Dinagyang Festival
An Ati Warrior in Dinagyang Festival
Official nameIloilo Dinagyang Festival
Also calledDinagyang
Observed byIloilo City
TypeReligious / Cultural
DateFourth Sunday in January
2023 dateJanuary 22  (2023-01-22)
2024 dateJanuary 28  (2024-01-28)
2025 dateJanuary 26  (2025-01-26)
2026 dateJanuary 25  (2026-01-25)
First time1968; 56 years ago (1968)

The Dinagyang Festival is a religious and cultural festival in Iloilo City, Philippines, held annually on the fourth Sunday of January in honor of Santo Niño, the Holy Child. It is one of the largest festivals in the Philippines, drawing hundreds of thousands to over a million visitors every year.[1][2]

The festival is well-known for its Ati Tribes Competition, featuring various tribu or tribe performers in Ati warrior costumes, presenting traditional choreographed formations, patterns, and rhythmic chanting to the beat of loud drums and improvised percussion instruments, that narrate different iterations of the history of Panay. Another highlight is the Kasadyahan Festival, where different cultural festivals from various places in Western Visayas come together to compete.

As the most awarded festival in the country and having been named the best tourism event by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines (ATOP) for many years, the festival is often hailed as the "Queen of All Philippine Festivals."[3]


The word Dinágyang came from a Hiligaynon word extrapolated from dágyang, meaning “merrymaking.”[4] The festival hosts a celebration of the Santo Niño (Holy Child or Infant Jesus) and the pact between the Datus and the locals after the arrival of Malay settlers and the legendary barter of Panay Island from the natives called Ati.


An Ati Tribe participant of Dinagyang Festival

Dinagyang, initially known as Iloilo Ati-Atihan, began after Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, the first Filipino Rector of the Augustinian Community and Parish Priest of the San Jose Parish introduced the devotion to Santo Niño in November 1967 after observing the Ati-Atihan Festival in the province of Aklan. On 1968, a replica of the original image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was brought to Iloilo by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez.

The people of Iloilo welcomed the image, along with followers from Cebu, upon its arrival at Mandurriao Airport.

"as a gift to the Parish of San Jose. The faithful, led by members of Confradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, Iloilo Chapter, worked to give the image a fitting reception starting at the Iloilo Airport and parading down the streets of Iloilo."[5]

In the beginning, the observance of the feast was confined to the parish. The Confradia patterned the celebration on the Ati-Atihan of Ibajay, Aklan, where natives dance in the streets, their bodies covered with soot and ashes, to simulate the Atis dancing to celebrate the sale of Panay. It was these tribal groups who were the prototype of the present festival.[6]

A member of Tribu Arevalo holding an illuminated Santo Niño

In 1977, the Marcos government ordered the various regions of the Philippines to come up with festivals or celebrations that could boost tourism and development. The City of Iloilo readily identified the Iloilo Ati-Atihan as its project. At the same time, the local parish could no longer handle the growing challenges of the festival.[7]The late Ilonggo broadcaster and writer Pacifico Sumagpao Sudario coined the term in 1977 to differentiate it from Kalibo's Ati-Atihan.[8] In that particular year, the Dinagyang organizers and by the Regional Association of National Government Executives invited an actual Ati tribe for the first time from the mountains of Barotac Viejo, and showcase their native dances during the event.

Since 1978, the Dinagyang Festival has grown into a significant religious and cultural event. The festival has now diversified to include other cultural presentations, sports competitions, food festivals, a beauty pageant, car shows, music festivals, and various side events. The Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI) currently manages and organizes the festival. They took over the responsibility from the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. (IDFI) in 2019 and also manage other major festivals in Iloilo, such as the Paraw Regatta.[9]


A fireworks display over the Iloilo River during the Dinagyang celebration

The Dinagyang season officially begins during the Pamukaw (awakening), held annually in December, one month prior to the main celebration in January. This event signifies the official start of the festival.[10]

The Opening Salvo of Dinagyang, which takes place annually on the second Friday of January, serves as a proclamation of the official beginning of the highlight week or the main celebration of the festival.[11][12] It is also a preliminary to the three major events, which held annually every fourth weekend of January: the Ati Tribes Competition (held on a Sunday), the Kasadyahan Festival (held on a Saturday), and the ILOmination and Floats Parade of Lights (held on a Friday).

