First Day On a New Perspective: My Dinagyang Experience
Few days before Sinulog, I was scrambling to get a way to Iloilo for the Dinagyang Festival. For the moment, I thought I wouldn’t be pushing through with my las celebraciones grandes de enero—a feat which I last made in 2007 when I celebrated both grand festivals in a year. Then I was informed, something beyond what I was expecting…the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation asked me to become one of the judges for street dancing competition! I was speechless and to be honest, it is beyond what I have been expecting for. My original plan was just to cover Dinagyang the way I cover it for the past few years. Yes, I took the offer as an honor for my service for my beloved banwa (hometown). I was placed on a different perspective…from appreciation to decision-making. This Dinagyang season changed the way I see Iloilo’s grandest fiesta.
The good news is, after weeks of rain in the Visayas, Haring Araw was there to say hello all over the weekend!
Day 1: 21 January 2011
I immediately rushed to NAIA Terminal 3 for an early morning flight to Iloilo, after taking a half-day leave from the office. By the time I reached NAIA, the lines were already packed. People for the first flight of the day were lining up at the check-in lobby of this controversial terminal (wait till we see its full operation—mukhang puno na kaagad ang T3). I took the first flight out via AirPhil Express, and boy oh boy, the pre-departure area is already jam-packed with tourists!
Around 6AM, I arrived at the airport. Ahh, the fresh air from the rice fields…walang ganyan sa Maynila! For the moment I thought I went home to relax, but it was the start of my working weekend as one of the judges in this festival. So, I went on to the city through a shuttle van and headed straight to the city. 7AM—the city proper’s streets were already closed! The jeepneys were already rerouted towards Robinsons. My hotel is in the heart of the action—some kilometer and a half away from the drop off point! Oh well, exercise! Anyway, I have always loved to walk in Iloilo’s charming downtown—even on ordinary days…and nights!
There was a parade at Calle Real—of kids and some grown-ups from different schools of the city. I guess this is the Turumba, Banda show wherein the kids would dance in tune of the marching band. Looks like everyone is warming up for the big celebration this coming weekend! So of I went to the hotel, ate my breakfast and slept a few hours.
That afternoon, I was introduced to my fellow judges. Most of them are de calibre judges indeed! Coming from CCP, NCCA, different choreographers, artists, tourism officers, designers, and instructors—all of them has this inclination on cultural dance and performance. They are from Manila, Pampanga, Bulacan, even from people behind MassKara and Panaad in Negros and Sinulog of Cebu! At first, I was shy talking with them…nahuya ko abi kay dalagku sila nga mga tawu. But I overcame my fear and eventually acquainted with them. For almost three days that we were together, I was introduced on a whole new perspective on how to appreciate Dinagyang and the festivals that our country take pride of. Sadya man sa ila kaupod! Daw nahidlaw na ko sa ila ba!
Later in the afternoon, after meeting Eric Dee of Byahilo and Marc of Explore Iloilo for processing the media passes (which earlier came into a controversial issue amongst local media and local photographers due to drastic changes implemented), I went on for my first task—deciding which of the tribes has the best costume. Too bad I missed the fluvial and foot procession! I could’ve seen the tribes wearing their costumes, which I think would be better to appreciate rather than just in a mannequin or stand.
As night fell and have already finished my first task, I went to Plazuela de Iloilo to meet Marc and Eric. But whoahoho!!! I have to walk from Central Market all the way to Jalandoni Flyover and the crowd by that time was thick! Whew! Go urban explorer!
Kalbaryo man sa tingin pero exercise pa rin! Haha! It was a long walk from the hotel towards the nearest jeepney loading area. Traffic wasn’t that bad but it was the last day of the annual Luces in the Sky or Dinagyang’s fireworks competition. As always, Diversion and the open spaces were full of people—but they moved it on a weekday! I wish they have just placed it on weekends, like the way it used to.
Meeting Marc and Eric, we were at the second floor of Plazuela de Iloilo, a new strip mall just beside SM City Iloilo.
Fireworks were so-so…ho-hum. The announcer was far and the crowd was noisy. It looks like a disappointing year for the fireworks until one surprised us with a bang! We thought it was the Singaporean guests, but nooo—they were from Santa Maria, Bulacan! The Singaporean guests were…well, lame at first but booming by the end—but they couldn’t take away the grasp that the crowd gave to the Bulacan contingent.
It was a done deal. We head towards Smallville and have some booze. I have to return early, because it’s the first real day for my job. Kasadyahan is nearing…and I have to prepare. Thank goodness to San Miguel and Don José Cuervo, I went to lalaland easily that night.
To be continued…