Where is the Sto. Niño in the visually stunning Dinagyang Festival?
ILOILO CITY – As the Dinagyang festival in Iloilo enters its 50th year, there have been increasing calls to re-affirm the festival’s supposed religious roots, temper the visually stunning but increasingly extravagant Ati tribe competition, and veer away from unhampered commercialism.
In previous years, festival organizers drew flak after it was observed that the festival mascot “Dagoy” and images of alcoholic beverages appeared more prominent than the Sto. Niño in promotional materials.
Religious activities are lined up along other events in the weeks leading to the peak of the festival.
These include Masses, fluvial and foot processions, visitations of the image of the Sto. Niño in schools and business establishment.
But these have been overshadowed by non-religious and commercial-oriented events, according to renowned director and choreographer Edwin Duero who has repeatedly called for reforms in the festival.
“We must decide whether the Dinagyang is primarily a religious or tourism-oriented festival. Then we should be clear where we want to bring this festival,” he said.
As artistic director of Tribu Bola-Bola of the Iloilo National High School, Duero repeatedly steered the tribe to championships in the Ati tribe contest, winning even the minor awards since 1994.
Duero said the Dinagyang has certainly grown as a tourism event but its religiousity has been “waning.”
Even in the tribe contest wherein the dance should be in honor of the Sto. Niño, the integration of the Sto. Niño has become “mere compliance.”
“Worse, images are at times used as like any other props in the performances,” Duero said.
He said the choreography and performances have become “a contest of trends and of outdoing each other in terms of grandiose costumes and props but lacking in cohesion.”
Festival organizers have maintained that religious activities have been preserved and have even expanded.
Ramon Cua-Locsin, chair of the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation Inc., the private sector-led group that organizes the festival, said they have been continually monitoring and regulating the tribes’ performances.
He said limits have been set in the use of risers and props. Tribes were also directed to include more dances in their performance.
Duero has also pointed out the significant drop in tribes joining the Ati tribe competition.
From more than 30 tribes in previous years, only 10 tribes have been joining the competition in the past two years.
Festival organizers have said that they have limited the number of tribes to those who can meet the standards in terms of performances.
Duero said the nature of the tribe competition and the drive to produce grander but costly performances have limited participation.
If the cost of organizing and maintaining a tribe remains unregulated due to the nature of the performances and competition, the festival could see fewer tribes joining the Ati tribe competition, the main attraction of the festival.
He said the competition should also be anchored on artistic direction with a clear and coherent vision to ensure that the performances do not stray and would not be a smorgasbord of moves and styles.
For the second straight year, the Tribu Salognon of the Jaro National High School won on Sunday the coveted top spot in the Ati tribe contest of Iloilo’s Dinagyang festival.
A main contender and 2015 champion Tribu Panayanon of Iloilo City National High School was the first runner-up, followed by Tribu Ilonganon of the Jalandoni Memorial National High School (second runner-up), Tribu Paghidaet of the La Paz National High School (third runner-up) and Tribu Pan-ay of Fort San Pedro National High School (fourth runner-up).
Salognon, which received a P200,000 cash prize, also won three minor awards: best in music, costume, and in performance.
Best in discipline went to Tribu Ilonganon, while Tribu Panayanon won best choreography.
In the Kasadyahan regional cultural contest held on Saturday, Hubon Binagtong sa Manggahan of Guimaras dethroned Hubon Tatusan of Caluya, Antique, as champion.
Tatusan finished as first runner-up followed by Pintados de Passi of Passi City (second runner-up), Tribu Tinabu-ay of Murcia, Negros Occidental (third runner-up) and Tribu Salakayan of Miag-ao, Iloilo (fourth runner-up).
Hubon Binagtong received a cash prize of P175,000. It also awarded best in costume, music, musical director, choreography, choreographer and performance.
Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog promised a bigger and grander festival in 2018, its 50th year.
Held every fourth weekend of January, the Dinagyang is among the many festivals held to profess devotion to the Child Jesus Sto. Niño.
The festival especially its Ati tribe street-dancing competition has reaped international recognition aside from having been elevated to the Hall of Fame as the Best Tourism Event in the country by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines. SFM
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