My Dinagyang 2019

By: Reymundo Salao

I’d like to start off by congratulating the Dinagyang Committee and all the other people – from the government leaders up to the street sweepers, volunteers, and roving policemen – for a job well done in making Dinagyang 2019 successful and peaceful.

The innovative addition of the Parade of Lights, now on its second year, signifies that this will definitely be considered as one of the important and highly awaited aspects of Dinagyang. The parade is such a fitting addition that blends well with the fact that there are numerous parties and merry-making that happen Saturday night of the Dinagyang weekend and is a perfect prelude to the fireworks display event that follows.

Now for the unpleasant part. From my own humble observation, there are several things that have become old problems. And please bear in mind that some of these problems that I am raising probably requires delicate and/or revolutionary solutions that cannot be made with a snap of a finger. The obvious one is the cleanliness. I am not talking about the maintenance of the cleanliness in the judging areas, because it appears that the GSO (General Services Office) is indeed doing a remarkable job at keeping the performance areas and judging areas clean. I am talking about the streets. There are several areas that are littered with whatever garbage and whatever mess left behind or being made by the festival population. Obviously, it’s the mass of people that are reckless with just throwing their trash anywhere, without much fear or shame. You can add to that the little stalls (such as that of ice scramble and fishball vendors) that are not exercising some kind of proper disposal of their trash (or the trash from their own customers). One solution could be maximizing on the number of garbage cans spread out all over the city. But the actual problem here is the cultural mindset of the people. The long-stemmed way of thinking that (unfortunately) most Filipino have; the reckless disregard for the simple laws that make order.

The irony is that these same set of people, if you suddenly threw them to a country such as Singapore, where the laws on cleanliness and anti-littering is met by harsh penalties… They (meaning “We” as a people) could easily adopt to that consciousness of law-abiding neatness. But then again, that discussion could go on extensively and will eventually throw way off-topic.

Another thing we noticed this year was that the run of the Dinagyang parade felt like it dragged past overtime. There were fewer tribes this year, but the sequential run of the carousel felt slow, seemingly because the musical set-ups did not seem too snappy, and oftentimes had the audience waiting for quite a while. If only there was a way to have the drums and instruments march to the judging area first, and then while they’ve begun to set up, that’s when the sponsors banners’ turn to march across the judging area. Then again, traditionally the drums march with (in front of, or right behind) the warriors for them to do their street parade dances while they’re moving from one judging area to another. So, yeah, it’s just an observation. Somebody might find a way to cleverly figure this out.

Going back to the positive, it was good that there was enough coverage of police presence around the city. I made the mistake of bringing along a backpack on Kasadyahan Saturday, and when they called my attention during inspection, the police exercised enough balance of firmness and courtesy appropriate enough for what you may consider as an improvement on the level of professionalism of our police officers. The police were also quick to enforce the removal of illegal structures around the judging area.

In other aspects of security, such as in crowd control, security officers and designated officials on the ground should be firm and consistent with whatever guidelines were put in place.

If, for example, the Media Row’s policy is that the seats are “first-come-first-served” then let that rule be stand. And whatever unfair cheats to that rule should not be tolerated. Because one tactic being used by other groups is that they would just get some person (who does not even have a Media Pass) to sit down and reserve numerous seats (by just simply putting camera stands on these seats) for them. This is unfair to many of us who covered the Parade of Lights the night before, napped for an hour or two, and got up afterwards, bathed in ice-cold morning water, and arrived at the judging area at around 3 a.m. just to get the good seats, only to find that these seats were already “reserved” by an unauthorized person for some hobbyist who will arrive at 6 a.m.

I hope that we can be aware of these people who will trick the system and let’s be fair to people who exercise due diligence to work with the system being implemented. I am quite happy that the officials where I was seated were good enough to call the attention of this unauthorized person who unfairly “reserved” the seats. But I do hope that they will be more firm next year and never give in to these “diskartes” which is unfair to many of us.

All in all, Dinagyang 2019 was a fine experience. And let’s hope that the coming years would be better and more awesome.