Meat being sold on one of the many food stalls lined in the downtown streets

Other events that are highly celebrated during the highlight week of the festival are Sadsad (merrymaking), Food and Music Festivals, Fluvial and Motorcade Parades, and Miss Iloilo.

Kasadyahan Festival

Main article: Kasadyahan Festival

Kasadyahan Festival is one of the most anticipated events during the Dinagyang celebration. It is a competition among cultural festivals from different places in the Western Visayas region.

As an added attraction to the Ati Tribes competition, the Kasadyahan Cultural competition was added to the festival from the 1980s to 2019 to showcase the talents of the students as well as the rich cultural heritage of the province of Iloilo.[13] In the first few years of this event, schools from various towns and cities in the province participated in this competition, but in recent times, the cultural competition confined only to the province has become a regional event, accepting entries from other provinces of the region, showcasing the best of Western Visayas cultural and historical heritage.

Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) announced that the Kasadyahan Festival would no longer be part of the Dinagyang Festival starting in 2020. It was replaced by merry making or the sadsad that has been the central feature of the Ati-Atihan Festival of Kalibo, Aklan. Meanwhile, the Kasadyahan Festival was said to be celebrated in a separate month or possibly incorporated into the celebration of Iloilo City’s Charter Day. However, these plans got canceled due to the pandemic.[14] The Kasadyahan Regional Cultural Competition returned to Dinagyang in 2023 on Saturday preceding the main highlights of the mardi gras celebration the following day. In the last quarter of 2023, the Iloilo provincial government announced they will organized the Kasadyahan Festival and will name it Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahan which was launched on December 13, 2023, which will showcase different town festivals in Iloilo province competing for the title replacing the previous year's regional competition.[15]

ILOmination and Parade of Lights

Tribu Molo contingents during the ILOmination competition

ILOmination is an additional Dinagyang tribes competition where warriors wear colorfully lit costumes. First added in 2023, it showcases seven competing tribes representing the seven districts of Iloilo City, namely the City Proper, Arevalo, Jaro, La Paz, Lapuz, Mandurriao, and Molo.[16] It is a parade-type street dance competition that allows spectators to witness every performance from the tribes.[17] The Floats Parade of Lights is also featured during the event, where gigantic and colorful floats of the sponsors for the Dinagyang Festival are going by the parade. It was first added in the 2018 edition during the 50th anniversary of the Dinagyang Festival.[18]

Ati Tribes Competition

Ati Warriors, wearing intense costumes during the Ati Tribe dance competition

The main highlight of the festival, which is the Ati Tribes competition held at Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, consists of a number of "warrior" dancers (who hold a shield in one hand and a spear in another) in a tribe (locally called "tribu") dancing in a choreographed formation and patterns as well as chanting to the sound of loud drum beats and improvised percussion instruments innovated by the respective tribes. In the early years, a number of tribes were created, founded and organized by some of the barangay or communities around the city, but through the years, as the Dinagyang evolves and the competition becomes more competitive, gaining worldwide fame and attention, schools are starting to create and organize tribes, introducing dynamic new dance patterns, formations and choreography, soliciting sponsors from private companies for expenses and the cost of participating in the competition.[19]

No actual Ati are involved, nor do they benefit in any way from this event. There are a number of requirements, including that the performers must paint their skin black and be indigenous; other kinds of materials can be used for the costumes. All dances are performed to drum music. Many tribes are organized by the local high schools, and in recent times, some tribes came from as far as Batanes in Luzon and Cotabato in Mindanao. The tribes receive a subsidy from the IFFI and the city government of Iloilo[20] and recruit private sponsors, with the best tribes receiving the most. The current Ati population of Iloilo is not involved with any of the tribes nor are they involved in the festival in any other way, although recently the original Atis from the hinterlands of Panay, specifically from the mountains of Barotac Nuevo and Anilao, came to participate non-competitively for recognition and to give them importance as being the characters symbolically portrayed in the festival.[21]

Grand Champions

For a more comprehensive list, see List of Dinagyang Tribes Competition winners.

