Dinagsa: How a Helpless Whale Gave Birth to a Festival

, Negros Occidental,

Belle Piccio
Belle Piccio | Jan 27, 2016
Dinagsa: How a Helpless Whale Gave Birth to a Festival

Ati-atihan Festival is annually held in the Philippines every month of January honoring the infant child Jesus or the Señor Santo Niño. Performers are painted in black or covered with soot to portray an “ati” (one of the many indigenous peoples of the Philippines).

Dinagsa Festival file photo by Dustin Mijares

The Dinagsa Festival is another “Ati-atihan Festival” of the Philippines. It is the Ati-atihan festival of Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.

Cadiz City is the gateway and premier center of agro-fishery resources of Negros Island. It is located at the northern area and is about 65 kilometers away from Bacolod, the capital city of Negros Occidental Province.

The festival began in 1972 and was first known as Cadiz City Ati-atihan Festival. It was only in 2002 that the festival was called “Dinagsa,” a name that is rightly Cadiznon.

"Dinagsa" refers to the Hiligaynon word “dagsa” which means to come in groups. It refers to an incident on May 5, 1967, when whales were stranded in the town's shore. Each whale measured forty feet long and eight feet in height, and the first group was followed by ten more whales five days after. (Trivia: Whale stranding may happen when a pod of whales refuses to abandon one sick or injured whale and thus follow it to shallow waters.)

Dinagsa Festival file photo by Dustin Mijares

This 2016, the Dinagsa Festival is a 2 week-long celebration in Cadiz City that started with its pre-activities on January 16. The official opening ceremony was last January 23 that started its various daily activities until January 31, 2016.

Frisbee Competition of Dinagsa Festival 2014; photo by Dustin Mijares

Activities include sports tournaments such as Frisbee, swimming and chess. There are also dance competitions, battle of the brains and nightly presentations of different organizations. Be part of the fluvial parade and attend the scheduled mass.

Fluvial Parade of Dinagsa Festival 2014; photo by Dustin Mijares

2016 event highlights are:

  • January 29 – Dinagsa Queen 2016 Pageant Night
  • January 30 – Best of Negros Island Region Festival Showdown
  • January 31 – Dinagsa Parade and Competition & Lamhitanay sa Dalan
Lamhitanay sa Dalan of Dinagsa Festival 2014; photo by Dustin Mijares

A unique feature of Dinagsa Festival is the “lamhitanay sa dalan,” where people roaming the streets of Cadiz City smothers paint on each other faces. No exceptions whether you’re a resident or a visitor and whether you like it or not you better prepare to get dirty. Saying “no” or getting angry is taken as an insult! Even your newly washed car can’t get away with it.


This kind of activity is not something you experience often so better brave the crowd and get home with colorful hair, face and shirt!

Pro-tip: wear white shirt and see how chaotic the combination of colors after the festivities, make it as a memorabilia of your Dinagsa Festival experience.

How to Get There

From Manila, you can fly to Bacolod (Php4400++, round trip, 45-55 minutes). From Bacolod-Silay Airport, you can take a shuttle (Php75-100 per head), or a cab (Php400 minimum) to take you to the North Bus Terminal.

Cadiz City is only an hour drive from Bacolod City by private car. If by bus (one-way, 1 hour 15 minutes), You can ride the Cadiz bus at the Bacolod North Terminal going to Cadiz City or buses plying to the North like San Carlos, Dumaguete and nearby municipalities. Cadiz City is also accessible to Cebu via the cities of San Carlos and Escalante. Passenger bus for Cebu also passed by at the bus terminal on scheduled trips.

VIEW: See what else to bring home from Negros Occidental with the Choose Philippines Pasalubong Guide:

Explore More of Negros Island
1) Negros: The Organic Food Bowl of Asia

2) Negros Occidental's Adobo Festival: A Showcase of the Best Pinoy Dish

3) Piaya -- A Sweet Negrense Delicacy

4) Negros Organic Festival: Innovative Cooking

 5) The Legend of Kanlaon: A Visayan God Who Smokes Tobacco


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