2011 Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo

I went to Iloilo for the Dinagyang festival a week after I experienced my first Sinulog festival in Cebu, to complete a memorable back-to-back festival incursion. Both festivals offers a myriad of similarities aside from expressing devotion to the Sto. Nino and featuring elegant and colorful street parades. It also attracts a huge crowd that eventually stays up and parties all night long like jubilant citizens celebrating the end of a war.

The Best festivals in the Philippines

However, as almost similar to each other, these twin festivals presented me a unique joy in witnessing each festivity in two different places. Cebu and the Sinulog Festival provided me its own vibrant mood climaxed by the wild street parties at night, while the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo gifted me with its unique set of intensity. This observation have made me so glad that I was able to experience both in a span of one week. Coming from the highs of the festivities in Cebu, the downshift of going back to Manila for a couple of days work and back again to a raucous but fun setting in Iloilo the next weekend.

The Dinagyang Festival

Life is so much fun when you get a balance of things. Work brings a trait of responsibility and working on a particular goal while traveling in between cures the sheepish occurrences of a normal life. It's like bringing a jolt of electricity through a straight line with experiences like these, of new places, of festivals, of massive celebration reverberating through drum beats and merry making. Most of all, meeting new friends and creating meaningful experiences to treasure down the road.  

Dinagyang Festival

Which was all I gathered during the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo. I arrived there first thing Friday morning to meet my lovely couchsurfing host Joanne after lunch, so with nothing to do I embarked on a Visita Iglesia tour of Iloilo. I visited churches in Molo, Oton, Tigbauan, Guimbal, Miag-ao (my 2nd time) and San Joaquin.

Mujee Gonzales

By lunch time I was already in Iloilo City and met up with Joanne, we then proceeded to hang out at her friends place where we had our lunch over a bottle of beer and smoked some weed. Yeah I smoked that thing a few times in the past – not to get super high and crazy though – just to clear my mind and It did wiped my mind of worry, as I went to sleep for 12 hours straight after that. After figuring sleepless the whole of Thursday and most of Friday, it was what the doctor ordered. 

Dinagyang Festival

I awoke Saturday morning filled with energy courtesy of my very long slumber and the mighty atmosphere being felt around in the city. Hearing drumming beats everywhere, shouts of joy and the uniformed breathe of anticipation from people lining up the streets waiting for the street parade. I joined my fellow couchsurfing guests Alina and Yan (an American and German couple traveling the world for the last 1 and a half years and into their 3rd month in the Philippines) out into the streets as early as 7am.

Ada Lajara

We managed to insert ourselves into the thick crowd and watched a half dozen tribes performed on one of the 5 or 6 staging grounds. That was before I was pushed back by the eager crowd. I left them there while I met up with Marinelle (another travel blogger) and her cool mom. They too, were pushed back from the crowd and so we decided to explore other places around Iloilo.

So, for the second time in two days I went on a trip from the city to San Joaquin - showing Marinele and her mom the churches I visited the previous day. By afternoon we were back again in the Dinagyang fest city of Iloilo.

Dinagyang Festival

I spent the remaining daylight taking a brief rest before going out again that night with Joanne, Alana and Yan while we waited for Ada to arrive. We had a sumptuous dinner for five at "Talabahan" place near SmallVille. We were supposed to attend a Couchsurfing meeting at SmallVille but Alina was adamant in attending by saying "A CS meeting in an expensive restaurant" - agreeing with her observation, we opted to feast on cheap plate-full of oysters at only 70 pesos per plate and went home happy.

Ada Lajara

The next day - Sunday was the highlight part of the Dinagyang Festival. We partook in the parade by watching the tribes and contingents passed by and stole some moments peeking through the crowd and watch some of them performed.

Cheekie Albay

The tribes came out in full force with decorative and colorful costumes and like a bunch of character actors played their role to pieces by sporting along a fierce look that add up to the impact of the whole spectacle from a first timer's point of view (Me).

Karla Ramos and Elal Jane Lasola

While waiting for the start of the performance I got a bit impatient with the redundant introductions of VIP's (politicians) in attendance. The Congressman took the microphone and introduced Presidential sister Ballsy Aquino, Senator Drilon, the Governor a bunch of other local officials. Drilon then takes the stand and does the same, the Governor followed him and introduces again the VIP's and Ballsy doing the same thing again.

Team Red Horse Carla Araniego, Elal Jane Lasola, Mark Estur

It was funny how politicians always crave for attention that's why when the show finally started it was met with a burstful yell of "Hurrahs". It was then the young men and women from Iloilo and neighboring places did what they have prepared well for so long, they kicked butt and entertained the crowd who were hopping into their feet simultaneously with the deafening chants and drum beats.

Alina Blanca and Marky Ramone Go
last night of Dinagyang we went to this Karaoke make shift bar at the side of a street and gorge on peanuts, beers and Scorpion songs - Ada though sang a perfect 4 Non-Blondes song and Alina belted Madonna's "Isla Bonita"
It was another wonderful experience for me, my first Dinagyang festival and coupled with my first Sinulog experience - I didn't get burned out by what some will call as 'festival overload' - I was in fact presented with an idea that somehow I should start making plans to attend each festivals held all over the Philippines and see if somewhere down the road, whether an 'overload' of sorts really exists. I doubt that it does though.