I know you will agree with me when I say, “We Filipinos love fiestas.” Well, who doesn’t?
Fiesta in the Philippines is always colorful, always accompanied by music, feasting, and of course by Roman Catholic ritual.
Influenced by Spanish colonial rule, our fiestas center on the life of the Holy Family and or in honor of saints who became front-runners of Catholicism. In fact, one of the most celebrated patronal fiesta in the Philippines is the Feast of Senior Santo Nino or the baby Jesus every January.
Many provinces, towns, and cities in this country celebrates this feast of the Holy Child but let’s not get too far because Iloilo has been glorifying this little boy for 50 years now.
From an account narrated by Ben Jimena, head of Iloilo City’s Committee on Festivals, Iloilo’s famous Dinagyang Festival was about the gift of the image of Senior Santo Nino de Cebu by Fr. Sulpicio Enderes to his dear friend Fr. Ambrosio Galindez.
It was supposed to be a personal birthday gift between friends, but when the image was brought to San Jose Parish Church sometime in 1968, devotees started doing some kind of ceremonial rites; this includes welcome at the airport, motorcade to the City, procession around Plaza Libertad, and liturgical mass at the Parish church, among others. It caught the interest of the devotees to make the affair immensely of great magnitude and importance. And this was how the saga of Hala Bira started!
As time goes by, the festival evolved from a simple christian dogma to a spectacular event of the country that the tourists sought to witness each year.
Every 4th Sunday of January, the downtown streets of the metropolis transform into a dance-floor of Dinagyang Ati warriors dressed with colorful tribal costumes. They paraded through the streets and perform wild traditional dances that are a real spectacle for visitors.
Dinagyang Festival gradually carved its name in both national and international scene. It became known for being loud, joyous, and vibrant.
Proof to this are the countless recognition that it reaped since its existence 50 years ago. Among the few are: 2005 Aliwan Fiesta Grand Champion in street dancing, besting all other festivals around the country; ATOP (Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines) conferred Dinagyang as Best Tourism Event for the Festival category for three consecutive years (2006-2008); Dinagyang was also recognized by the Institute for Solidarity In Asia (ISA) as Best Practice in the open conference on Good Governance through Responsible Citizenry and Public-Private Cooperation; and Best Practice Awardee given by Asian Development Bank for Public Private Partnership in 2008.
Dinagyang is really unstoppable in reaping success. In 2011-2013, Dinagyang became the Grand-slam Champion for Aliwan Fiesta; Silver awardee for the International Awards for Livable Communities during the 2011 LivCom Awards, held in Songpa Seoul, South Korea; in 2014, ATOP once again conferred Dinagyang as the first Hall of Fame Awardee for the Festival category after winning for three straight years; and of course, just recently, our very own Dinagyang was awarded as Best Festival in the first Philippine Tourism Industry Awards given by United Stars Events and Exhibitions Corporation, composed of travel agents from all over the country at Okada Hotel, Manila in November 7, 2017.
As Dinagyang turned gold this year, it will once again brighten up not just the entire Iloilo City downtown area but the rest of the world. The beats will once again sway the hips of the spectators, the colors will once again entice tourists to come back, and the fun will once again magnetize revelers not to miss this out. Like a gold, Dinagyang 2018 will mark a history as one of grandest, if not the grandest, celebration in honor of the Ilonggos beloved Baby Jesus.