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Dinagyang: Dances for Faith and Fun


Photo courtesy of Jeddy Solinap

Feathered headdresses. Timed steps. A rousing beat. Iloilo gains such a lively vibe during January where the biggest local festival of the year is set to happen: Dinagyang!

During the start of the year, the island becomes busy with excitement and anticipation for this colorful and energetic event.


Photo courtesy of Jeddy Solinap

How it began

The term “Dinagyang”, an Ilonggo word for “revelry” or “merrymaking”, was coined in 1977 by local writer/broadcaster Pacifico Sudario to properly name the celebration. In the past, it was simply labeled as the “Iloilo Ati-Atihan” as a way to differentiate it from similar festivals like the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan.

It all started back in the year 1967, when the San Jose Parish brought a replica image of Santo Niño all the way from Cebu. The people of Iloilo rejoiced and received it with joy, giving birth to the initial incarnation of the celebration.

I wasn’t until 1969 that the dancing and costumes became a big part of the celebration. The Ati-atihan contest only started with four different tribes back then. Today, that number has increased exponentially. Each year the event becomes livelier, louder and more colorful, showcasing not only a great love for the festivities but a way of strengthening their faith as well.


Photo courtesy of Jeddy Solinap

A Celebration for All

Despite being a small island, Iloilo's Dinagyang festival is a very well-recognized event. People from all walks of life, even foreigners from across the world, come to the island to take part of this once-a-year event.

While the festival is rooted in religious praise, it could also be counted as a way to excite the people for a brand new year and maybe give them moments to lose their inhibitions and just enjoy themselves. Throughout the years, the government has allowed crowd participation during the parades, giving people a chance to really be a part of this exciting annual fiesta.

Photo courtesy of Jeddy Solinap

Come January 22, 2017, Iloilo will be in full swing with celebration and revelry. If you want to be part of this exciting event that occurs during the first month of every year, make your way to the Philippine island for a visit.

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