Through the years – Highlights of Iloilo Dinagyang History

The Dinagyang Festival is an annually celebrated socio-cultural-religious event in Iloilo City. It has contributed alot to the identity of Ilonggos and their cultural heritage. In itself, Dinagyang is a huge tourism affair which significantly helps strengthen the city’s already formidable reputation and income.

Here are the highlights of Dinagyang history:

The Beginnings: Honoring Sto. Niño thru Iloilo Ati-Atihan

Sr. Santo Nino

Sr. Santo Nino

November 1967 – The devotion to Sto. Niño was introduced by Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez — Parish Priest of the San Jose Parish.

1968 – Fr. Sulpicio Enderez of Cebu brought a replica of the Sto. Niño de Cebu to Iloilo as a gift. The reception was done by parading down the streets of Iloilo from the Old Mandurriao Airport. The enthusiastic welcoming of the Sto. Niño was led by Fr. Galindez and by then Mayor Renerio Ticao.

The celebration was patterned after the Ati-atihan of Aklan which natives simulate ‘Atis’ by covering their bodies with soot and ashes.  This includes rhythmic drums, street dancing, and shouting praises for Sto. Niño.

The infant years of Iloilo Ati-Atihan Contest

1969 – The very first Ati-Atihan contest which consists of only four competing tribes was held.

1970 – Ati-Atihan competition had been formally embraced as an integral part of the festival. The winning tribe was Madjapahit Tribe of Compania Maritima.

Authentic Indigenous Atis Performing

Authentic Indigenous Atis Performing

1971 to 1973Tribu Mamau of Negros Navigation became the first dominant tribe — the first tribe to become champion for three years in succession (three-peat).

1976 – Street dancing and audience participation were allowed — even encouraged. Spectators and tourists would not only watch the competing tribes but also join the dancing parade in the streets.

1977 – There was no competition but an authentic Ati tribe from the mountains of Barotac Viejo was invited by the organizers to perform and display their native dances.

Popular radio broadcaster Pacifico Sumagpao Sudario coined the term ‘Dinagyang’. This would also help separate the Iloilo festival from other ati-atihan celebrations. From then on, the annual celebration is know as the ‘Dinagyang Festival’.

The Glorious Dinagyang Competition

1979 – No winner was specified.

1990 to 1992Tribu Sagasa dominated the start of the decade, became the 2nd tribe to win a three-peat. While Tribu Sagasa was dominating, Tribu Bola-Bola of Iloilo National High School was warming up and ultimately won their first championship in 1994.

1996 – The start of the ‘Bola-Bola era’. Tribu Bola-Bola is the tribe with most wins (9) as of this writing. It also has the longest winning streak — six consecutive wins, an unprecedented back-to-back three-peat (1996 to 2001).

Tribu Bola-Bola: The Winningest Tribe in Dinagyang History

Tribu Bola-Bola: The Winningest Tribe in Dinagyang History

1998 to 2005 – Dinagyang Ati-Ati competition was divided into two categories — Open Category and Barangay Category.

2002 to 2003Tribu Bola-Bola was starting to get some worthy competition from other heavily sponsored tribes like Tribu Paghidaet of Lapaz High School which ultimately won their first championship in 2002 — snapping the immaculate winning streak of Tribu Bola-Bola.
Tribu Paghidaet proved that it was no fluke when they won again the next year. Over the next ten years, Tribu Paghidaet stayed relevant and won a couple more championship over the course of that time.

Dagoy and International Recognition of Dinagyang Festival

2002The first time the festival was handled by lloilo Dinagyang Foundation Inc. (IDFI). Promotional sketches of ‘Dagoy’ began.

2004Dagoy’s first public appearance was at The Fort, Taguig City, Metro Manila on December 11. A week later, he made his presence felt in Iloilo City.

2005Dagoy’s first Dinagyang as the official mascot.

Dagoy: The Official Dinagyang Mascot

Dagoy: The Official Dinagyang Mascot

2006 – Divisive categories were abolished. Competition was opened for everyone.

2006 to 2008 – Dinagyang was voted as the best Tourism Event for 3 consecutive years by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines. It is the first festival 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 and NGO cooperatives.


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