The grand champion of the Ati Tribes Competition receives a 1,000,000 cash prize and a trophy,[22] and also gets a chance to perform at the year’s Philippine Independence Day rites in New York City.[23] They will also represent Dinagyang in the annual Aliwan Fiesta held in the Star City Complex in Pasay, Metro Manila, where they will compete in the dance competition category against other winning groups from festivals across the country.[24]

As of Dinagyang 2024, the reigning grand champion is Tribu Pan-ay of Fort San Pedro National High School.[25]

Dinagyang Legacy

Iloilo Provincial Capitol grounds celebrate Dinagyang at night

Dinagyang, as one of the most popular festivals in the Philippines, is honored and recognized for many different aspects, from its innovations and awards to its popular catchphrase, Hala Bira, Iloilo! Viva Señor Santo Niño!

Hala bira is a Hiligaynon phrase that means "dispense all means," which is a popular catchphrase among Ilonggos to show enthusiastic involvement in the Dinagyang. During the celebration, the phrase is always heard attributed to the festival theme song, "Hala Bira, Iloilo!" played on every street in the city. The song was composed in the early 2000s by Rommel Salvador N. Chiu and an award-winning musician and lyricist Dante M. Beriong. It is one of the first and most recognizable festival theme songs in the Philippines.[26]


A Dinagyang trinket being sold on the streets during the festival

Dinagyang festival has brought a lot of innovations throughout the years. These innovations has influenced the way other festivals in the country is run. Among these are the following:

Recognitions and awards

Dinagyang is the most awarded festival in the Philippines. It has been recognized as the country's best tourism event by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines (ATOP) for three consecutive years in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In 2020, it received another ATOP's Best Tourism Event Award (as Contemporary/Non-Traditional Expression Category).[31] Its Dinagyang Digital edition in 2021 has also won as the Grand Winner of ATOP's Pearl Awards and Best Tourism Practice during the Pandemic, which was the only award given by ATOP during that year. In 2022, it was declared as the grand winner of the Best Cultural Festival Award-City category.[32] In the 2024 Philippine LEAF Awards, Dinagyang has been awarded as the Best Festival in the Visayas.[33]

It is one of few festivals in the world to get the support of the United Nations for the promotion of the Millennium Development Goals, and cited by the Asian Development Bank as Best Practice on government, private sector & NGO cooperatives.[34]

Dinagyang also holds the record for the highest number of grand champions in Aliwan Fiesta, an annual “festival of festivals” competition showcasing diverse cultural festivals from across the Philippines.[35]

