Images by AL DESTACAMENTO
What made this year’s Dinagyang Festival different from previous years was its 360-degree design approach, “an arena-type performance,” as tribes and artistic committee chair Eric Divinagracia put it. “It’s a design challenge,” he explained, adding that judges would be positioned north, east, west, and south, all four sides, of the Iloilo City Freedom Grandstand on Muelle-Loney Street facing the Iloilo River in the city proper, to make sure each performance would be appreciable from all angles.
Other than this extra challenge, the festival stayed true to its annual showcase of dagyang or merrymaking, its devotion to the Santo Niño, and its celebration of the indigenous culture of the Ati, including its virtues of thankful harvest and bayanihan.
At this year’s Dinagyang, presented by the City of Iloilo and the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI), eight tribes in a dazzle of color and texture and movement competed for the top prizes. Tribu Paghidaet of La Paz National High School bested them all, winning P5 million as well as many other recognitions, such as People’s Choice, Best Music, Best Choreography, Best in Production Design, and Best Performance.
Tribu Panayanon of Iloilo City National High School was first runner-up while Tribu Ilonganon of Jalandoni Memorial National High School, Tribu Salognon of Jaro National High School, and Tribu Dagatnon of Ramon Avancena National High School respectively won second, third, and fourth place. The second-placer, Tribu Ilonganon, also won Best in Costume Design, Best in Headdress, and Best in Sadsad (street dance).
Sixteen judges were tasked with the challenge of choosing the best of the best among the tribes, who each performed for the win. Among these judges were former Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) president Nestor Jardin, CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado, filmmakers Jeffrey Jeturian and Jhett Tolentino, Halili-Cruz School of Ballet founder and artistic director Shirley Halili-Cruz, UST Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and the Environment in the Tropics director Eric Zerrudo, and Manila Bulletin Lifestyle editor AA Patawaran.
As envisioned by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, with the 360-degree design challenge proved grander, more participative, and more experiential. The good mayor, alongside Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., welcomed this year’s revelers from all over the world, who packed the grandstand, despite the Taal disaster in Luzon and the then looming n-CoV scare, as well as the streets for the sadsad, including guest of honor Honeylet Avanceña. Also spotted were Senators Franklin Drilon and Imee Marcos, Iloilo Representative Jam Baronda, and Cabinet Secretary Carlo Nograles, as well as many foreign envoys, like Czech Ambassador Jana Sediva and Brazilian Ambassador .