Saturday, February 8, 2014

Highlights of my first Iloilo Dinagyang Festival

We woke up with our ear drums still echoing with the awesome beats by DJs Brandon Jon, Elmer Dado and Gruppo Tribale at Plazuela de Iloilo the night before. We did not waste time and literally lived all out the first night in Iloilo. It was certainly a nice prelude to the actual event! Casa La Granja was actually a cozy and chic place, with rooms that are spacious, minimalistic but comfortable. It also has a swimming pool. You can't help but notice that it is somewhat Moroccan-design inspired, which is awesome.

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Since our first engagement is still scheduled after lunch, we decided to visit the old churches, that which Iloilo is known for. First we trooped to the Jaro Cathedral, which was built in 1874. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1948, but was fixed years later in 1958. We started the day right, by thanking the Lord for all the blessings - for being in Iloilo to celebrate Dinagyang Festival, for being able to travel, and for new friends.

After Jaro Cathedral, we went to Molo Church (lowest right photo), which carries an interesting history itself. It was originally built made "of tabique pampango with a chalk roof, then built temporarily with nipa" by Fr. Jose Ma. Sichon in 1863. The concrete structure was approved and built by Bishop Mariano Cuartero in 1869. In honor of Saint Anne, this church was known to be a feminist church because of the two rows of sixteen female saints line on both sides of the altar. Molo Church was declared a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1992. It is the only Gothic church outside Manila.

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After the churches, we visited the Angelicum School, previously the Lizares Mansion, one of Iloilo's iconic heritage houses. The house was built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares for his wife Conchita Gamboa and their two sons and three daughters, the mansion has three floors, a basement and an attic. It has a winding wooden staircase and big bedrooms with floor and doors made of hardwood. It has 59 doors which indicate the intricacy of its layout. During World War II, the mansion was then used as headquarters of the Japanese army, and was believed that the basement became a dumping ground for tortured Filipinos. After the war, the family went back to live in the mansion, but life was never the same. In 1950, Don Emiliano Lizares died and his widow left for Manila, leasing the mansion to a businessman who turned it into a casino. The city mayor later ordered that the casino be closed, claiming that it corrupted the Ilonggos. In 1962 the Lizares Mansion was sold to the Dominicans. In 1963, it was converted into a House of Formation for young Dominicans in the Philippines. And finally, in 1978, the Lizares Mansion compound became the home of Angelicum School Iloilo. There's an urban legend saying that the house is haunted, but I do not really believe until I see it.


We went straight to Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood for lunch with David Guison, who caught up with us at Molo Church, and our new Ilonggo friend John Lex Bayombong. We had lechon, native chicken, inihaw na pusit or squid, but most of all, our favorite, the baked oysters!

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Gretchen, my aunt Annie, Angela, John Lexx, Kim, Iris, David, Miko and I at Tatoy's signage. Trivia: Tatoy is the nickname of John Lexx's grandfather. Thanks for an awesome lunch! :)


I blogged about the 2014 Starbucks Festival Tumblers a few weeks back, which launched with the Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan and Sinulog Festival in Cebu. Meanwhile, while we were waiting, I spotted these colorful and cute Dinagyang Festival Tumblers at Starbucks Iloilo. Hala Bira!


It was about time for our grand parade! We were on board living it all out on SMART Communication's float. DJ Elmer Dado and the talented Gruppo Tribale were also on board with us, together with the ABS-CBN talent Arjo Atayde. It was not my first time on board a float in a parade (see 2011 Panagbenga Festival with my former boss Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim in Baguio), but it was certainly the first time for me to wave at the crowd, and dance on the float! Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience for the books. The best part is that I had fun with my cousin Gretch, and fellow SMART digital ambassadors Miko and Angela.


Visiting Iloilo would not be complete without trying the famous and original La Paz Batchoy, so we visited the best one, Netong's La Paz Batchoy, located inside the La Paz Public Market. Netong’s authentic La Paz Batchoy is made of egg noodles, a mix of pork and beef, with garlic, chicharon, liver and onion leaves.

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Trying out all these famous and delicious food was very satisfying to our tummies, although I am sure we all gained after that. It was our first time, so it was forgivable to indulge and binge on these local delicacies. It was all worth it in the end. We trooped back to our hotel to freshen up and prepare for the Dinagyang Invasion party that night. We arrived a little bit early, but it was all cool, as the DJs and the music were excellent in livening up the crowd.

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With Angela, DJ Brandon Jon, DJ Inno Naguit, and all the craziness and dope things in between that happened that night. It was the most epic and fun night with family and friends, and a great way to kick start 2014! :) Thanks to SMART Communications for bringing us to #SmartDinagyang! It was a #SmartLiveAll party I will always remember.

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We finished around 4am, slept, and woke up at 7am to attend the street party, the main event of the Dinagyang Festival. Dinagyang is Iloilo City’s version of the Ati-Atihan festival, widely celebrated not only in Panay Island but also in other parts of the country. It is an annual festival in honor of the Holy child (Sto. Nino), and the indigenous culture of the Panayanons. It is "an Ilonggo term for revelry or merrymaking, Dinagyang was coined in 1977 by Ilonggo writer/broadcaster Pacifico Sudario to describe the riotous celebration," according to Dinagyang 2014 website.

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Was so glad to see one of the hardworking regional directors of the Department of Tourism, Atty. Helen Catalbas of DOT Region VI or Western Visayas. In attendance also was Tourism Undersecretary Maria Victoria Jasmin, but unfortunately, I was not able to meet her because of the crowd that made it impossible to spot her. Nevertheless, I am glad that the Tourism Department is all out in its support for this festival.

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Until the next Dinagyang Festival. Hala Bira, Iloilo! Mabuhay! :)

Follow me on Twitter @briankingong and Instagram @briankingong for more photos and updates.

Also check out the Dinagyang Festival blog posts of Miko, Angela, and our guest, David:

Miko Carreon: Smart Dinagyang Experience
Angela Nepomuceno: Iloilo Dinagyang Festival 2014 Experience #LiveAllOut
David Guison: Postcards from Iloilo

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you really had a blast, Brian! Hindi pa ako nakakapag-Dinagyang, Sinulog or Ati-Atihan 0_0. Hoping to join Dinagyang next year :D



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