Dinagyang means Merriment

The drum rolls and beats reverberate heavily in my ears, my heart pounds fast inside my chest. My eyes marvel over the kaleidoscopic themed props and costumes. My feet start to feel the tempting itch of merry-making and dancing on the streets with the lively tribes.  It’s as if the culture of the past has been enlivened back to life, I feel it… I feel FUN.

Lately over the past years, it has emerged to be Aliwan’s Best Festival in the country. It was adjudged the country’s tourism event of the year by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines for three consecutive years from 2006 to 2008. From gigantic catfish, crabs, eagles, to name a few who have amazed crowds of tourists and Filipinos every festival year, now come humongous bees, snakes and other reptiles teasing and fascinating the audience while of course continuing to give honor to our beloved Santo Niño, who’s the reason of this all.  Folks, this is Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo, one of the pioneering festivals in the nation, brought out of love, made by the City of Love.

Dinagyang is Iloilo City’s version of the Ati-Atihan festival widely celebrated not only in Panay Island but also in other parts of the country and even abroad. It is Ilonggo’s celebration in honor of the Feast of Sto. Niño (Little Jesus) every 4th Sunday of January. Traditionally, praises are made through a cavalcade of dances on different themes by participants who represent a brief history of their town/municipality/school showing how the presence of the little saint was felt by them

A fusion of BOOM and GRANDEUR. This was the banner of 2013’s Dinagyang Festival, which for one aims to attract more tourists to swarm the city, and of course another to promise what it yearly upholds: showcasing culture while jiving with fun. Various events made this occasion grand and successful as how it was planned to be. It began with the traditional Opening Salvo across the downtown streets of the city where dancing on the major roads and boulevards is usually showcased. Quite reserved with all the steps and routines to keep the magic “WOW” effect as far as competition is concerned, tribe contenders still portrayed the best all-out performance they could provide.

Tribe contenders parade along the downtown streets of Iloilo
Tribe contenders parade along the downtown streets of Iloilo
Crowds from different places flock to witness the opening salvo
Crowds from different places flock at Calle Real (country’s center of commerce in the past) to witness the opening salvo

Coined by an Ilonggo writer/broadcaster Pacifico Sudario in 1977, Dinagyang is an Ilonggo term for revelry or merry-making which indeed highlighted during the Kasadyahan Festival, a day before the actual event where various dances from different places in the region vie for a wonderful performance. “Sadsad” is the term used to describe the way the dancers present across the streets.

This year’s Kasadyahan Tribal Competition goes regional! With 12 participating tribes, representing the different provinces in Western Visayas. Tribu Kansilay-Silay City, Negros Occidental, Tribu Olalong– Cabalum Western College, Tribu Pahinis– Laua-an, Antique, Tribu Salakayan– Miag-ao, Iloilo, Tribu Mandaragat– San Jose, Antique, Tribu Padagyaw– Dumarao, Capiz, Tribu Saludan– Tigbauan, Iloilo, Tribu Manggahan– Buenavista, Guimaras, Tribu Hubon-Binagtong- Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, Tribu Hugyaw– St. Therese- La Fiesta Site, Tribu Kaing– Leon, Iloilo, Tribu Bayluhay– San Joaquin, Iloilo. THE PERFORMANCES WERE BREATHTAKING AS EACH TRIBE PRESENT THEIR FESTIVITY AND CULTURE SHOWING THE UNIQUENESS OF THEIR ORIGINS.

With the famous Baroque-designed Miag-ao Church conceptually shown by its natives
With the famous Baroque-designed Miag-ao Church conceptually shown by its natives
One of the competing tribes showcase how religion influence the people
One of the competing tribes beaming pride while on their formed pose
Story, concept, execution- all well-presented in every act
Story, concept, execution- all well-presented in every act
Finding anything that could attract your eyes? Well, props and costumes amaze any spectator present in the event
Finding anything that could attract your eyes? Well, props and costumes amaze any spectator present in the event
The traditional Ati (black natives) portrayal venerate praises to the cause of this all: Santo Niño

Exquisitely executed- this is how Ilonggos uniquely showcase each presentation, accompanied by hard beats rhythmically aligned with each step and choreography. Every year concepts turn more difficult which never fail to capture and amaze all viewers. Indeed, such performances unveil the ingenuity and artistry of every Ilonggo during the Dinagyang Day- Ati-Ati Tribe Competition.

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List of Winners for Dinagyang Festival 2013’s Ati-Ati Tribe Competition:
CHAMPION- TRIBU PANAYANON
1st Runner-Up- TRIBU ILONGANON
2nd Runner-Up- TRIBU SALOGNON
3rd Runner-Up- TRIBU MILAGROSA
4th Runner-Up- TRIBU ATUB-ATUB

For a few years already, Dinagyang continuously sustained its Miss Dinagyang beauty pageant where pristine and conservative Ilonggo beauty is made known to the rest of the country and the world.

This year's Top 3 beaming their victorious smiles after being hailed as winners
This year’s Top 3 beaming their victorious smiles after being hailed as winners

What’s more? With its growing popularity across the seas, TV networks were already used to hold their variety shows same day of the event. Personalities flocked the grounds this year where every block you go you surprisingly see the stars you never expect to be with, but this time, just like a common spectator as anybody else.

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*ABS-CBN brought back again for the second time its all-star cast musical variety show ASAP 18

At present, Dinagyang has now evolved into a grand religious and cultural activity where it has become an avenue for fun & enjoyment, vacation from life’s bustles and of course perfect time for bonding with family and friends. Truly, such festival brings out what’s BEST and makes the FINEST out of LOVE.

(Credits to my friend Adrian Alquisada for the pictures)
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