Everything You Should Know About Dinagyang Festival

Iloilo is a beautiful place to visit and even live in year-round. However, Iloilo becomes even more alive and captivating in the month of January during the Dinagyang Festival.

Dinagyang Festival is an awe-inspiring showcase of the city’s heritage, culture, and devotion to the Sto. Niño (the child Jesus). The festival is renowned all over the world for its head-turning activities, merry making, performances, and dancing. It’s even considered the “Mother Festival of the Philippines” today, attracting thousands of Ilonggos and tourists alike. This year, the Dinagyang Festival is finally being celebrated in person after being held virtually for the last two years. With the theme: “Iloilo Dinagyang 2023: Pasalamat kay Señor Sto. Niño,” this year’s Dinagyang Festival is set out to be an event of epic proportions.

We’ve rounded up everything you need about Dinagyang Festival 2023 to set you up for the best experience.

History of Dinagyang Festival

The word “dinagyang” was derived from the Hiligaynon word “dagyang”, which literally translates to “merrymaking” in English. It’s a word that’s largely representative of the festival. Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival celebrates locals’ devotion to the Sto. Niño, similar to Cebu’s Sinulog Festival. In addition, it also pays tribute to the arrival of the Malay settlers in the country, including the notable barter of Panay Island from natives called Ati.

The festival first took shape after Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, then-parish priest of the San Jose Parish, first introduced the devotion to Sto. Niño to the Ilonggo community in 1967 after experiencing the Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan. The following year, a replica of the image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu was given to the Parish of San Jose by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez of Cebu. The Ilonggo chapter of the devotees of the Sto. Niño de Cebu then made sure that the image would get an appropriate reception. They paraded the image from the Iloilo Airport down the streets leading to the San Jose Parish.

What started as a parish-contained event eventually attracted more devotees and attendees. It comes as no surprise as the celebrations were patterned after Aklan’s vibrant Ati-atihan, which features street dancing with dancers covered with soot and ashes.

When is Dinagyang Festival 2023?

As tradition would have it, the Dinagyang Festival is held every fourth weekend of January. This means that in 2023, festivities would be from January 20th through the 22nd.

Iloilo Dinagyang Festival highlights

Fluvial procession

The Iloilo Dinagyang Festival is a weekend-long event that starts on Friday (January 20th) with a fluvial procession. It’s one of the most emblematic traditions of Dinagyang. During the procession, replicas of the image of the Sto. Niño are boarded on boats to sail along the Iloilo River, starting from Fort San Pedro down to Muelle Lonely Street. The fluvial procession is continued on foot as devotees solemnly take images of the Sto. Niño to the San Jose Parish.

Street dance parade

The dance parade is one of the most awaited highlights of the entire Dinagyang Festival. It’s where the different districts showcase their creativity through dance with choreography and colorful costumes. When most people think of Dinagyang Festival, it’s typically the scenes from the street dance parade that come to mind. In fact, it’s one of the most photographed events in the Philippines since there’s a dedicated photography contest. If you’re a shutterbug, then pack your camera and take your best shots to be recognized.

The parade passes through Iloilo City Proper and downtown area. Sections of the parade route are set up with performance stages where spectators and visitors get a better view of the choreographed street dances.

Dinagyang ILOmination (Floats Parade of Lights in Iloilo City)

Dinagyang Festival 2023 introduces a new competition into the mix: Dinagyang ILOmination. It gathers several competing tribes representing Iloilo City’s seven districts to participate in a float parade of lights. The tribes are tasked to create floats garnished with light and local craftsmanship, representing how the Sto. Niño has been a source of guidance and hope for Ilonggos throughout the course of the pandemic. Dinagyang ILOmination is slotted for January 21, from 6 PM to 9 PM at the Iloilo City Diversion Road.

Apart from these main attractions, there are also several other mini-events that you can witness and experience during the Dinagyang Festival 2023, too. Here’s the official event schedule:

2023 Dinagyang Festival Schedule | Photo from Dinagyang Festival (Iloilo, Philippines Facebook Page)

Tips for Dinagyang Festival 2023:

Prepare for mobile service interruptions

The Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Iloilo recently announced a widespread telecommunication service shutdown throughout the duration of the Dinagyang Festival 2023, starting on January 21 to 22 from 6 AM to 2 PM. The imposed signal jamming is part of the improved security efforts for the festival. While it can cause some inconvenience to festival-goers, it’s ultimately for safety. Make preparations ahead of time and establish modes of communication earlier on, before the service interruptions.

Arrange transportation ahead

Fortunately, the Iloilo LGU has prepared traffic management, public utility vehicle deployment, and road-clearing operations early on. You’ll still have access to your usual transportation routes and methods, but it’s important to note that a significant portion of the Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue (also called the Iloilo Diversion Road) will be fully closed starting on the afternoon of January 21, and won’t be reopened until the last contingents of the Dinagyang ILOmination have passed. If your usual route going to and from the festival is affected, it’s best to look for an alternate passage.

The only thing left to do now is to get festival-ready and wait for the Dinagyang Festival celebrations to jumpstart!

Camella in bewitching Panay Island

Apart from the Iloilo Dinagyang Festival and other tourism events, there’s so much to be excited about in Iloilo City. For one, Camella, the country’s biggest homebuilder with over four decades of experience and expertise, has been raising several Visayan communities in the sanctuary of kings: Camella in Iloilo City, Camella Aklan, and Camella Capiz. Camella’s flagship property in Iloilo is set within Savannah, themed after the graciousness of the Southern State of Georgia, U.S.A.

Camella in Iloilo - Camella Savannah
House and Lot for Sale in Iloilo – Camella Savannah

Right at the heart of Kalibo, Aklan’s capital, is the 11-hectare Italian-inspired paradise called Camella Aklan. Those who want to live life amidst historical treasures and natural gems yet still enjoy the conveniences afforded by a rapidly progressing municipality will find a home in Camella Aklan.

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Travel and experience first-hand the culture in the island of Panay. Live in any of these Camella developments to reap the benefits of well-planned spaces and carefully thought out amenities.

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