Dinagyang: Festival of festivals!

By Dr. Herman M. Lagon

DINAGYANG, once again, proved its dominance in the country’s festival scene by clinching its seventh Aliwan crown. This remarkable achievement solidifies its position as the Festival of Festivals, showcasing its unparalleled street dance performances. Represented by this year’s champion, Tribu Parianon, Dinagyang outshined 12 other festivals during the 2023 Aliwan Fiesta street dance competition held in CCP Complex in Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Metro Manila over the weekend, July 15.

We give our snappy salute and heartfelt congratulations to the outstanding performers (dancers, instrumentalists, singers, artists, choreographers, and other creatives), technical crew, all-around staff, and their supporters, including the Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI), for their dedication, passion, hard work, expertise, and resources that contributed to the success of Dinagyang’s participation in Aliwan. We also pay homage to IFFI exec Joyce Clavecillas, City Mayor Jerry Treñas, Rep. Julienne Baronda, the consultants, and the scores of nameless Tribu Parianon patrons for their support throughout the journey of the tribe.

A few minutes after the post-midnight declaration, Mayor Treñas highlighted on his social media account that Dinagyang’s victory is a testament to the power of unity and collaboration. He commended Tribu Parianon for bringing honor to the city, expressing immense pride in their exceptional performance. He extended his congratulations to all Ilonggos, acknowledging that their collective efforts contributed to this achievement. Above all, he emphasized that this success was for the greater glory of the Lord.

The excellence displayed by the Molo, Iloilo City-based Tribu Parianon and Dinagyang Festival reflects the cultural and religious core of Iloilo. The mesmerizing performance showcased the true essence of Ilonggo heritage, captivating both the judges and the audience onsite and online. The dedication, talent, and hard work of the dancers, choreographers, history scholars, and everyone involved made this victory well-deserved and inspiring. (It is proverbial to know that the tribe’s name, Parianon, is a Chinese word that means marketplace and loosely means Molo pioneers).

No less than my good friend Dinagyang Artistic Director Eric Divinagracia explains it succinctly: “Tribu Parianon’s performance is spectacular in its choreography, costume and set. It delivered to the expectation of the crowd who kept on cheering for Iloilo on the street and on the main stage.” Direk Eric added that the “frenetic energy of the warriors and the relentless beating of the drums had the audience catching its breath.”

Indeed, Dinagyang Festival’s heart-pumping performance in Aliwan Fiesta adds to its impressive accomplishments. Over the years, it has consistently been a top contender, securing victories and accolades in numerous competitions and invitationals. Since the inception of the Aliwan Festival Dance National (Street Dance) Competition in 2003, Dinagyang has emerged victorious seven times, with an overall winning percentage of 1 in 3. These victories came in 2004 (Tribu Atub-Atub of City Proper), 2010 (Tribu Paghidaet of LaPaz, Iloilo City), 2011 (Tribu Pan-ay of City Proper), 2012 (Tribu Pan-ay), 2013 (Tribu Panayanon of Molo, Iloilo City), 2017 (Tribu Salognon of Jaro, Iloilo City), and now in 2023 (Tribu Parianon). Only the famed Sinulog Festival of Cebu, with four championships in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2014, stands as Dinagyang’s closest rival.

In Aliwan Festival’s matrix of winners, Dinagyang did not only dominate the golden spot. It also bagged silvers six times in 2003 (Tribu Atub-Atub), 2006, 2007 (Tribu Ilonganon of Lapuz, Iloilo City), 2008, 2009 (Tribu Kasag of Banate, Iloilo), 2016 (Tribu Salognon of Jaro, Iloilo City); and bronzes four times in 2005, 2009 (Tribu Paghidaet), 2010 (Tribu Kasag), and 2018 (Tribu Panayanon). Corollary to this, in 2009, Dinagyang placed second and third in Tribu Kasag and Tribu Paghidaet, respectively; while in 2010, they swapped luck as the tribe from LaPaz became the champion and the tribe from Banate got the third place.

While Dinagyang’s success shines brightly, it is important to recognize other notable Ilonggo festivals that have also made their mark in Aliwan Fiesta. Pintados de Pasi of Passi City, Iloilo was crowned champion in 2005, and third in 2006. Meanwhile, Santa Barbara, Iloilo’s Kahilwayan Festival “Cry of Santa Barbara” also placed back-to-back second in 2005 and 2004, while the Kasadyahan Festival tribe from Zarraga, Iloilo, secured the second-place spot in 2011. The ever-resilient Manggahan Festival of Guimaras likewise achieved back-to-back first runner-up positions in 2017 and 2018; and third place in 2019 and this weekend’s competition (2023).

Meanwhile, aside from Sinulog, the other non-Ilonggo Aliwan Fiesta street dancing champions were Halad Festival of Midsayap, Cotabato (2003), Buyogan Festival of Abuyog, Leyte (2009), Manaragat Festival of Catbalogan, Samar (2015 and 2016), Kasadyan Festival of Burauen, Leyte (2018), and Pasaka Festival of Tanauan, Leyte (2019).

Dinagyang’s influence extends beyond Aliwan Fiesta. It has brought innovations that have influenced how other festivals celebrate theirs in the country. The 55-year-old Hala Bira shouting Ilonggo revelry introduced the concept of carousel productions and simultaneous performances by competing tribes in different judging areas. Mobile risers, pioneered by the legendary Tribu Bola-Bola of Iloilo National High School in 1994, have added depth and improved the choreography of dance movements. The distinctive sound produced by Dinagyang pipes, first used by Tribu Ilonganon in 2005, has become a recognizable festival element. Moreover, remember Dagoy, the first festival mascot in the Philippines, who symbolizes the jollification and friendship shared during the Dinagyang Festival.

Moving forward, Direk Eric observed that some Aliwan festival performances now share Dinagyang’s aesthetics. “And they are getting better,” he said, adding “in the coming years, we may either do what is expected of us, or be better than what we did last year (faster, bigger) or surprise the Philippines with something new. Despite the changes, I hope that we remain true our devotion to Sto. Niño and be authentically Ilonggo.”

Certainly so, as we celebrate Dinagyang’s 7th Aliwan crown, let us continue to innovate and set the bar higher while we restlessly appreciate the cultural richness, religious depth, artistic excellence, and unity that this festival embodies. It is a testament to the talent, passion, vow (panaad), faith, devotion, and hard work of the performers, the organizers’ dedication, and the community’s support. Dinagyang Festival’s success resonates within Iloilo, the country, and beyond, solidifying its position as the Festival of Festivals.


Dr. Herman Lagon fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice. He is a professor of ISUFST, a student of USLS, a retiree of Ateneo, and an alumnus of UP, UI, and WVSU.