The Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Philippines

Everything You Should Know About Dinagyang Festival

Photo taken by Ranieljosecastaneda, from Wikipedia
Photo taken by Ranieljosecastaneda, from Wikipedia

January is undoubtedly a month for the biggest Visayan festivals. Started by the graceful Sinulog Festival in Cebu City followed by the spirited Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan.

After Ati-atihan, just course through the roads of Panay Island, and you’re headed off to the heart of Iloilo City’s culture, the Dinagyang Festival. Culminating the month with an extravagant display of colors and a profound celebration of Iloilo City’s culture, Dinagyang stands as one of the country’s most captivating and culturally significant events held annually every fourth weekend of the first month of the year.

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

Annually organized by Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc., the Dinagyang Festival is an awe-inspiring showcase of the city’s rich cultural heritage and devotion to the Sto. Niño (the holy child Jesus). One of. the popular festivals in the country, Dinagyang is renowned worldwide 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 every fourth Sunday of January. Anchored on the theme: “Pagdayaw kay Señor Sto. Nino, Padayaw sang mga Ilonggo!,” the Dinagyang Festival 2024 is set out to be an event of epic proportions.

Dinagyang festival is one of the most popular festivals in the Philippines. In fact it has earned the best tourism event in three consecutive years in 2006, 2007, and 2008. It was also honored with a back to back ATOP’s Best Tourism Event Awards in 2020 and 2021.

Dinagyang holds the highest number of victories in Aliwan Fiesta which is an annual competition showcasing diverse cultural festivals and various tribes across the country.

We’ve rounded up everything you need about Dinagyang Festival 2024 to set you up for the best experience.

History of Dinagyang Festival

The first Dinagyang Festival was held in 1968. The word “dinagyang” was derived from the Hiligaynon word “dagyang”, which translates to “merrymaking” in English. It’s a word that’s broadly representative of the festival.

Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival celebrates locals’ devotion to the Santo 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, the first Filipino rector and parish priest of the San Jose Parish back then, introduced devotion to Santo 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 Iloilo chapter of the devotees of the Sto. Niño de Cebu then ensured 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 gradually 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 2024?

As tradition would have it, the Dinagyang Festival is held every fourth week of January in Iloilo City. This means that in 2024, the festival highlights will be held from January 21st until January 28th.

Highlights of the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Philippines

Below are the main event and other popular events, as well as various activities that are celebrated during the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City.

Fluvial Procession

The Iloilo Dinagyang Festival highlights will start with a fluvial procession on January 26th. It’s one of the most emblematic traditions of Dinagyang. During the parade, replicas of the image of the Santo Niño, Iloilo’s patron saint, are boarded on boats to sail along the Iloilo River, starting from Fort San Pedro down to Muelle Lonely Street.

The fluvial religious procession is continued on foot as devotees solemnly take images of the Santo Niño to the San Jose Parish.

Street Dance Parade

Dinagyang Festival features the most-awaited street dance parade or the actual Ati tribe competition. It’s where the different districts showcase their creativity through dance with choreography and colorful costumes.

When most people think of Dinagyang Festival, the scenes from the street dance parade typically 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, pack your camera and take your best shots to be recognized.

The parade passes through Iloilo City Proper and the 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)

Continuing what started in the previous year, Dinagyang 2024 will gather several competing tribes representing Iloilo City’s seven districts to participate in a float parade of lights or what is called the Dinagyang ILOmination. The event will kick off at the Freedom grandstand.

The tribes are tasked to create floats embellished with light and local craftsmanship, representing how the Sto. Niño has provided guidance and hope for Ilonggos throughout the pandemic. Dinagyang ILOmination is slotted for January 26, 6 PM at SM City Iloilo and Iloilo Business Park.

Apart from these main attractions, there are also several other mini-events that you can witness and experience during the Dinagyang Festival 2023.

Tips For Dinagyang Festival 2023:

Prepare for a Mobile Service Interruption

While Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has announced that there will be no signal jamming for the Dinagyang Festival 2024, past events have shown that there might still be slow reception due to the high number of people.

To avoid any communication mishaps, establish modes of communication with your companions ahead of time and prepare for the possibility of service interruption.

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.

Still, it’s important to note that a significant portion of Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue (also called the Iloilo Diversion Road) and the downtown area is usually closed during Dinagyang week. If your usual route to and from the festival is affected, it’s best to look for an alternate passage.

Come with Comfortable Clothing

Coming prepared with comfortable clothing and footwear is also essential, as you will be walking and dancing with the crowd. Bring a hat or a cap, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect you from the sun. Lastly, bring a water bottle to stay hydrated and avoid heatstroke.

With these tips in mind, the only thing left to do now is to get festival-ready and wait for the Dinagyang Festival celebrations to jumpstart!

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Camella in Iloilo - Camella Savannah

Apart from the Iloilo Dinagyang Festival and other tourism events, there’s much to be excited about in Iloilo City.

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