Dinagyang: ‘Epals’ welcome
ILOILO CITY — The local government declared an “open season” for candidates to strut their stuff in Iloilo’s famous Dinagyang Festival, one of several annual feasts being held in honor of the Child Jesus, or Sto. Niño.
Unlike in Cebu’s Sinulog Festival, where even publicity materials of candidates were banned, Iloilo City Mayor Jose Espinosa III said he will not take down streamers and posters of candidates, and will even allow national politicians “limited” time to speak during the opening of the Kasadyahan cultural contest on Saturday and Ati tribe street dancing contest on Sunday.
Politicians have come to be known as “epal,” or attention seeker, for seizing every opportunity to gain popularity or name recall among voters.
They often do this through oversized billboards or posters or by being present in events where huge crowds assemble, like the Dinagyang which in 2015 drew up to a million visitors to Iloilo City.
Several Cabinet members and undersecretaries were also expected to attend the festivities.
The event was open season for politicians, according to Espinosa. He said candidates would be allowed to speak during “lulls” in the performances of tribes.
The competitions on Saturday and Sunday usually last until noon.
A guideline for speakers released by Espinosa’s office asked guests to limit their speeches to two to three minutes.
“Please be guided that the audience will be eager to get the competition going and keeping the speech to a minimum will discourage booing or heckling from the crowd,” said the guideline released by the mayor’s office.
Speakers were advised to go directly to their topics and avoid acknowledging guests as the mayor in his welcome remarks would do this.
The guideline, however, advised candidates against talking politics in their speeches.
Organizers of the festivity, Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation Inc. and San Jose Parish, were encouraging speakers to focus “on the festival in honor of Señor Sto. Niño and to refrain from political comments,” the guideline said.
Espinosa said he also did not plan to order the removal of political streamers and posters during the festival because he did not want to be accused of politicking, too.
The mayor said he would leave it to the festival’s private organizers whether to allow or remove political materials.
But several Ilonggos have frowned on allowing politicians to use the festivity as a platform to promote themselves and their candidacies.
“This is supposed to be a religious festival,” one resident said.
“People come here to watch the tribes and performances and not to listen to or see these politicians,” said the resident, who asked that he not be identified for fear of reprisal from local officials.
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