ILOILO CITY—The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic did not stop Iloilo from celebrating the annual Dinagyang Festival.


But instead of Ilonggos pouring out into the city streets for the January 24 celebration, they were instead glued to their smartphones, laptops and TV sets to watch a theatrical street performance in the festival that honors the Santo Niño (Holy Child Jesus).

“Despite the strict health protocols being followed by everyone due to the pandemic, we showed the whole world that Ilonggos are one as we celebrate the biggest feast in the city,” said Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treña.

In lieu of Sunday’s actual live events that would draw crowds, the Sunday contest of groups depicting the folkloric story of Bornean immigrants making a pact with the tribal Ati people of Panay Island and their eventual Christianization was pre-taped.


“Indeed, the strength of Iloilo is the fact that we carry in our hearts and minds the fighting spirit of the Dinagyang warrior—strong and determined as well as powerful and prayerful,” said Atty. Jobert Peñaflorida, president of the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI).

IFFI partnered with the Iloilo City government and San Jose Parish Church to organize this year’s Dinagyang, which is believed to be the first major festival in the country that went digital due to the pandemic.

“No pandemic can ever dampen nor contain a heart that beats as one nation and is set ablaze with love and devotion,” said Ilonggo writer Marcel Milliam.

Audiences laud each performances of the groups choreographed by members of Ilonggo Artists Festival Association for its cinematic value.

“The cinematic approach to the main performances gave us a glimpse of what Dinagyang may look like in cinematic form,” observed independent filmmaker Reymundo Salao.

The performances of groups from the districts of Arevalo, City Proper, Jaro, La Paz, Lapuz, Mandurriao, and Molo were also a virtual tour of the city. Churches, the river park, the beachside, and landmarks were backdrops for the pre-taped performances that were viewed on screen.

“The performances showed iconic locations per district.  I was wishing for Tribu Mandurriao to be at Casa Emperador and I got it,” added Josenia Samson, a government employee.

The three-hour digital Dinagyang was hosted by Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo and actor Rocco Nacino.

Source: Manila Bulletin (