Dinagyang 2021 to feature tribe unity, new contests

A Dinagyang Digital 2021 dancer joins the audition in November 2020. The upcoming “virtual” Dinagyang Festival in January 2021 will feature a grand number filmed by the city’s best tribes and new events to adjust to the circumstances brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Ilonggo Artists Festival Association)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan


The upcoming “virtual” Dinagyang Festival in January 2021 will feature a grand number filmed by the city’s best tribes and new events to adjust to the circumstances brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The festival’s theme is “One Dinagyang – One Iloilo – Halad Kay Señor Sto. Niño”, referring to the city’s unity against the COVID-19 menace.

As an effect of the pandemic, the usual activities such as the Opening Salvo, Sadsad, and Kasadyahan will be held in a limited, pre-recorded capacity and will be broadcast online to avoid attracting crowds in the streets.

The Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI), the festival’s main organizer, held a press conference with organizational partners on Tuesday to provide details about the new programs.

The tribal competition will be scrapped due to the alternative modes of classes being implemented by schools in this academic year.

It will be replaced by one collaborative performance by tribes from different districts in the city.

There will be seven participating tribes, one from each district, and composed of 30 dancers each aged 20 years and above, with some new dancers and alumni.

The highlight will be frontliners who were alumni of the tribal competitions in previous editions of the festival.

All dancers underwent Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing, as per recommendation by the city government’s COVID-19 Task Force.

They conducted rehearsals and filming within a 20-day bubble, with an extra two days of filming due to heavy rains in the city caused by the recent Tropical Depression “Vicky”.

Participating dancers were given allowances, honoraria, and subsidies.

The filming wrapped up yesterday at the San Jose Parish Placer and the Sunburst Park, both in City Proper.

This activity, dubbed “One Dinagyang” is under the supervision of the Ilonggo Artists Festival Association, Inc. (IAFA).

IAFA is a newly established organization by festival industry workers, composed of choreographers, musical directors, artistic directors, costume designers, visual artists, and production designers, who were mostly affected by COVID-19.

IAFA President Romel Flogen said that the pre-taped performance was “Plan D” which is part of the four plans they presented to the IFFI, school principals, and the city government.

The theme was developed by artistic directors Jomar Sustento, Rheno Mar Soqueño, and Ron Espinosa.

“We were asked by the IFFI to plan out and brainstorm for Dinagyang 2021, so we came up with four plans, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D. We chose plan D, which is to unite and to collaborate among the tribes per district. We came up with One Dinagyang because there is no competition, for the past 30 years it was on the top of our heads to compete,” Flogen said during a press conference.

Flogen also shared that there were still some challenges with the rehearsals and filming of the performances, such as barriers between the trainers and the dancers, the re-painting of dancers at each dance station.

He said despite the difficulties, they were able to learn more about the city and the districts through filming of the performances.

“We learned a lot, especially the concept and the history of each district, because previous Dinagyangs [showed] epics and rituals but this time we learned what Iloilo is all about: the place, the people, the religious side, and the history of each district, which we can adopt for the next Dinagyangs. It’s advantageous for us choreographers,” said Flogen.




The Dagyang sa Calle Real, which was present this year, will return in a different fashion next year, to be organized by the Rotary Club of Iloilo South.

The most recent iteration of the event last Jan. 25, featured smaller tribes from different barangays doing merry making at Calle Real in City Proper.

There will be four segments under the “virtual” Dinagyang sa Calle Real-Time – Merry Making It Real Time, Going Back In Time, Kiay-Kiay sang Lin-ay, and Patisoy ni Nonoy.

Merry Making It Real Time is a dance competition divided into two categories, the local categories, which will consist of groups from the city and province of Iloilo, and global categories from other areas of the country and the world.

In the local category, entrants composed of 6 to 10 members will send a two-minutes-and-thirty-seconds dance video of their group via email on or before Dec. 28 and will be screened.

The top 10 will be provided with a uniform dance routine and music by the IAFA, and will be given one week to practice their routine.

They will shoot their dance videos at Muelle Loney on Jan. 10, and subsidies for costumes and accessories will also be provided.

For the global category, a group of 6 should submit their video via email on or before Dec. 28.

They will no longer undergo rehearsal, and the top 10 videos submitted will be uploaded along with the local category.

For both categories, the choreography shall be Dinagyang-inspired and social distancing shall be observed.

The second segment, Going Back In Time is a “throwback” photo contest with three categories, the partners or couples category, the family category, and the barkada category.

Participants will send their photos from the past editions of the Dagyang sa Calle Real via email, and must also upload them on their own Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The top 5 finalists for each category will be uploaded to the festival’s official Facebook page.

Duyag cites the third segment, the Kiay-Kiay sang Lin-ay, as a “tribute” to Iloilo City’s very own Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo.

This segment is open to women and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community.

Interested entrants should send their 1-minute ramp routine audition TikTok video, with Ilonggo musician JM Bales’ “Magandang Dilag” as the background music, via email.

The song was featured as the background music for the swimsuit competition during the Miss Universe Philippines 2020 competition in October.

Five finalists will be chosen and will shoot with the dancers of the Merry Making It Real Time contest on Jan. 10, to the tune of “Basta Ilongga Gwapa.”

The males will also have their shot in the fourth segment, Patisoy ni Nonoy, where there will be an interpretation of a Dinagyang dance routine to the festival classic “Hala Bira Iloilo” via Tiktok video which they must send via email on or before Dec. 28.

The top 5 will also shoot a video with a uniform routine to be given to them.

For both third and fourth competitions, there will be subsidies for costumes and accessories.

All qualified entries for the four segments will be uploaded to the Iloilo Dinagyang Festival Facebook page on January 23, 9 a.m., and winners will be announced on January 24.

RC Iloilo South President-Elect Aldene Duyag said the goal of the event was to make the festival interactive to the whole world through online means.

“The goal of this activity is to make Dinagyang 2021 Digital interactive to the people who are just watching from their gadgets, from their homes, and not just in Iloilo, but all over the world. The whole world will enjoy Dinagyang,” Duyag said during the press conference.




The Mural Painting Competition was also introduced on Monday and is spearheaded by JCI Iloilo.

Seven teams, one per district, with seven members aged 16 to 60 years old, will bring color to the mural walls at Atria Park District in Mandurriao, following the festival’s theme “One Dinagyang – One Iloilo – Halad Kay Señor Sto. Niño”.

Each participating group shall submit a miniature version of their proposed mural painting via any preferred medium on or before Jan. 3, one week before the opening of the event on Jan. 10.

The teams must finish their murals on or before Jan. 17.

Latex paint will be provided through one of the major sponsors, Davies Paint, but teams must have their own platforms and ladders.

Entries will be judged on creativity, presentation and vibrancy of their designs, originality of content, relevance to the theme, message of the artwork, and relevance to the district being represented.

The winners will also be awarded on Jan. 24.