January is festival season in the Western Visayas. Every major city has one weekend for their fiesta. But the preparations and anticipation start weeks before, of course. All these fiestas are dedicated to honor Santo Niño, which is a statue of the child Jesus located in Cebu. The biggest and most important one is the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo. For the special case of Dinagyang, people celebrate the arrival of the Malay in Panay and the selling of the island to them by the Atis (native tribes, that exist until today).

During the two weeks before the festival weekend they had a lot of services, cultural events and even humanitarian missions. Obviously there was an election for Miss Dinagyang 2017 as well. The whole city was full of posters of the competing young women and the coronation night happened in the biggest hall there is with loads of people standing outside. I’ll never understand that but oh well… I was looking forward to the tribe competitions on the weekend. Contrary to my expectations, the performers didn’t dance on the streets but only at special judging areas, where tickets were required to watch. By a very lucky incidence we got VIP tickets for free and we ended up sitting together with the media in front of the judges. Sometimes I like the perks of a white person… 🙂 No but I have to say that the streets of Iloilo during Dinagyang were the most unpleasant as people were taking pictures of me with out asking and most of them didn’t accept >No<. (At some point I started to shout “indi”, which you normally say to children or dogs. Very effective!) On Saturday they had the Kasadyahan. A competition of the best tribes all over Panay, Guimaras and Negros. For me personally, this was to most impressive thing to witness. Every city/region has their special history or is famous for something and that’s what they make their performance about. Passi city for example is the pineapple paradise of Panay. Or in Bacolod, Negros they have the Masskara Festival, so their costumes differed from the others. The team from Guimaras with their mango performance won in the end. On Sunday, the Ati contest took place. The participating tribes are mostly organized by the local high schools. And again the expanses were huge. Sometimes 600 people contributed to one performance, it’s unbelievable. The principle performers are the warriors with a shield in the one hand and a spear in the other one. The tribes are required to paint their skin black with that prominent Ati pattern. But the event itself has nothing to do with the Atis living in the hinterlands of Panay. They don’t take part in the tribus.

From Friday to Sunday there was a busy chain of food stands along the streets of the parade route. Unfortunately there was BBQ after BBQ with the same low quality meat I refuse to eat everyday. I almost turned into a vegetarian since I live here 😀 But still, it was nice to sit in the streets with a nice grilled fish late at night to enjoy the life bands.


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