Dinagyang Festival


In any bad day, tragedy, calamity, crisis, poverty, name it. But the Filipinos will always smile no matter what trial they face.
It would be an understatement to call them the joyful race. The way they show their devotion and thanksgiving through festivals is just staggering.

The top most famous festival in the Philippines is the Dinagyang festival in Iloilo City. It is held during the fourth week of January to honor the Christianization of the natives and to respect the Holy Child Jesus.

The word Dinagyang was made up by the late Ilonggo writer and radio broadcaster, Pacifico Sumagpao Sudario, who first named the festival when it was launched in 1977, to make it unique from other Ati-atihan celebrations.

Dinagyang is from the root word dagyang which means to make happy. Dinagyang is the present progressive word of the Ilonggo word, meaning making merry or merry-making. It is a celebration of Ilonggos whose bodies are painted with black in effect to imitate the black, small and slender Negritos who are the aborigines of Panay. The warriors are dressed in fashionable and colorful Aeta costumes and dance artistically and rhythmically with complicated formations along with the loud thrashing sound of the drums. 

History tells that it started when a replica of the image of Señor Sto. Niño was brought to the San Jose Parish Church in Iloilo from Cebu. The people of Iloilo honored the coming of the image and became devotees. Since 1968, it was already considered a yearly celebration, culminated by a nine-day Novena, an Ati-ati contest and a fluvial procession on the last day.


As more and more tribes from the barangays, schools and nearby towns and provinces participate, the contest became more competitive in terms of costumes, choreography and sounds. The tribes compete for the following Special Awards: Best in Discipline, Best in Costume, Best in Performance, Best in Music and Best in Choreography. These are aside from the major awards for the champion, first runner-up, second runner-up, third runner-up and fourth runner-up. Participating tribes learn to design artistically and with originality in making use of Ilonggo native materials like dried anahaw leaves, buri or coconut palm leaves and husks and other barks of Philippine trees. Choreography was studied and practices were kept secret. Sounds were seen as an authentic medium that keeps the tribes going in uniform.

They also include a brief dramatization of how Christianity was brought to Panay and the arrival of the 10 Bornean Datus telling about the exchange of the Aetas of their land for the Borneans’ Golden Salakot (native hat) and a long pearl necklace which is also parallel with the Kasadyahan celebration. During the celebration, people participate with the Kasadyahan. Some dressed in Aeta costumes; some paint their faces with black paint, some put on colored artificial tattoos and wear other Aeta ornaments. At night, there is public dancing on selected areas.



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