Ambulant vendors miss Dinagyang crowd

Empty streets greeted ambulant vendor Tata in downtown Iloilo City Sunday, Jan 23, 2022. He thought there would be live performances of the festival, where he could earn even just for a day. (Contributed photo)

“Tata”, an ambulant vendor, was eager to sell his Dinagyang-inspired headdress, ear cuffs, and other colorful accessories in the streets of City Proper district Sunday morning, Jan 23, 2022, which happened to be the highlight of Dinagyang Festival 2022.

But to his frustration, no Dinagyang spectator can be found on the streets of City Proper district. The ambulant vendors were welcomed by silent, empty streets and some closed establishments, as the world-class festival closed its doors to the public again this year amid the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was past 7 a.m. when Tata and his companions marched on the streets of City Proper hoping to chance upon Dinagyang spectators.

Tata was clueless that the Dinagyang Festival will be staged online and there were no live performances. He even asked for confirmation when interviewed by the writer.

Ano ma’am wala gid man Dinagyang? Abi namon may Dinagyang,” he said during the interview.

After explaining to him that the tribes’ competition will be streamed online, Tata heaved a sigh of hopelessness.

He said that his products came all the way from Bacolod City. Before the pandemic, Tata and his companions regularly sold Dinagyang goods and accessories in the city.

Tata is just one of the many ambulant vendors who relied on the live staging of Dinagyang Festival.

Before the pandemic, major streets in the city bustled with Dinagyang spectators, ambulant vendors, and food stalls.

The festival has been one of the main economic drivers of the city with revenues generated by the accommodation sector, tourism sector, food sector, and even the transportation sector.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers, the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc (IFFI), to halt the staging of the live Dinagyang Festival in 2021.

Instead, they took on the challenge of shifting the world-class festival to the virtual platform where the performances of the tribes were trimmed down and pre-recorded.

This year’s edition is the second time that Dinagyang Festival went digital. The tribes’ cultural competition, which was the highlight of the festival, was pre-recorded and canned with live performances.

Dinagyang warriors were limited to 20 and each tribe had their own film crew.

Organizers also trimmed down the events and cancelled big events which would gather crowds to avoid “superspreaders” amid spiking COVID-19 cases.

No live events, no Dinagyang spectators, and no customers for ambulant vendors like, Tata. He could only hope that the festival will finally be staged live next year.

Despite this, Tata refused to give up. He will keep on moving forward – Just like the theme of Dinagyang Digital 2022, “Padayon” – Padayon Iloilo! Upod kay Sr. Sto. Niño.

Malakat na lang ko pakadto sa SM didto sa Diversion. Lakton ko lang pakadto kay basi didto may mga mabakal pa kag karon mahingagaw kami pauli,” he said. (DG)