Dinagyang Festival eyes physical comeback in 2023

If plans push through, Dinagyang fever will hit the streets of Iloilo City in January 2023 as organizers prepare for a return to face-to-face holding the best tourism event in the country after two years of hybrid presentations because of COVID-19. (Arnold Almacen file photo)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Iloilo City streets will see colors and hear heavy drumbeats and cheers again in January 2023 as organizers of the annual Dinagyang Festival are eyeing its full face-to-face comeback.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has announced that the organizer of the festival, Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) is already planning to bring back the live staging of Dinagyang Festival next year.

“Ang pagpakita sang pagtuo mas magalevel up sini nga 2023. The IFFI is eyeing to bring back the face-to-face celebration of Dinagyang Festival next year. The world-renowned festival will showcase the Ilonggos’ devotion to Señor Sto. Niño,” Treñas announced on his social media page.

IFFI Executive Director Joyce Clavecillas confirmed that they are now in the early stages of planning for Dinagyang 2023, which is geared towards face-to-face activities.

“Of course, whatever guidelines will be put in place by the [Inter-Agency Task Force], [Iloilo City government], and other [relevant] government agencies, we will still adhere to that. So whatever will be the decision of the national government agencies and the local government unit, we still need to follow that in holding the Dinagyang Festival,” Clavecillas told the city government’s Level Up Patrol.

Clavecillas said the IFFI will release updates as soon as they have ironed out the proper working committees and the more technical details, largely pertaining to protocols in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

The 55th Dinagyang Festival will be the first edition to be held in a fully physical format, after the 53rd and 54th editions were mounted digitally and in hybrid format due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 54th edition in 2021 won the Pearl Award and the Best Tourism Practice awards at the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) Awards last December.

It was 2020, a few months before Covid-19 hit the country, when the last celebration of Dinagyang Festival was face-to-face.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, major streets in the city were bustling with Dinagyang spectators, ambulant vendors, and food stalls. The highlight of the festival which was the tribes’ competition gathered millions of tourists from all over the world.

Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the IFFI to halt the staging of the live Dinagyang Festival in 2021.

Instead, the organizers took the challenge of transforming the world-class festival into a visual spectacle where the performances of the tribes were pre-recorded and made available online.

This year’s edition is the second time that Dinagyang Festival went digital. The tribes cultural competition which was the highlight of the festival was pre-recorded and composed of live and canned performances. Dinagyang warriors were limited to 20 and each tribe had its own film crew.

Organizers also trimmed down the events and cancelled big events which would gather crowds and potentially be “superspreaders” amid the spiking Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism Region 6 (DOT-6) expressed its support for the plans of Iloilo City to revive the staging of the live festival next year.

DOT-6 Regional Director Cristine Mansinares said that she is looking forward to the comeback of face-to-face celebration of not only the Dinagyang Festival but also other festivals in the region.

“Ang ina nga move [sang Iloilo City]… we see it as a very positive [move]. We want our economic development sige-sige na, so we are hoping and praying for that nga mapush through. Maskin sa iban naton nga destination ginalook forward na na naton ang pagbalik sang face-to-face nga festivals,” she said in an interview with Radyo Pilipinas Iloilo on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Mansiranes has also stressed the need to strengthen the administration of booster shots among tourism workers in preparation for the comeback of live festivals.

“We are hoping nga ma-strengthen ang paghatag sang booster shots sa aton mga tourism workers sa aton community because it will protect us from the virus,” she said.

The Dinagyang Festival has been held since 1968, honoring the arrival of the Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu to the city in November 1967.

It is spearheaded by the IFFI, the Iloilo City Government, San Jose Parish Placer, and supported primarily by the Department of Tourism-Region 6.

The festival was previously honored by the ATOP as a best tourism practice in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and was likewise cited by the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank. (DG)