘leveled up’ celebration. With the foundation in place, the Dinagyang Festival was reorganized into three major events – the Ati Tribe Competition, Dagyang sa Calle Real, and the Miss Iloilo Dinagyang. Meanwhile, the Kasadyahan (a cultural activity preceding the tribe competition) will be celebrated in a separate month or possibly incorporated into the Iloilo City Charter Day in August. Although the pandemic may have shifted the cultural event into a virtual one, the local government aspires to have the Dinagyang back to normal in 2023. Ready to witness the Dinagyang Festival firsthand? Add Iloilo City to your itinerary.