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Friday, January 22, 2010

Dinagyang Festival

Competing tribes in the Dinagyang Festival Ati competition

           Dinagyang Festival is a mardi gras type of religious celebration honoring the Holy Child Jesus every fourth weekend of January in the "City of Love" Iloilo City, in west central Philippines. It also has its historical significance due to the dancing warriors depicting the first settlers of the land embracing Christianity which the Spaniards led by Ferdinand Magellan introduced to the natives in 1521 with Reyna Juana as the first Filipino baptized as Christian and as a gift an image of the Holy Child Jesus was given her and the replica of the original Holy Child is now being preserved and venerated by devotees.

          Dinagyang Festival first started in 1968 as a simple religious ceremony when a model of the image of Sr. Santo Ni¤o was brought from Cebu City to the San Jose Parish Church by Fr. Suplicio Ebderes, OSA with a delegation of Cofradia del Sto. Niño, Cebu members. The image and party were enthusiastically welcomed at Iloilo City by then parish priest of San Jose Church, Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, OSA, then Mayor Renerio Ticao, and the devotees of the Sto. Niño in Iloilo City. The image was brought to San Jose Parish Church and preserved there up to this time, where a novena in His honor is held every Friday. The climax of the nine-day novena was the Fluvial Procession. Since then, it was already considered a yearly celebration, culminated by a nine-day Novena, an interpretative and theatrical dance competition or Kasadyahan competition on Day One and an Ati-ati contest on Day Two, and a fluvial procession on the last day. After a few years of a simple religious ceremony, organizers of the event want to take it to a festive mood with a dancing competition of different tribes coming from different districts of the city consisting of warrior painted with black soot or paints wearing colorful costumes out of indigenous materials. The warriors are dressed in fashionable and colorful Aeta (reminiscent of African Negro tribes) costumes and dance artistically and rhythmically with complicated formations along with the loud thrashing and sound of drums.
         The first Ati competition of the Dinagyang Festival took place in 1970 with the Madjapahit Tribe of Compania Maritima as the first winner. Since then, the festival is held annually with different tribes outbeat each other with their unique dance choreography, innovative tribal music, and creative costumes out of the local’s ingenuity. They are competing not for the prize but for honor and glory as the winner.
         The word “Dinagyang” came from the Ilonggo root word “dagyang” which means to make happy. Dinagyang is the present progressive word of the Ilonggo word meaning making merry or merry-making. It was coined by an old time, Ilonggo writer and radio broadcaster, the late Pacifico Sumagpao Sudario and the term was first used in 1977 to make it unique from other Ati-atihan celebrations.
         As more and more tribes from the barangays, schools and nearby towns and provinces participate, the contest became more competitive in terms of costumes, choreography and sounds. The tribes compete for the following Special Awards: Best in Discipline, Best in Costume, Best in Performance, Best in Music and Best in Choreography. These are aside from the major awards for the champion, first runner-up, second runner-up, third runner-up and fourth runner-up. Participating tribes learn to design artistically and with originality in making use of Ilonggo native materials like dried anahaw leaves, buri or coconut palm leaves and husks and other barks of Philippine trees. Choreography was studied and practices were kept secret. Sounds were seen as an authentic medium that keeps the tribes going in uniform.
         They also include a brief dramatization of how Christianity was brought to Panay and the arrival of the 10 Bornean Datus telling about the exchange of the Aetas of their land for the Borneans' Golden Salakot (native hat) and a long pearl necklace which is also parallel with the Kasadyahan celebration. During the celebration, people participate with the Kasadyahan. Some dressed in Aeta costumes, some paint their faces with black paint, some put on colored artificial tattoos and wear other Aeta ornaments. At night, there is public dancing on selected areas.
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