Breaking News

Travel PH | What Dinagyang 2018 Was For Me

Dinagyang is a cultural and religious celebration in Iloilo City.  It celebrates the coming of the Malays in the island and selling of it to them by the Atis and in honor Sto. Nino.  The religious festival is similar to that of the Ati atihan in Kalibo and the Sinulog of Cebu City.  The Dinagyang happens a week after that of the latter festivals.

Now my trip to this years Dinagyang was a very memorable one.  Coming off from Kalibo's Ati atihan the week before and meeting an old dubai friend. Now this time, I met with two other dubai friends.  Making the memorable month of January more memorable.

Now the Dinagyang is a very festive moment in Iloilo indeed.  The city closed off a huge area of the town proper so one can have a feel of the great party ahead.  With the closure of the main streets, one is expected to walk a long way and around.  So we did.

The festival culminates in a two day affair, Saturday and Sunday and boy the town really is alive.  The streets that were closed off was oozing with restaurants mostly offering sinugba or grilled foods of pork, chicken and seafoods.

If you are here for the food, then Dinagyang is for you.  If you  like to be intoxicated, then dinagyang is for you.  If you want fun, then Dinagyang is for you. The city lights up during Dinagyang and people party till dawn.

The party atmosphere here is very different with that of the Ati atihan of Kalibo.  So what was Dinagyang for me?  Based on my experience;

1)  Its a modern upbeat festival

Yes, this thing is modern.  Although you will see drum bands in Iloilo, mostly they replaced it with large deafening speakers.  The locals seem to be fond of music with low bass, you will find a wall of these along the streets.  So be aware where you walk,  going through a pile of these will leave your ears ringing after passing a whole street of these speakers.

Also scattered all around the city are concert stages wherein paid performers or singers sing and dance to the crowds.  So its pretty much like Manila already.

2)  Its a food haven

Closed streets mean more space to be rented to restaurants and food servers.  Grilled and seafoods abound so have your blood pressure maintenance meds ready at hand.  If are a food lover, then this would be heaven for you.  Prices are a bit pricey as this is a festival and stores are capitalizing on the festive frenzy.  Also, all their menu items are the same, only the tastes differentiate one from the other.  Expect a lot of grilled chicken, fish, squid and pork, its all over.  And they have lots of beer around.

While eating in well known restaurants, they don't like these added attractions.  As these stores occupy the streets, they block the entrances to their stores.  They lose some business to these pop up restaurants.

3)  Tight Security

Very good place to be in as police visibility is all around.  There are a lot of check points going in the closed off areas.  They said don't bring a backpack but police merely check all the bags and letting them through after.  They were very thorough and it was a good sign for me.

4)  The Street Parade was not that enjoyable for me

The participants, don't get me wrong, were great.  Their performances was great, in front of the judges.  This performance lasted for 3 minutes on average and if you are in the Plaza,  there won't be a dull period in between groups.  Now if you are one of the tourist not lucky enough to be situated in the Plaza, then woe is upon you.  There is a lull between the street dancers of three minutes.  All groups must perform their routine in the plaza, in front of the judges, while doing so, no one is walking or performing in the streets where you are situated.  And when these groups finish and walk in the streets they are tired from their performance that they don't dance anymore.  They simply walk.

Tip for next year. Buy a ticket to the plaza and watch the performances from there.

5)  Lots of Advertisements

Their parade or performances had too much company sponsors in them.  Not that I hate them, some sponsors simply just walk in front of the plaza and have their slogans played over the loudspeakers.  It's like watching TV but this one had advertisements running most of the time.  I applaud the companies who do sponsor a group and really perform, I commend Jollibee for presenting a good show and not merely have their mascots do the Despacito.

What I was surprised to see were the presence of South Korea and Western Samoa (?) contingent in the parade.  Are they performing in celebration of Sto. Nino?  I can even see companies from other parts of the philippines having a contingent in the parade that somehow I feel just wants to be seen in the event.

6)  The parade was for a sight show

Tourists stand behind a line simply watching the street performers "walk" the street.  I was a tourist who would like to party with the street dancers and I wasn't able to do so.  Maybe its for security reasons and I will commend them for it, but somehow some locals break these rule and go into the streets and do some selfies.  Foreign tourists also can get away with this however local tourists like me are reprimanded to stay behind the line.  Sorry if I sound negative on this and you can't blame me for it.  I had a great time in Kalibo's Ati atihan as the crowd were allowed to dance in the streets with the performers and the performers really "performed".  If you are the tourist that wants to simply be a spectator, then Dinagyang is for you.

I had better pictures within the malls compared to that while I was in the streets.

7)  Too commercialized

As the streets were rented off to restaurants and bazaars, restrooms are not far behind.  I have not seen a public toilet around and enterprising individuals charge revelers for the use of their toilets.  Kudos to Shoemart and Gaisano for having malls in the area providing for free use of theirs.  Expect a long queue at the women's rest room :)

Even prices in their market places shoot up.  I was supposed to buy some mangoes and some pasalubongs in their public markets, but somehow, the prices really went up. 

8)  Their churches were closed during the event

I thought the Dinagyang was a celebration for the Sto. Nino and it had religious links.  I was wrong when I realized that after buying some religious articles.  I wanted the same to blessed by the priests so I went to the church that I 'presumed' was organizing the event, only to see the church had blaring loudspeakers and the office was closed.  I had no idea how to have my items 'blessed'.

This happened to me during the 2018 celebrations and for 2019, if coming back to Dinagyang, one should do the following;

1)  buy a ticket to the plaza where the performances are held.
2)  buy an ID from their organizing committee so one can be inside the line and can walk with the street walkers err I mean performers.  
3)  reserve hotel room within town proper so less walking

In the end, I was glad to have met my dubai friends and it made this trip truly memorable.  I can't say much for Dinagyang though,  my friend here in Iloilo wasn't keen in attending it, I 'forced' him to do so.  His comment was "it was much fun watching Dinagyang on TV rather than participating in it.  I'd rather go out after it as he wanted to eat out and drink alcohol and party.'  After seeing Dinagyang, I kinda agree with his assessment.  There were more people coming out in the evening.