Text and images by Noel Pabalate
The Dinagyang Festival, one of the most spectacular festivals of the Philippines celebrating cultural and religious traditions in honor of the Sto. Niño, leveled up every year. One of its upgrades for 2019 was the staging of its main event, the Ilonggo version of the Ati Atihan, at the newly built Iloilo Freedom Grandstand in Muello Loney Street, with the Iloilo River as its backdrop. Another attraction that pushed the festivity a notch higher is the Parade of Lights, organized and introduced last year by the Iloilo Dinagyang Festival Foundation, Inc. (IDFI), in partnership with Megaworld Corporation.
On its second year, the parade showcased street dancers in glowing neon costumes and over 20 competing floats that were elaborately designed with flashy, colorful lights. At dusk, they illuminated the roads along the Mandurriao district, from Diversion Bridge to the Iloilo Business Park (IBP). The float created by International Pharmaceuticals Inc. emerged as the grandest of all, bagging the P250,000 cash prize.
With corporate sponsors, local government units, schools, and civic organizations participating, the Parade of Lights has become one of the most anticipated events in the annual Dinagyang Festival. After sunset, 10,000 spectators gathered on both sides of the Megaworld Boulevard, waiting patiently for the floats to snail their way through the street. Smartphones from the gathered crowd stole the thunder from the stars overhead as the spectators took photos and videos of the Disney-like parade.
“The floats are more beautiful this year,” boasts Mary, a resident at IBP’s One Madison Place Tower One, while she was waiting for the evening’s fireworks display. After the parade, the dim sky of Megaworld’s 72-hectare township property glittered with fireworks for over 10 minutes.
With the overwhelming response to the Parade of Lights, IDFI has decided to institutionalize the event. “Next year, we intend to bring in more lights and colors by inviting another festival of lights from Pototan, Iloilo— the Iwag Festival that draws crowds to their municipality each year. We are also considering extending the invitation to the winners of the Electric Masskara of our neighboring city, Bacolod. Moreover, we are also looking at the possibility of a separate street dancing competition to further add excitement to the event,” shares Jobert Peñaflorida, chairman of the Floats Parade Of Lights Committee.
A mini-concert by Ely Buendia’s band Apartel also entertained revelers at IBP’s Festive Walk Parade until midnight. They did not only enjoy the music but also the overflowing booze and Ilonggo street delicacies, mostly beer-matchers like liempo, chicken inasal, assortments of grilled seafood, and barbeques, prepared by the Iloilo Hotel Restaurants Association. Guests also enjoyed the StrEat Party Food that occupied the entire stretch of the Festive Walk Parade.
The party lasted ‘til the wee hours of the morning, with the Viva Music Fest featuring international DJ Jetfire keeping the crowd alive with electrifying beats.
“In partnership with IDFI, Megaworld is happy to be part of this tradition. Every year we’re looking to improve the festival for locals and tourists to have a memorable time in Iloilo,” says IBP vice president for sales and marketing Jennifer Palamares-Fong. She adds that, by holding some of the festival’s major events, they are able to showcase Dinagyang and Iloilo to the world, and prove that IBP is a world-class destination.
A day prior to the festivities, IBP also hosted the Miss Dinagyang beauty pageant where Maria Mikhaella Incensario was crowned Carnival Queen. On Day 3 of the festival, musical performances from UDD and celebrities James Reid and Nadine Lustre extended the revelry.
Visitors also witnessed the special tribal dance by Tribu Bola-Bola of Iloilo at the Dinagyang Warriors Parade at Festive Walk Mall, the largest lifestyle mall outside of Luzon. On top of that, they were also able to score great deals at the Pasalubong Center and participating retail stores and restaurants.
Hotels located at the IBP, Richmonde Iloilo and Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, were fully booked—proof that the Dinagyang is the “Queen of Philippines Festivals.” The hotels also had their pocket parties, including the VIP Night of the Dinagyang Musicfest and Chef Rafael Jardeleza Jr.’s Tabu-an sa Dinagyang on the seventh-floor roof-deck of the Richmonde Hotel Iloilo.
Jobert told us that the IBP has surely contributed in providing more venues for the celebration of the various activities of the Dinagyang Festival. The same spirit of merrymaking in the city proper is simulated at the IBP, but with the additional comfort and amenities of the Festive Walk Mall and the Festive Walk Parade.
Anticipating an influx of tourists next year, the management of the IBP assures that they can accommodate more visitors because they will open Belmont Iloilo later this year. “And to support the booming tourism of Iloilo, we are offering businessmen the opportunity to invest in a Megaworld hotel within IBP,” says Jennifer.
Megaworld has been instrumental in the development of Iloilo, creating a reverse migration because the IBP has given more opportunities to Ilonggos. And that, they believe, is a real reason to celebrate.