By Herman M. Lagon
KASADYAHAN sa Kabanwahanan set in Iloilo City Proper this early morning of Saturday, January 27, is more than just a celebration; it bridges local municipalities’ colorful diversity to the regional and national stage, promoting communal identity, tourism, and unity.
Born in 1968, the Kasadyahan Festival began as a modest event to honor Iloilo’s cultural heritage. Evolving into a grand symphony of music, dance, and colors, it mirrors the transformation of Iloilo from a quaint town to a vibrant, culturally rich province. This Festival is a historical journey, inviting us to explore the depths of Iloilo’s past and its journey to the present.
At its core, Kasadyahan is a confluence of diverse cultural expressions. This year’s Festival will feature the following competing tribes: Banaag Festival of Anilao, a display of thousands of beautiful lights with breathtaking performances, Cry of Jelicuon Festival of New Lucena, the re-enactment of the historic revolutionary call for action that signalled the Ilonggo’s fight for freedom against Spanish rule, 2023 champion Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival of Calinog, a cultural fest highlighting the art of telling stories through chanting, Kaing Festival of Leon, a homage to the town’s symbol of abundant harvest and rich natural resource, Kasag Festival of Banate, a celebration of the contribution of the blue crab industry to the town’s local economy, Katagman Festival of Oton, a celebration of the history and culture of Panay’s ancient trading port which is the old name of town, Pantat Festival of Zarraga, the people’s way of honoring the catfish which is the town’s foremost farm product, Saad Festival of Leganes, a cultural dance-drama presentation in honor of the town’s Patron Saint Vincent Ferrer, and Tultugan Festival of Maasin, a tribute to the native bamboo percussion used as a tool for communication and for creating music.
Each participating tribe brings its unique story, dance, and music. This melting pot of cultures entertains and educates, highlighting the significance of cultural diversity in building a strong, united community.
Beyond the cultural showcase, Kasadyahan is a robust tourism and economic growth tool. By drawing in tourists from around the world, it offers a stage for local enterprises to thrive, spanning from artisan crafts to delectable cuisine, thereby creating economic prospects and elevating the province’s global reputation. This Festival manifests the collective striving for excellence, not just in festivities but in communal harmony and societal progress. It resonates deeply with our spirit of community and service.
Festivals like Kasadyahan are not merely annual events but catalysts for community building. They foster a sense of belonging, pride, and collective identity among the Ilonggos. This community spirit transcends the Festival, permeating daily life and strengthening social bonds.
Engaging the youth in festivals is crucial for cultural continuity. Kasadyahan serves as an educational platform where the young can learn about their heritage, participate in traditions, and become ambassadors of their culture, ensuring its preservation for future generations.
Amidst the revelry, Kasadyahan also embraces environmental consciousness. The use of sustainable materials in costumes and decorations, and the promotion of eco-friendly practices, highlight the Festival’s role in advocating for environmental stewardship.
The fest is also a testament to inclusivity. It provides a space for people from different backgrounds—irrespective of social status, age, or profession—to celebrate their heritage. This inclusivity is a powerful message in a world often divided by differences.
The Festival’s economic impact is augmented by incentives and support from local government and organizations. Initiatives like infrastructure projects and financial awards for winning tribes incentivize participation and contribute to local development.
Kasadyahan’s inclusion in the Dinagyang Festival elevates it to a national and international platform, showcasing Iloilo’s cultural richness to a broader audience. This exposure is invaluable in promoting cultural exchange and understanding beyond the Philippine shores.
The role of traditional and social media in promoting Kasadyahan cannot be overstated. Through coverage and storytelling, the media brings the Festival’s vibrancy into homes here and abroad, inspiring pride among the Ilonggos and curiosity among potential visitors. Despite its success, Kasadyahan faces challenges like any major event—from logistical hurdles to environmental concerns. Addressing these challenges presents opportunities for innovation, better planning, and more sustainable practices—all these we will witness this Saturday morning.
Looking ahead, the future of Kasadyahan and similar festivals is bright. As venues for expressing culture, promoting economic development, and engaging communities, they possess the capacity to transform and adjust, mirroring the ever-changing nature of the societies they represent. Witnessing Kasadyahan for more than four decades already is an immersive experience. It is a journey through the psyche of Iloilo, where every dance step and beat of the drum tells a story of resilience, joy, and communal pride. It is a reminder of the power of culture in unifying people. Hala bira. Iloilo!
Doc H 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 and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.