Dinagyang Festival: How This Dazzling Event Started
Belle Piccio | Jan 21, 2015
“Dinagyang” was coined by an Ilonggo writer and broadcaster Pacifico Sudario in 1977. It is an Ilonggo term which means merrymaking or revelry.
But did you know that prior to being called the “Dinagyang,” the festival was known as “Iloilo Ati-atihan” to differentiate it from the rest of the Ati-atihan festivals in the country, especially the "mother" of them all, the Kalibo Ati-atihan?
Thus, the Dinagyang is Iloilo City’s version of the Ati-atihan festival.
Equally impressive and striking as the Kalibo Ati-atihan Festival, the Dinagyang Festival has won several awards:
- Best Tourism Event of the Philippines, 2006 - Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP)
- Best Tourism Event of the Philippines, 2007 - Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP)
- Best Tourism Event of the Philippines, 2008 - Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP)
- Grand Champion, Aliwan Festival, 2004
- Grand Champion, Aliwan Festival, 2010
- Grand Champion, Aliwan Festival, 2011
- Grand Champion, Aliwan Festival, 2012
The festival reflects the Ilonggos artistry, craftsmanship and creativity as seen through their costumes and choreography of the participating tribes.
How It All Started
1967 – Marks the start of the Iloilo Ati-atihan celebration.
It was when a replica of the Señor Santo Niño image from Cebu was brought to the San Jose Parish in Iloilo City. Accompanied by Cebuano devotees, the image was received by Ilonggos at the Mandurriao Airport.
1969 – The Ati-atihan contest became part of the cultural aspect of the celebration.
It had only four participating tribes then. But, as time went by and the festivities improved year after year, the number of groups and tribes participating increased.
1974 – The Dinagyang Festival took on a very important role in "Operation Balikbayan."
It was a program by the then-Ministry of Tourism wherein tourists were entertained by the tribes to showcase Iloilo’s unique cultural allure.
1976 – From spectators to performers!
This was the first time in Dinagyang history when everyone, even the audience, was encouraged to be part of the street revelry. The people who participated wildly gyrated in the streets with no hesitations, giving them room to forget about the frustrations of everyday life.
1977 – An authentic Ati tribe from the mountains of Barotac Viejo was invited to perform and display their native dances.
1978-present – The Dinagyang Festival has beautifully evolved with the support of both private sectors and government agencies.
It has grown into a big religious and cultural activity in Iloilo City with a number of side events like sport competitions.
How to Get There
From Manila, you can fly to Iloilo (estimated cost of Php3,000++, round trip, one hour). From Iloilo Airport, you can hail a cab and ask to be dropped off at your destination.