Iloilo’s Dinagyang: Hala Bira! Viva Señor Santo Niño!

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A lot of festival enthusiasts believe that Dinagyang is one of the BEST Festivals in the Philippines.

Although the celebration still has that quaint, provincial city-feel, the Ati-Ati dance productions are among the best that I’ve seen in street dance festivals in the Philippines. They are the Grand Champions in the Aliwan Festival (Manila-based competition for all the street dance festivals) in 2010 and 2011.

Dinagyang is the best time to go to Iloilo!

Here are the things you need to know to have an awesome experience in DINAGYANG:

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The main highlight of the Dinagyang Festival is the Ati Ati Dance Competition, which is held every 4th Sunday of January (one week after the Ati-Atihan festival) from 9am to 5pm.

Dinagyang is an Ilonggo term for “merrymaking”.

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The fun starts with the Kasadyahan Street Dancing, on the Saturday (9am-5pm) before the Ati-Ati Street Dance Competition. It is a regional dance competition, which includes the Iloilo tribes and the Ati-Atihan tribes in Aklan, among others.

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It is both a religious and cultural celebration honoring the devotion to the Santo Niño de Cebu in the Parish of San Jose. It is patterned after the Ati-Atihan of Ibajay, Aklan.

It is scheduled a week after the official feast day of the Santo Niño so that it does not conflict with the Ati-Atihan Festival or the Sinulog of Cebu.

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Usually, the local high schools organize the tribes (locally known as tribu) to compete in the street dance competition to the beat of live drum music.

In the 2012 competition, there were 13 participants: Paghidaet, Buntatalan-on, Salognon, Lunok, Milagrosa, Pag-asa, Ilonganon, Molave, Atub-Atub, Aninipay, Pan-ay, Angola, Bantu. 

No actual Ati tribe is included in the competition.

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Some rules: The performers should paint their skin brown like the Atis; only indigenous materials can be used for the costume; and there should be live, free-style drum music for 8 minutes each. 

The Sinulog usually has one main Sinulog drum beat, while the Masskara dances are set to one pre-recorded song.

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There are four dancing stations: the first one is the Freedom Grandstand, the second is near the Provincial Capitol (near Days Inn and Iloilo Supermarket), the third is near Metro Gaisano, and finally, in the Iloilo Sports Complex.

The best place to watch it is in the Freedom Grandstand where the City Mayor showcases Dinagyang to his personal and political guests of honor. The first dancing station is where people are excited to see the exciting performances for the first time.

Tickets are very hard to get unless you know someone from the Who’s Who in Iloilo.

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The Dinagyang is a spectator-type of festival, like the Sinulog and Masskara, where you watch the street dance from the sidelines. It is unlike the Ati-Atihan, which is a more participative festival where you are encouraged to dance with the performers on the streets. 🙂

Tribu Pan-ay – Back-to-Back Winner of Dinagyang Ati-Ati Competition 2011 & 2012!

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Everyone was waiting for the defending champion, Tribu Pan-ay. The group started with an eagle-inspired (Mulawin-type) costume and performance.

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There were two types of eagles–the white and the brown one. Everyone was drawn to the fast-paced drum performance, the elaborate costumes and visual drama. 

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The crowd went wild when a huge eagle entered the Grandstand…

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and revealed its eggs, which were held aloft by female Ati dancers.

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Then the eggs were unleashed into a dancing frenzy as the crowd cheered on.

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Tribu Pan-ay won the following in the 2012 competition:

  • Best in Costume
  • Best Designer 
  • Best in Music
  • Best Musical Director 
  • Best Choreographer
  • Best in Choreography
  • Best in Performance
  • Dinagyang 2012 Grand Champion

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This tribu is a crowd favorite and is expected to win the 2012 Aliwan Competition this summer in Manila.

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One thing, though, they are being criticized for highlighting elaborate costumes and production value, with less emphasis on the Atis.

Here’s the Tribu Pan-ay Dinagyang 2012 Winning Performance in the Freedom Grandstand.

See related articles: ABS-CBN NEWS | Dinagyang wows spectators, netizens

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After the competition, you can explore Iloilo City on foot. It is closed to vehicular traffic during this time.

