By Francis Allan L. Angelo
From the darkness to the light.
This is the mantra of Iloilo City as Mayor Jerry Treñas and House Deputy Majority Leader Julienne “Jam” Baronda lead Ilonggos in welcoming dignitaries, devotees, tourists, and revelers to the Dinagyang Festival 2023 highlights this weekend.
On Sunday, Jan 22, 2023, a 6 a.m. solemn Mass will start the highlight of the world-renowned festival at the San Jose Placer Parish.
The mass will express deeper devotion and more heartfelt gratitude to the Sto. Niño or Holy Child Jesus in helping them overcome the pandemic.
The Dagyang sa Barangay tribes competition at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand will break the 2-year wait for the colorful and dramatic performances Dinagyang has been known for.
“This year’s Dinagyang is very special to us. Our theme, ‘Pasalamat kay Señor Santo Niño’ encapsulates what is in the heart of each and every Ilonggo. We thank God for keeping us strong as we fought the pandemic. Our faith and devotion made us triumphant over the global crisis,” Rep. Baronda said.
Under the leadership of Treñas, Baronda added that the Iloilo City government and Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. as well as San Jose Placer Parish, Iloilo City Council, Uswag Ilonggo Rep. Jojo Ang, socio-civic organizations, private companies and sponsors, and her office came together so that the return of Dinagyang Festival will exceed expectations.
“Through Dinagyang 2023, we are reopening our doors to our guests for them to join us in thanking Jesus while at the same time showcasing what Ilonggo unity, resilience, grit, and indomitable spirit to triumph over life’s challenges can bring about,” she added.
“The festival’s return is good for the local economy as tourists would most likely pick Ilonggo flavors that they have missed or that they want to try, while investors may see the potential this regional center offers.”
Treñas hopes that with all the preparations by the city government and its partners, the Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. and the San Jose Parish Placer, the festival’s physical comeback will be successful.
“We are looking forward to a very successful Dinagyang 2023. We are at all systems go, with more guests coming over. We expect 30 people from foreign embassies,” he said.
Ambassadors and embassy and consular representatives from Bangladesh, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United States are expected to attend.
Local officials are set to welcome national officials and dignitaries led by First Lady Liza Marcos, Sen. Imee Marcos, Sen. Bong Go. Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Sen. Risa Hontiveros, and Sen. Mark Villar.
Baronda’s House colleagues – Juan Fidel Felipe Nograles, Margarita Ignacia “Migs” Nograles, Bai Dimple Mastura, Ivan Howard Guintu, and Alfred Vargas are set to join the festivities along with national government officials such as Education Usec. Epimaco Densing, DILG Usec. Margarita Gutierrez, DICT Asec. Ana Mae Lamentillo, PLLO Asec. Samantha Louise Vargas Alfonso, DFA Asec. Bernie Candolada, and San Manuel, Tarlac Mayor Donya Tesoro.
Apart from the revelry and performances, visitors will also get to see the transformation of the City of Love into a global metropolis.
“You know our unity, teamwork, and shared vision with Mayor Treñas and the city legislature are bearing fruit. Many investors are coming in. That is why we are challenged to ensure that needed infrastructure is in place. That is why I want to address flooding by rehabilitating and redeveloping our rivers and floodways. We are also improving our hospitals and healthcare, housing, education, and other social services to be able to address the needs of a growing city,” she said.
Baronda, whose GUGMA Ko, H.O.P.E. Mo platform complements Treñas’s W.H.E.E.L.S. program, is serving her second term. She also serves as one of the Deputy Majority Leaders at the House of Representatives.
In her first six months in office, seven (7) bills she co-authored, including House Bill 6557 or the “Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers,” have been approved on Third and Final Reading at the Lower Chamber, and are with the Senate for their review.