Dinagyang Festival: Experience Iloilo’s Best

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  • Post last modified:February 13, 2023
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The Dinagyang Festival is an annual cultural and religious event held in Iloilo City, Philippines, on the fourth Sunday of January. People have it in honor of the child Jesus or the Santo Niño. 

The festival features a colorful parade of participants dressed in indigenous costumes, accompanied by drumbeats and lively dance performances. The event’s highlight is the Ati-Atihan competition, where different tribes compete in a street dance showdown while adorned in elaborate body paint and costumes. 

The festival also includes a religious procession, a Mass, and various cultural and culinary showcases.

If you want to join the Dinagyang Festival, we got your back. This post features everything you need to know about the event. 

What Is Dinagyang Festival? Dinagyang Festival Description

what is dinagyang festival

Dinagyang Festival has its roots in the Ati-Atihan festival, an ancient indigenous celebration held in honor of the Sto. Niño. People first celebrated it in 1968 in Iloilo City to honor the child Jesus and showcase the city’s rich culture and history.

In addition, the festival boasts colorful and energetic street performances. It also features participants dressed in elaborate costumes and body paint, dancing to the beat of drums and other traditional instruments. 

The event’s highlight is the Ati-Atihan competition, where different tribes compete in a street dance showdown. The tribes get judged based on choreography, costumes, and overall performance.

Aside from the street performances, the festival also includes a religious procession. During this, people carry the statue of the Sto. Niño, accompanied by devotees and other participants. They also hold a mass in honor of the Sto. Niño.

In addition to the cultural and religious elements, Dinagyang Festival features various food and product exhibits, showcasing the best of Iloilo’s culinary and craft traditions. As a result, the event attracts thousands of visitors annually from within the Philippines and abroad, making it one of the country’s most popular events.

Dinagyang Festival Place of Origin

dinagyang festival place of origin

The Dinagyang Festival originated in Iloilo City, Philippines. The event began after the introduction of devotion to Santo Niño by Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez in November 1967. He’s the Parish Priest of the San Jose Parish and the first Filipino Rector of the Augustinian Community. He introduced it after observing the Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan.

The festival was first celebrated in 1968, under the initiative of the late Iloilo City Mayor, Demetrio L. Gonzales. Its origin can be traced back to the Ati-Atihan Festival, an ancient indigenous celebration held in honor of the Sto. Niño, which the Ati people in Aklan province celebrated. Now, the festival is held annually on the fourth Sunday of January in Iloilo City.

The Dinagyang Festival is one of the most iconic festivals in the Philippines. Locals and tourists know it for its vibrant and energetic street performances.

The first Dinagyang Festival was a one-day event, and it was primarily a religious celebration. However, the festival has grown significantly over the years. It is now a four-day event featuring various activities that showcase the rich culture, history, and traditions of Iloilo City and its people.

Where Is Dinagyang Festival Celebrated? Dinagyang Festival Place

Dinagyang Festival is celebrated in Iloilo City, Philippines. The city is on the island of Panay in Western Visayas, Philippines. 

You can find its main events on the city’s main thoroughfares, such as Iznart, Valeria, and Ledesma Street. The festival attracts thousands of visitors annually from all over the country and abroad, making it one of the most popular events in the Philippines.

What Does Dinagyang Mean?

The word “dinagyang” came from the Hiligaynon word “dayang-dayang”. The word means “merriment” or “revelry.” 

The festival features a fusion of different elements. It includes religious, cultural, and commercial aspects. People celebrate it with great enthusiasm and excitement. 

Dinagyang Festival Costume

dinagyang festival costume
Source: Inquirer

The costumes worn during the Dinagyang Festival serve as one of the event’s centerpieces. People always applaud their vibrant colors and intricate designs. 

Participants of the Ati-Atihan competition (where different tribes compete in a street dance showdown) don the costumes. The outfits also highlight indigenous materials and designs that reflect the cultural heritage of Iloilo.

Moreover, the costumes typically consist of a headdress. Participants adorn it with feathers, beads, and other embellishments. Others use a body suit with designs inspired by indigenous patterns and colors. Meanwhile, some use accessories like armlets, leg bands, and anklets. These accessories add to the costumes’ visual appeal.

In addition, the costumes worn by the dancers feature elaborate body paint, another important aspect of the festival. The body paint is used traditional designs and colors. It also enhances the dancers’ movements and adds to the overall visual impact of the performance.

Interestingly, the costumes worn during the Dinagyang Festival don’t just reflect the rich cultural heritage of the Iloilo people. They also enhance the visual impact of the performances and add to the overall lively atmosphere of the festival.

To Whose Honor Is the Dinagyang Festival Offered? 

to whose honor is the dinagyang festival offered
Source: Wikipedia

The Dinagyang Festival honors the child Jesus or the Santo Niño. The festival is a religious celebration that originated from the ancient indigenous festival of Ati-Atihan, which is held in honor of the Sto. Niño. 

The Sto. Niño (Holy Child) represents the Infant Jesus. People believe it miraculous since Spanish friars found it in a bamboo box floating on the sea.

The festival also shows devotion to Jesus. The main event includes a religious procession, where devotees carry the statue of the Sto. Niño through the streets. Then, a mass is held in honor of him.

When Is Dinagyang Festival Month Celebrated?

