Philippine Visayan Festivals: Dinagyang

The Philippines is known for having numerous festivities that are celebrated in different regions of the country all year long. The festivals are observed to pay tribute to the local Roman Catholic patron saint and to pay homage to the barrio’s namesake for good harvest and health. These fiestas are both pagan and catholic in nature, as ancient Filipinos used to exercise pagan worship before the Spaniards introduced Catholicism to the people.

Three of the most popular Christianity-themed festivals in the Philippines can be found in the Visayas. Namely, The Sinulog Festival which is celebrated every third Monday of January in Cebu to pay tribute to the miraculous image of the Child Jesus. Ati-atihan, also known as “The Mother of All Festivals”, is celebrated in Kalibo, Aklan to honor Señor Santo Niño de Kalibo. Lastly, the Dinagyang festival in Iloilo, that is celebrated every fourth weekend of January, reflects the Ilonggos’ artistry, craftsmanship, and creativity.


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Dinagyang is an Ilonggo term which means merrymaking. It was coined by an Ilonggo writer and broadcaster, Pacifico Sudario, to describe the Illongos’ annual riotous celebration which was then called “Iloilo Ati-Atihan”. It is one of the most colorful celebrations where tribes representing different barangays and high schools from different points of the province are invited to join and exhibit their ingenuity through their costumes and choreography in a very entertaining and competitive street-dancing competition.

The festival proper itself is a major attraction for travelers, but the night festivities are also something that both tourists and locals look forward to. The streets are usually littered with food stalls displaying authentic Filipino cuisine, as well as foreign and fusion dishes. People take pleasure in being serenaded by music provided by live bands as they hop from booth to booth savoring the diverse assortment of food displayed.

There is also the Miss Dinagyang pageant where several talented and beautiful Illongas vie for the crown. The entire celebration is then concluded by the announcement of the winners of the Ati-Ati Tribe competition followed by the fireworks display and public street-dancing in selected areas.