ILOILO CITY—Ilonggos and their guests can expect a double treat of weekend revelry when the “Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahanan” and “Dinagyang” go centerstage one after the other on Jan. 27 and 28 in this city, in what looms as a face-off of festivals reflecting the dynamism of local culture, faith and tradition.
“This year’s Kasadyahan is something to watch out for, like a dish with plenty of ingredients that will undoubtedly delight your taste buds,” local foodie content creator Lyca said on Thursday.
“Just as our Dinagyang used to be seasoned only with vinegar and fish sauce, it has now elevated its flavor!” Lyca said. “Let’s see … which performance will truly fill our hearts.”
Organizers are expecting thousands of people to crowd the city streets in both events which, though differently themed, offer a similar spectacle of merrymaking with performers in colorful indigenous attire dancing their best to the beat of drums for prestige and cash prizes.
For the first time, provincial and city officials are hosting the festivals separately, for still unclear reasons. The decision has nonetheless sparked excitement and debate, as both local government units strive to showcase their interpretation of Ilonggo culture and character.
According to Provincial Board Member June Mondejar, the province of Iloilo has allocated P1 million to each of the nine towns, mostly in the second district, that will participate in Kasadyahan’s Festival of Festivals to highlight their unique products. Iloilo has a total of 42 towns and 18 festivals.
Donut, a student of Iloilo Science and Technology University, believes that Kasadyahan is “poised for significant improvement, especially with the province allocating a generous budget for the event. The competition among municipalities is expected to be highly challenging.”
A common strand binding the town festivals is the Kasadyahan theme: “Fun, Foodie, Friendly Iloilo.”
Leon’s Kaing Festival, named after the native basket “kaing,” is a tribute to the town’s bounty of farm produce and natural resources, and vibrant farming traditions. Banate has the Kasag Festival, named after the “kasag” (blue crab) shell, which was once used as local currency.
In Leganes, the Saad Festival is a religious celebration derived from the Hiligaynon word “saad” or faith. Oton has the Katagman Festival, a cultural event steeped in history (Oton’s old name is Katagman) and heritage.
Maasin’s Tultugan Festival is a mesmerizing display of rhythm and melody, featuring traditional musical instruments that echo the town’s musical legacy. Anilao’s Banaag Festival brings forth the radiant spirit of the town, illuminating its history and traditions through dazzling lights and colors.
New Lucena’s Cry of Jelicuon Festival commemorates significant events in the revolt against the Spanish colonizers that shaped the town’s identity. Calinog holds the Hinirugyaw-Sugidanon Festival to honor the Santo Niño and promote the culture and identity of the Panay Bukidnon indigenous people.
Zarraga has the Pantat Festival to present the town’s top marine produce, the “pantat” (mudfish).
Devotion to the Child Jesus
With this year’s theme “Pagdayaw kay Señor Santo Niño, Padayaw sang mga Ilonggo,” the Dinagyang Festival highlights the Ilonggos’ devotion to the Child Jesus and commemorates the arrival of Malay settlers in Panay Island.
It started in 1968, when a replica of the original image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was given as a gift to the San Jose Parish in Iloilo City by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez of Cebu. The people welcomed the image by holding a street parade.
The city’s festival celebration has evolved into one of the country’s top tourist attractions, with street dancers in colorful tribal wear and sooty bodies drawing inspiration from Cebu’s Sinulog Festival and Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival.
This year, eight groups representing school-based “tribes” are competing in the street dancing contest. These are Tribu Taga-Baryo (Bo. Obrero National High School), Tribu Mandu-Riyaw (Mandurriao National High School), Tribu Paghidaet (La Paz National High School), Tribu Pan-ay (Fort San Pedro National High School), Tribu Salognon (Jaro National High School), Tribu Sigabong (Ramon Avanceña National High School), Tribu Ilonganon (Jalandoni Memorial National High School), and Tribu Silak (Iloilo City National High School).
Dinagyang has boosted local businesses, promoted economic growth and fostered a sense of pride among Ilonggos. Through the years it has established a reputation as a crowd-drawer and built a strong sense of community.
On the other hand, Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahanan 2024 brings fresh energy to the festival scene in Iloilo but faces the challenge, as a newcomer, to prove its authenticity and ability to capture the essence of Ilonggo culture without overshadowing the Dinagyang.
Jeorge, a frequent Dinagyang visitor, recalled the Kasadyahan’s beginnings: “Ever since the opening of Kasadyahan, I’ve consistently found it captivating, as it holds a unique charm compared to Dinagyang, which the province truly cherishes. With this constant comparison, I have high expectations for an even more elevated Dinagyang experience!”
Cheryl M. Luis also writes for OpinYon Panay.