The Dinagyang Festival is usually held on the fourth Sunday of January every year in Iloilo City, Philippines. The festival typically lasts for four days. It also features various activities, including religious processions, cultural and dance performances, and food & product exhibits.

People celebrate the event with great enthusiasm and excitement. It is also a time for joy and festivity among the people of Iloilo City and its visitors.

Delicacies You Must Try During the Dinagyang Festival

Here are some of the best delicacies you must try during the Dinagyang Festival: 

1. La Paz Batchoy

La Paz Batchoy

La Paz Batchoy is one of the most iconic dishes in Iloilo and the country. This extraordinary dish hails from the small town of La Paz, Iloilo, characterized by an oozing savory and delicious “liquid gold” soup.

Its main ingredients include exquisitely delicious noodles, soup, pork, chicharron, flavorful broth or stock, and a raw egg. Depending on your preference, you can add soy sauce or pepper to your batchoy.

2. Kansi

Source: Ang Sarap

Kansi a popular and fan-favorite Ilonggo dish for those craving a unique combination of beef and soup. 

A collaboration between two familiar Filipino dishes, bulalo and sinigang, it uses tender and delicious beef shanks flavored with the sour fruit batwan. Instead of the usual sinigang vegetables like kangkong, okra, and gabi, kansi uses a unique alternative, jackfruit.

3. Laswa

Source: Facebook

The term refers to a simple Ilonggo vegetable soup rich in fiber. It’s similar to the famous Dinengdeng of Ilokano Cuisine. 

The only difference is that it usually includes salt. Meanwhile, Dinengdeng recipes use bagoong. 

Ingredients of laswa include squash, sitaw, eggplant, okra, ampalaya, and patola. Cooks make it extra special with shrimp.

4. Pancit Molo

Pancit Molo
Source: Youtube

This delicacy refers to a traditional Ilonggo soup dish that originated in the town of Molo in Iloilo.

In this town, several Chinese immigrants lived in the past. Highly similar to the famous wonton soup of the Chinese, it features molo dumplings. These dumplings boast ground pork and a combination of different herbs and spices. 

Cooks make it more hearty and exquisite with shredded chicken and toasted garlic. Yum!

5. Apan-Apan

Source: Ang Sarap

This dish refers to a delicious version of the popular adobong kangkong, an Ilonggo dish. 

The richness of the flavor bonds well with the kangkong. Cooks make it extra special using crispy fried pork toppings called tulapho. 

When ordering apan-apan, you better get some extra rice. It perfectly matches the combination of flavors from coconut vinegar, soy sauce, and bagoong, making it irresistible. 

6. Biscocho

Source: Foxy Folksy

Bakers make biscocho by combining butter, flour, sugar, and eggs to form a dough. Next, they shape them into small rounds and bake them until golden brown. Some variations of biscocho include vanilla, anise, or cheese. 

People often serve biscocho as a snack paired with coffee or hot chocolate. It can also be used as an ingredient in other desserts, such as biscocho ice cream or biscocho cheesecake. 

7. Dinuguan

Source: Simpol

This dish refers to a savory Filipino stew made with pork blood, meat, and vegetables. Some call it “chocolate meat” because of the dark color of the sauce derived from pork blood.

People usually serve dinuguan with white rice. It’s also commonly paired with puto or steamed rice cake.

While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Dinuguan is considered a delicacy in Iloilo and is enjoyed by many locals. People who don’t know the dish might find it a bit unappetizing because of the use of pork blood. However, you must try Iloilo’s dinuguan for a unique and flavorful experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Dinagyang festival known for?

The Dinagyang Festival is known for being a devotion to the Holy Child Jesus or Sr. Sto. Niño. The festival also commemorates the arrival of the Malays and the barter of Panay Island from the indigenous group known as Ati. It also showcases the rich culture and history of Iloilo City and its people.

Why is it called Dinagyang festival?

It’s called Dinagyang Festival because of the Hiligaynon word from which the term came from. The festival was intended to honor the Ati people and commemorate the arrival of the Malay settlers on the island. By 1977, the festival was renamed Dinagyang, which means “merriment” in Hiligaynon, to describe the festive and joyful atmosphere of the event.
Later on, it was developed as the Iloilo Ati-atihan to remember how the Aetas graciously allowed the settlement of Datu Puti and his fellow datus on Panay. 

Is Dinagyang festival religious?

Yes, the Dinagyang Festival is religious. It’s also a cultural event held annually on the fourth Sunday of January in Iloilo City, Philippines. Folks celebrate it after the Sinulog and Ati-Atihan festivals that honor the child Jesus. The event also showcases Iloilo City’s culture and history. Additionally, it promotes faith and devotion to the Santo Niño. The festival also features religious processions, performances, and food exhibits. It also includes vibrant street performances, colorful costumes, and body paint.

What type of festival is Dinagyang?

Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival. It is held annually in Iloilo City, Philippines, on the fourth Sunday of January. The event honors the child Jesus and showcases the rich culture and history of Iloilo City. 


The Dinagyang Festival is a vibrant and exciting celebration that showcases the rich culture and history of Iloilo City, Philippines. This religious and cultural event honors the child Jesus, promotes faith and devotion to the Santo Niño, and attracts thousands of participants and visitors each year. 

So what are you waiting for? Enjoy the culture and tradition of Iloilo City by joining the Dinagyang Festival this year! 


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