The Dinagyang Festival is celebrated every fourth weekend of January tohonor the Christianization of the natives and to respectthe Holy Child Jesus. On this day, streets of Iloilo City will once again come alive as the Ilonggos celebrate theannual festivity. It is a very colorful parade coupledwith a dramatization in honor of the patron Saint Sto.Niño as the object of performs offerings andprayers amidst the cracking of drums and shouts of "VivaSeñor Santo Niño." The thundering of "Hala Bira" by the tribe members makes the celebration a livelyone. It is also a very popular tagline used by Ilonggosto express their warm participation during the"Dinagyang" celebration. A tribute in honor of Señor Sto. Niño whom Ilonggos believe wasvery miraculous in times of famine and drought.Dinagyang is an annual event, when the whole town rejoices,shouting their pride of being an Ilonggo and telling theirculture. It is a wonderful looking back to the past. It is notjust a celebration, it is a religious evangelization. Goingback to Iloilo is more like a past fulfilled and a lookingforward for future celebrations. It is our culture. The Aetaculture. That's why it is painting the townblack.
The Birth and Evolution ofDinagyangThe root word is dagyang. In Ilonggo, it means to make happy.Dinagyang is the present progressive word of the Ilonggo word,meaning making merry or merry-making. A religious and culturalactivity, it is a celebration of Ilonggos whose bodies arepainted with black in effect to imitate the black, small andslender Negritos who are the aborigines of Panay. The warriorsare dressed in fashionable and colorful Aeta costumes and danceartistically and rhythmically with complicated formations alongwith the loud thrashing and sound of drums.Before, Dinagyang was called Ati-atihan like that of theKalibo festivity. History tells that it started when a replicaof the image of Señor Sto. Niño was brought tothe San Jose Parish Church in Iloilo from Cebu. The people ofIloilo honored the coming of the image and then becamedevotees. Until they made the day of the Image's arrival as hisfeast day which falls on the 4th Sunday of January. Since 1968,it was already considered a yearly celebration, culminated by anine-day Novena, an Ati-ati contest and a fluvial procession onthe last day.
Recognized now to theannual, socio-cultural-religious festival of Iloilo City,the word Dinagyang was made up by an old-timer, Ilonggowriter and radio broadcaster, the late Pacifico SumagpaoSudario, and first used to name the festival when it waslaunched in 1977, to make it unique from other Ati-atihancelebrations.
Iloilo City'sDinagyang has its early beginnings in 1968, when a modelof the image of Sr. Santo Ni¤o was brought fromCebu City to the San Jose Parish Church by Fr. SuplicioEbderes, OSA with a delegation of Cofradia del Sto.Niño, Cebu members. The image and party wereenthusiastically welcomed at Iloilo City by then parishpriest of San Jose Church, Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, OSA,then Mayor Renerio Ticao, and the devotees of the Sto.Niño in Iloilo City. The image was brought to SanJose Parish Church and preserved there up to this time,where a novena in His honor is held every Friday. Theclimax of the nine-day novena was the FluvialProcession.
In the early morninglight of dawn, the respected Santo Niño image isborne on a decorative banca in a fluvial procession,starting from the mouth of the Iloilo River at Fort SanPedro, winding all the way to the Iloilo ProvincialCapitol which stands on the bank of the IloiloRiver.
If the festival hadto be developed into a major tourist attraction, it wouldbe so big in magnitude and the Confradia thought that itcould no longer cope with the demands of a touristcome-on. The year 1976 also brought another feature ofthe festival. Street celebrations and audienceparticipation were introduced and encouraged.
At that point, theSanto Niño is met by the Hermano-Hermana Mayordevotees, and Ati-atihan tribes. With the SantoNiño leading, the foot procession starts, passingthrough the main streets of the city and ending up at SanJose Church, where a high mass is then celebrated. Asyears went by, the celebration continued to behighlighted by a mass at San Jose Parish at the break ofthe dawn; by a "Kasadyahan" which is the opening event ofthe celebration, also a merrymaking but is a dramatizeddance presentation about the Aeta's survival, the landingof the 10 Bornean Datus in Panay and the colonization;and by dances and more merry making which have become atourist attraction.As more and more tribes from the barangays, schools and nearbytowns and provinces participate, the contest became morecompetitive in terms of costumes, choreography and sounds. Thetribes compete for the following Special Awards: Best inDiscipline, Best in Costume, Best in Performance, Best in Musicand Best in Choreography. These are aside from the major awardsfor the champion, first runner-up, second runner-up, thirdrunner-up and fourth runner-up. Participating tribes learn todesign artistically and with originality in making use ofIlonggo native materials like dried anahaw leaves, buri orcoconut palm leaves and husks and other barks of Philippinetrees. Choreography was studied and practices were kept secret.Sounds were seen as an authentic medium that keeps the tribesgoing in uniform.They also include a brief dramatization of how Christianitywas brought to Panay and the arrival of the 10 Bornean Datustelling about the exchange of the Aetas of their land for theBorneans' Golden Salakot (native hat) and a long pearl necklacewhich is also parallel with the Kasadyahan celebration. Duringthe celebration, people participate with the Kasadyahan. Somedressed in Aeta costumes, some paint their faces with blackpaint, some put on colored artificial tattoos and wear otherAeta ornaments. At night, there is public dancing on selectedareas.