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Your Dinagyang experience won’t be complete if you don’t get to taste Roberto’s Queen Siopao, which is located near the Freedom Grandstand.

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It was also great to see The Bull Runner celebrating the Dinagyang with us in spirit. 🙂

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This man is a popular festival icon. 🙂

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Don’t forget to buy your Dinagyang souvenirs to help the local vendors! But make sure to haggle because some vendors have a tendency to raise the prices if they see you’re a tourist.

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The whole city of Iloilo is literally having a party. 🙂 You can savor street food all around.

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After competing in the last dance station in the Iloilo Sports Complex, the Ati dancers continue performing around the city streets.

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You are more than welcome to take a picture with them. 🙂

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One of the interesting things in Dinagyang is this stack of speakers found on the streets of Iloilo where they play the loudest dance music.

Some people just stand in front of it, listening (maybe evaluating the quality of the sound to the detriment of their ear drums?). 🙂

They say that the closer you are to the speakers, the less you feel the impact of the sounds.

(Can someone explain how these palakasan ng speakers came about? I’ve never seen this in Sinulog or in Masskara or in any festival aside from Dinagyang.)

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The official cheer here is “Hala Bira! Viva Señor Santo Niño!

Dinagyang is definitely one of the Philippine festivals you shouldn’t miss. It is the best time to experience the Ilonggos’ creativity, hospitality, and party scene. 🙂

Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc.
Dinagyang Lounge
Iloilo Freedom Grandstand
J.M. Basa Street, Iloilo City
Telephone: +63 33 336-3439 

Live an Awesome Life,

Contact me: a iphone

Full Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

P.S. During Dinagyang, a lot of people used different hashtags like #Dinagyang , #Dinagyang2012, #HalaBira, #DinagyangFever. It would be very hard for it to trend if people use different hashtags on Twitter.

Let’s use the main names of the festivals (e.g. #Dinagyang, #Sinulog, #Masskara) so that the actual festival name would trend, and then you can add other hashtags if you like. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Iloilo’s Dinagyang: Hala Bira! Viva Señor Santo Niño!

  1. Hi Anton
    Regarding the SOUNDS YOU CAN ACTUALLY FEEL, most of them are sponsored by local radio stations which in turn also becomes a marketing strategy for them. It could have been part of the merry making before and they usually start “banging” up their volumes on Saturday. They also serve as “makeshift” discotheque LOL.
    And I love the thudding sensation in front of these sound systems LOL

  2. Anton, re “palakasan ng speakers”, locals call these “sound systems”. Since the early Dinagyangs, these were already all around the city. These were previously sponsored by local FM stations. I guess things got a lot more competitive among the sound system owners. A lot of the sound system owners are seamen, highly paid OFW’s, or balikbayans, so everything is well financed even though most of these are locally assembled systems, but a lot from mid to hi-end supplies. By the way, Iloilo province has one of the country’s highest concentration of OFW’s.

  3. Yeah outdoor discotheque, galing!
    Is it true Iloilo will try to put this in the Guinness Book of Records for the most number of sound system playing at the same time?

  4. Ang galing ng mga props nila masyado malawak ang mga pag-iisip nila para makagawa ng mga ganyan kaganda bagay !!

  5. what’s lacing in every filipino fiestas/festivities…. are those lumpia or lettuce WRAPS na medyo o extra ma-anghang na ginataang nga gulay may pork beef manok O WALA just plain ginataang gulay lang tulad ng ginataang langka o sitaw o kangkong o kalabasa o upo o papaya pag magata eh napakasarap na wrapped foods yun mga yun lalo pag magata talaga at extra ma-anghang at yung mga lambanog na may halong jackfruit o makopa o siniguelas o tubo etc. na hinog na hinog at saka yung mga filipino ice cream na ginataang hlo-halo o ginataang mais even from kakanin na ice cream pinoy na pinoy talaga po lol!

  6. _hi iloilo, i ms iloilo province, i hope maka uwi at maka disco..i ms loud sound in iloilo too.
    go iloggo..

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