By Mariela Angell Oladive
Iloilo City is ablaze with excitement after the much-anticipated Dinagyang Festival was officially declared open by Iloilo Mayor Jerry P. Treñas during the grand opening salvo on January 12.
The festivities are in full swing, with competing tribes gearing up for the cultural extravaganza, all in the spirit of celebrating faith and culture.
The ceremonial kick-off began with a mass at San Jose Parish church, followed by a lively parade leading to the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, where the official program took place.
In his message, Treñas expressed his enthusiasm for the event, saying “Preparations, coordination, and executions of our tribes are already in full swing, and everyone is excited to once again witness a spectacular religious and cultural celebration.”
He proudly proclaimed Dinagyang as the best festival in the Philippines, having earned the title of the best tourism event in the country three times.
Adding hype to the celebration, the mayor announced the staggering total of P25 million worth of school projects for the winning Dinagyang tribe.
He extended gratitude to Uswag Ilonggo party-list’s Rep. Jojo Ang who contributed an additional P10-million on top of the city government’ pledge of P15-million worth of projects for the champion.
This year’s Ati-Tribes Competition will showcase eight school-based tribes, each representing the cultural richness of Iloilo, including:
Tribu Taga-Baryo of Bo. Obrero National High School
Tribu Mandu-riyaw of Mandurriao National High School
Tribu Paghidaet of La Paz National High School
Tribu Pan-ay of Fort San Pedro National High School
Tribu Salognon of Jaro National High School
Tribu Sigabong of Ramon Avanceña National High School
Tribu Ilonganon of Jalandoni Memorial National High School
Tribu Silak of Iloilo City National High School
The five participating tribes for the Sadsad – Tribu Ibata sa Paghiliugyon, Tribu Aninipay, Tribu Panaad, Tribu Parianon, and Tribu Molave – also showcased a glimpse of their performances.
The opening salvo provided spectators with a sneak peek of the upcoming festival highlights scheduled for January 27-28, 2024. Attendees also had the pleasure of meeting the 15 Miss Iloilo 2024 candidates during the event.
Among the distinguished guests that were also present were Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc (IFFI) Chairman Judgee Peña, IFFI President Allan Ryan Tan, and Iloilo City Government councilors,
“The Opening Salvo is not only a preview of the lively and colorful performances of our competing tribes, but it also marks the official start to the month-long celebration of the Philippines’ best tourism event, ANG aton nga Dinagyang Festival,” Tan said.
He further highlighted the strong and joyful spirit that defines the Ilonggo community.
As the crowd reveled in the lively performances, Mark Calfoforo, an attendee of the opening, shared his experience with Daily Guardian and his admiration for the event’s innovative approach and passionate dedication to Sto. Niño.
“As a person who loves to watch festival dance competitions, it was admirable how Dinagyang used innovation to cultivate and integrate their performances. Every year, new experiences and big crowds, and I can see that Dinagyang is truly a top-tier festival,” Calfoforo said.
“My time during the opening salvo made me feel like a proud Ilonggo. The glimpse provided a preview of what awaits during the Dinagyang proper. Even in the opening salvo, you could sense the excitement building up, and one can only imagine the grandeur when Dinagyang is in full swing. It revealed the tremendous support the community has for the competing tribes.”
Another attendee, Robert Calasara, shared his perspective by highlighting the elevated experience of this year’s opening salvo.
“My experience during the opening salvo made me feel like a proud Ilonggo. Nag level up pa gid subong kay mabatyagan ko nga nami ila nga preparation this year. All in all, it showcases the culture and the devotion of the people to Senior Sto. Niño,” he remarked.
The Dinagyang Festival has consistently received acclaim, winning the Best Tourism Event Award by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines (ATOP) for three consecutive years in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In 2020, it once again secured the ATOP’s Best Tourism Event Award in the Contemporary/Non-Traditional Expression Category.