Hala Bira!

By: Sean Gerard Angel Pijuan

I hear familiar drum beats from beyond my backyard. It transmits the same vibrations I felt when I was young. Hala Bira! The Iloilo Dinagyang Festival is near. I expect to see Dinagyang’s sounds, shapes, and colors soon – I am already imagining my people dancing with it and Iloilo City decorated with it.

The celebration is an invitation to our Ilonggo culture. It is passionate and intense, but mostly an improvisation of the culture and arts of the Ilonggo. Hala Bira is an Aklanon language meaning “dispense all means”. We hear our performers shout it at the festival. We hear ourselves shout it from inside of us.

We need to express who we are. Art and culture provide self-awareness, a deeper understanding of who we are and a lot more. The Dinagyang Festival is held to honor the memory of the Santo Niño that visited our island a long time ago. The event merged with our culture and became a subject of our arts. Today, we are opening our curtains to the world through this festival.

As I walk along the streets of our heritage. I see balloons being sold by peddlers. Masks, tattoos and wooden figures that reflect the festival displayed in every block. Soon, I discover local art in the corners of Plaza Libertad. Ilonggo performers appear in venues to showcase their talents. As tourists and locals populate the streets and venues of the festival, we gain more witnesses to our culture and at the same time more customers to our businesses. I began to wonder at this point if this is what we meant by “dispense all means”.

Business and art go together. Businesses make commerce with art, and art needs business for funding. The Ilonggo artists need to promote themselves and need a funding system that will help them to function. The sounds, shapes and colors we see around us during the Dinagyang Festival don’t always come free. Businesses provide sustenance in promoting our culture and arts. On the other hand, we have events that are free.

The Hala Bira! Dinagyang Arts Festival is a collection of events that further encapsulates the Ilonggo arts and culture. All of the events are free and are made by the Ilonggo for the Ilonggo: “Cinemakasimanwa” is a film festival that features all Ilonggo talents, headed by Director Reymundo Salao who made numerous local films; “Rampa” is a fashion show that will showcase the collection of Iloilo’s finest designers along with its premier models, headed by the Ilongga Ria Bolivar who is one of the supermodels in the Philippines; “Banda” is a showcase of Ilonggo bands with original composition with some Ilonggo songs, headed by John Deryl Nava of Dernavs Studio. It will complement the fashion show as they come together to create a fusion of visual and auditory performance; And a spectacle of theatrical, visual and performing arts will be planted along with with Iloilo City including the Esplanade, the local malls, and along with Iloilo’s most recognizable scenes. This is led by Mr. Eric Divinigracia.

There are a plethora of talents that surround the Dinagyang Festival. Iloilo City itself is celebrating. We celebrate the festival to honor and share our arts and culture. The major Dinagyang events have already made an impact internationally. Now, let us walk the streets and visit the locale and trace where the vibration of the “Hala Bira” came from. We uncover it from every Ilonggo we meet, artist and spectator.


Sean Gerard Angel Z. Pijuan is the Senior Quality Management Officer of Invictus Prime Holdings Corporation, a corporation that manages the consolidation and integration of operations within its companies:  Complete Logistic Control Inc., ZKO Group Distributors Inc., Philfast Global Forwarding Inc., Satellite GPS Tracking and Asset Management System Corp., and SCMIX Builders Inc.