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Dinagyang Festival beyond colors and beats

More than the usual vibrant colors of props and costumes, lively performances of tribe warriors, and rhythmic beat and sounds of drums and other musical instruments, Dinagyang Festival, being recognized as the best cultural festival in the country, offers a diverse celebration of culture, faith, artistry, and gastronomy.

Anchored on the theme, “Pagdayaw kay Señor Sto. Niño, Pagdayaw sa mga Ilonggo”, the celebration centers on the Ilonggos’ deep devotion of faith to the Holy Child Jesus, as evident during the fluvial and solemn foot procession, and the grand religious “sadsad”, while incorporating it also to all the performances of tribes and other major events during the festivity.

While Dinagyang tribes are busy preparing for their performances, which the tourists are excited to witness, thousands of Sto. Niño devotees are expected to flock for the yearly grand religious ‘sadsad’ on Jan. 27.

Ilonggo devotees flock in front of the San Jose Parish to participate in the Grand Religious Sadsad during last year's Dinagyang Festival. (Picture from the Archdiocese of Jaro)

“Sadsad” is a form of religious devotion where devotees dance, while carrying images of Sto. Niño and pray as they offer their intentions or wishes to the Holy Child Jesus, noting that some have experienced different miraculous acts after participating in the event.

One devotee said she is eager to attend the event again, including the fluvial and foot procession, to show her strong devotion and faith in Sto. Niño.

“Wala gid na gabag-o akon pagtu-o kay Señor Sto. Niño kay halin sang una, ang guide nga ginahatag na, ara gid, kag subong nga may prosisyon naman, ti maupod man sagihapon kami kay isa man ni ka pamaagi para mabalik man bala kag makapasalamat sa mga grasya nga nahatag ya (My faith to Señor Sto.

Niño remains the same because since then, the guide is always there, and now, with the procession, we will still join as a way to thank for the blessings he continue to give),” according to “Jescel”, 51, from Villa, Arevalo district.

Many devotees are also expected to participate in the fluvial and solemn procession on Jan. 26, wherein the fluvial will take place at the Iloilo-Guimaras strait. The activity serves as a reenactment of the arrival of the Santo Niño image of Cebu.

The solemn procession is considered by devotees as a petition for the success of the festival, as well as part of the celebration of the feast of the Holy Child.

Maria Flor Muralla of the Cofradia del Señor Sto Niño de Cebu, previously said the fluvial and foot procession is not just one of the highlights of the Dinagyang Festival, but a journey of faith that was gifted to Ilonggos and one that should be shared.

Meanwhile, the Dinagyang Festival continued to evolve throughout the years, bringing in different innovations – diverse cultural performances, arts and music events, and gastronomic treats – for Ilonggos and tourists to experience and enjoy.


Iloilo City, being just recently recognized as UNESCO’s Creative City of Gastronomy, will showcase different Ilonggo food through the festival.

Jay Treñas, chairman of the food festival committee, said that tourists will experience a wide array of delectable local cuisine and delicacies, giving them a full taste of why Iloilo is considered a culinary gem.

“We want to highlight all the gastronomic delights Iloilo City could offer especially that we have recently been recognized as Create City of Gastronomy,” Treñas said, noting that food lovers will enjoy a variety of dishes to choose from different kiosks.

Ilonggos and tourists enjoy sumptuous food during the Dinagyang Food Fest. (Photo from the Iloilo City Gov't)

In a press conference, Treñas revealed that there are around 700 kiosks at the city’s downtown area and new business district where tourists can dine.

It will be situated in major streets in the city, such as in Bonifacio Street (one side only); Muelley Loney (at the back of the Provincial Capitol); Iloilo Provincial Capitol grounds; Solis Street; Valeria Street (Atrium side, one side only); Valeria Street (Delgado side, one side only); Delgado Street (Amigo side); Delgado Street (SM Delgado side); Valeria Street (Marymart side); Iznart Street; and new business district in Mandurriao.

Local artist repainting the "Dinagyang Warrior" mural as an added attraction for the Dinagyang Festival. (Photo from the Iloilo City Gov't)


Aside from the food fest and the tribes competition and presentations that depict Iloilo’s rich culture, the Dinagyang Festival will also serve as a venue for local artists to showcase their creativity through the arts and music fest.

From Jan 24 to 28, tourists can visit museums and galleries to witness compelling artworks of Ilonggo artists through different exhibits or be electrified by performances of local buskers, bands, and invited performers while enjoying the city’s night scene.

The Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Arts (ILOMOCA) hosts the Hala Bira Art Exhibit from Jan. 24 to 28, featuring artworks of artists PG Zoluaga, JM Siva, Gina 

Apostol, Ronnie Granja, Voltaire Fernandez, Arnold Almacen, Ritche Baylo, Al Provido, Mae Tamayo Panes, Jom Moleta, Mike Moleta, Rhep Nepomuceno, Ragine Camille Garcia, Quito Treñas, and Jyotishri Jai. There is also another art exhibit dubbed “Taliambong” that spectators can visit at Marriott Hotel.

These artworks, in forms of paintings and sculptures, showcase the talent of local artists, highlighting their own interpretations of the culture and tradition of Iloilo, as well as their personal views in society using different artistic elements, such as lighting, lines, shades, and texture.

Some local artists already repainted the different wall murals in the city, which served as an added attraction for the tourists.

Aside from these, musical performances from local buskers, bands, and invited guests will entertain tourists with different genres of music.

The festivities will kick off with the mesmerizing Tribu ni Mali on Jan. 25, followed by an incredible showcase of talent from the Hala Bira! Banda Album.

There will also be an epic showdown at the HALA BI-RAP BATTLE followed by the intense performance of Iloilo-based band, Trauma, and other invited performers.

“As we are discussing, festivities started sa street, arts started on the streets, so let’s bring them back on the streets but putting a stage on it to highlight our local artists,” Jay Treñas said, urging the public to support the festivity.


As one of the highlights of the festival, different Dinagyang Tribes are expected to treat spectators with their lively performances anchored to Iloilo’s rich cultural tradition, faith, and values.

Eight tribes join the comeback of school-based Dinagyang Tribes competition, namely Tribu Ilonganon (Jalandoni Memorial NHS), Tribu Mandu-riyaw (Mandurriao NHS), Tribu Paghidaet (La Paz NHS), Tribu Pan-ay (Fort San Pedro NHS), Tribu Salognon (Jaro NHS), Tribu Sigabong (Ramon Avanceña NHS), Tribu Silak (Iloilo City NHS), and Tribu Taga-Baryo (Bo. Obrero NHS); while five tribes will participate in the Sadsad sa Calle Real, which include Tribu Aninipay, Tribu

Tribe warriors perform during last year's Dinagyang Festival. (PIA Iloilo photo)

Ibata sa Paghiliugyon, Tribu Molave, Tribu Panaad, and Tribu Parianon.

“The artists, the choreographers have taken this [devotion to Sto. Niño] into their performances, into different forms. Makita naton cultural, may ati, may Panay-bukidnon, historical, pag-abot ni Sto. Niño, ang pagdevelop sang devotion, sadsad, as long as the center and highlight sang presentation is ang pagdayaw kay Señor Sto. Niño,” the festival’s creative director Prof. Eric Divinagracia said in a media conference.

Ilonggo values will also be illuminated through the performances of different groups participating in the ILOmination on the night of Jan 27.

Seven tribes will be participating in the Dinagyang ILOmination Streetdance Competition, namely Tribu Ilonggohanon (City Proper), Tribu Kahirup of Pavia (Arevalo), Tribu Manduryaw (Mandurriao), Tribu Sagasa (La Paz), Tribu Sidlangan (La Puz), Tribu IAFA (Molo), and Tribu Buntag-tala (Jaro).

“Through the festival na highlight ang values ng Ilonggo people, values that led us through the pandemic, so the groups will be illuminating these values through their performances, the pagpalangga, pagsinadya, pagpanghanggod, paghinarupay, pag-intindihanay, pag-amliganay, and pag-tililipon,” Divinagracia said.

Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr., on the other hand, stressed that the Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahanan, spearheaded by the Iloilo Provincial government for the first time, will be the display window of the province to showcase the towns’ distinct cultural traditions through their own festivals, noting that it will be a comprehensive festival package that reflects Iloilo’s tourism identity, which is anchored to its theme, “Fun, Foodie, Friendly Iloilo.”

“For us in the province, through the Kasadyahan, we are given the showroom to share also to the whole country the culture and the soul of the province because Kasadyahan right now, we are developing it into F5, Fun, Foodie, Friendly Festivals of Festivals of the province because it represents the respective festivals of the towns,” Defensor stressed.

For this year’s highlight of the Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) president Allan Ryan Tan said that they expect the number of visitors to double from last year’s data as some of the events, just like the ILOmination, are already free.

Iloilo Mayor Jerry P. Treñas also said that the Dinagyang Festival will further boost the economy of the city, as he considered this year’s celebration as the “biggest.”
The mayor reiterated as well that the festival, throughout the years, provided Ilonggos a platform to showcase “our faith and traditions, and at the same time promoting respect and appreciation for diversity.”  (AAL/JNH/PIA Iloilo)

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John Noel Herrera

Information Officer

Region 6

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