Year of the Dragon in Iloilo City

By Herman M. Lagon

Millions celebrate the culturally significant Chinese New Year. Here in Iloilo City, this feast highlights the resilience and influence of the local Chinese-Filipino community, the Ilonggo Tsinoys. As we approach the Year of the Dragon this February 10, a strong sense of unity and festivity permeates the atmosphere.

The CNY celebrations took root in the city in 2002, thanks to the Filipino-Chinese community’s and local authorities’ collaborative efforts. Then on, this tradition has evolved into one of the city’s most prominent cultural events.

Ateneo de Iloilo, a Jesuit, Catholic, and Chinese-Filipino basic education institution, was where I previously worked as an educator. There, we celebrated the feast with Chinese costumes, ate Chinese food, especially the famous “tikoy,” provided by the Chinese-Filipino program, held a Chinese-motif institutional presentation, and marched in the annual Chinese New Year parade through the city with other Chinese-Filipino schools and associations. This blend of cultures perfectly exemplifies the Ilonggos’ welcoming nature.

Before the pandemic, Iloilo City was thought to have the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Metro Manila. The celebration was vibrant due to the thousands of participants, primarily students from Chinese-Filipino schools, dressed in traditional Chinese clothing known as “Qipao” or “Cheongsam.” The celebration included great cultural entertainment, a beautiful fireworks display, a colorful Chinese lantern, float, dance, and foot parade downtown, and a delicious Chinese food festival. The Chinese-Filipino community’s diverse heritage and customs are being displayed throughout these celebrations. We have every reason to believe that today’s celebrations will be even more elaborate, dazzling, spectacular, and joyous than before the pandemic.

Approximately 13,000 Chinese-Filipinos reside in Iloilo City, which is also home to a number of vibrant Chinese-Filipino organizations, including the Philippine-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Panay Chapter, the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Panay, Inc., and the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Iloilo, Inc. Together with the 6,000 students and faculty at the Iloilo Scholastics Academy, Hua Siong College of Iloilo, Sun Yat Sen High School of Iloilo, and Ateneo de Iloilo-SMCS, these organizations are essential to promoting cross-cultural understanding and local economic development.

Not less than Mayor Jerry P. Treñas, who, along with Mrs. Fanny Lao Uy, President of the Iloilo Multi-Sectoral Business Organization, Inc., Fr. Manny Uy, Jr., SJ of the Santa Maria Parish, and other Filipino-Chinese local leaders started the annual Chinese New Year celebration more that two decades ago. It has consistently highlighted the significant contributions of the Tsinoy community to the city’s thriving economy. Over the years, the government and community collaboration has steadily grown, contributing positively to the city’s development.

As we embrace the Year of the Dragon in 2024, we are prompted to reflect on the profound symbolism associated with this zodiac sign. The dragon symbolizes strength, dignity, honor, good fortune, and accomplishment. It is seen as a heavenly entity that personifies perfection and is unmatched in brilliance and aptitude.

Growth, expansion, and an upsurge in energy are anticipated in the Wood Dragon year, consistent with Iloilo City’s progressive character. The year 2024 is the Ben Ming Nian of individuals born in the year of the Dragon (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012), a year marked by significant changes and possible difficulties. It is a moment to exercise patience and prudence since possibilities could replace obstacles as the year progresses.

Nonetheless, Iloilo City’s Chinese New Year festival exemplifies its cultural diversity, cohesion, and grit. Regardless of cultural backgrounds, the city unites to commemorate the common heritage of its citizens during this period. Let us embrace the principles of harmony and advancement that characterize our dynamic local Chinese-Filipino community as we usher in the Year of the Dragon. Xīn nián kuài lè!

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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.

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