See also


  1. ^ Sornito, Ime (January 30, 2019). "Dinagyang 2019 'attracted most number of foreign tourists'". Panay News. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  2. ^ Jr, Nestor P. Burgos (January 22, 2012). "1.2M tourists join Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo, say local execs". INQUIRER.net. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  3. ^ "Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City - TAYO.ph - Life Portal of the Philippines PH". tayo.ph. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  4. ^ Kaufmann, John (1934). Kapulúñgan Binisayá-Ininglís [Visayan-English Dictionary] (PDF) (in Hiligaynon) (1st ed.). Iloilo: La Editorial. p. 546. ISBN 9781523444267. OCLC 20384136. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 28, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  5. ^ History of Dinagyang Festiva. 2014. Archived from the original on December 6, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  6. ^ History of Dinagyang Festival Archived 2016-12-06 at the Wayback Machine. Iloilo Dinagyang Festival Inc. Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  7. ^ History of Dinagyang Festival Archived 2016-12-06 at the Wayback Machine. Iloilo Dinagyang Festival Inc. Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  8. ^ "DINAGYANG IN A NUTSHELL: Merry-making the Ilonggo way". Panay News. January 22, 2022. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  9. ^ "New Dinagyang organizer, city gov't fix hitch - Iloilo Metropolitan Times". www.imtnews.ph. September 18, 2019. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  10. ^ Lena, Perla (December 16, 2022). "'Pamukaw' marks official start of Dinagyang Festival". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 17, 2024.
  11. ^ "Dinagyang Festival ⋆ Expert World Travel". January 6, 2020. Retrieved January 22, 2024.
  12. ^ Guardian, Daily (January 10, 2024). "Iloilo City gears up for Dinagyang Festival's Opening Salvo on Jan. 12". Daily Guardian. Retrieved January 17, 2024.
  13. ^ "Kasadyahan Festival | Dinagyang Festival 2013". dinagyangsailoilo.com. Archived from the original on November 30, 2012.
  14. ^ rex (August 22, 2019). "EXPERIENTIAL TWIST: No more Kasadyahan in Dinagyang 2020". Daily Guardian. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  15. ^ Lena, Perla (December 14, 2023). "'Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahanan' to showcase Iloilo's rich culture". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  16. ^ Lena, Perla (January 4, 2023). "Dinagyang 'ILOmination' to showcase Iloilo's major growth areas". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  17. ^ Lena, Perla (October 23, 2023). "2024 Dinagyang fest marks comeback of schools, innovations". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  18. ^ Ferrer, Cindy (January 28, 2018). "'Parade of lights' brightens golden Dinagyang Fest". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  19. ^ "Updates | Dinagyang Festival 2013". dinagyangsailoilo.com. Archived from the original on January 1, 2013.
  20. ^ "Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. Rules and Regulations". Archived from the original on December 7, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  21. ^ "For Ati tribe, Dinagyang 'is about us'". January 26, 2013.
  22. ^ "Dinagyang 2024 grand winner to receive P25M worth of school projects - Iloilo Metropolitan Times". www.imtnews.ph. January 13, 2024. Retrieved January 22, 2024.
  23. ^ Lena, Perla (January 30, 2018). "Dinagyang champ off to New York in June". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 22, 2024.
  24. ^ "Aliwan Fiesta: Festival of champions". Malaya. April 4, 2008. Archived from the original on September 22, 2008. Retrieved July 27, 2008.
  25. ^ Guardian, Daily (January 28, 2024). "BACK AFTER 12 YEARS: Tribu Pan-ay sweeps Ati tribes competition crown". Daily Guardian. Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  26. ^ "Singer-composer sa likod sang Dinagyang theme song nga 'Hala Bira Iloilo,'". www.gmanetwork.com. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  27. ^ Lagon, Herman (July 18, 2023). "Dinagyang: Festival of festivals!". Daily Guardian. Retrieved January 8, 2024. The 55-year-old Hala Bira shouting Ilonggo revelry introduced the concept of carousel productions and simultaneous performances by competing tribes in different judging areas.
  28. ^ Lagon, Herman (July 18, 2023). "Dinagyang: Festival of festivals!". Daily Guardian. Retrieved January 8, 2024. Mobile risers, pioneered by the legendary Tribu Bola-Bola of Iloilo National High School in 1994, have added depth and improved the choreography of dance movements.
  29. ^ Lobrin, Raphael (May 20, 2018). "Dinagyang". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved January 8, 2024. Dinagyang pipes were popularized by Tribu Ilonganon in 2005. Made of PVC, they are hit with rubber paddles.
  30. ^ "Dagoy". www.thenewstoday.info. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  31. ^ Lena, Perla (October 28, 2022). "Pearl Award to spark more interest in Iloilo Dinagyang Festival". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
  32. ^ "Dinagyang Festival named Best Cultural Festival anew". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  33. ^ Yap, Tara (February 9, 2024). "Dinagyang feted as Best Festival in the Visayas". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved February 9, 2024.
  34. ^ History of Dinagyang Festival Archived 2016-12-06 at the Wayback Machine. Iloilo Dinagyang Festival Inc. Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  35. ^ Release, Press (October 16, 2023). "Awards boost Dinagyang". SunStar Publishing Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.