Dinagyang Festival

Dinagyang Festival is a cultural and religious celebration in honor of Sto. Niño that is held in Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines every fourth Sunday of January. It is also a tribute to the oral tradition of Barter of Panay, where aborigines reportedly agreed to exchange their territories with gifts from Malay settlers. Over the years, it has become the biggest celebration in Iloilo.

History of Dinagyang Festival

Dinagyang Festival comes from the word dinagyang, which is a Hiligaynon word that means celebration or merry-making. It traces its beginning in Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan, a festivity that then Augustinian Fr. Sulpicio Enderes witnessed in 1967. He was responsible in organizing the first devotion to Sto. Niño in Iloilo.

In 1968, he brought a replica of Sto. Niño from Cebu and enshrined the image at San Jose Parish Church where he was the parish priest. A welcoming party was held to greet the image’s arrival in Iloilo that was organized by Confradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, Iloilo Chapter. The group remains the organizing committee of the religious activities of the festival, while secular celebrations are organized by Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc.

The first Dinagyang Festival was held in the parish in 1969. For years, it was called Ati-Atihan festival, a public and religious affair mostly among parishioners where the dance-ritual sadsad was performed. Sadsad was a version of the dance in the annual festival in the town of Ibajay, Aklan where participants paint their faces with black to appear like the Atis, the native aboriginal group that were early settlers in Panay before the arrival of the Malays and the Spaniards. Thus, Dinagyang Festival is likewise a commemoration of the oral tradition of the first meeting between the Atis and ten datus from Borneo that took place before the Spanish rule, an event called Barter of Panay.

In 1977, several developments took place that pushed the evolution of the festival. Firstly, the Philippine national government encouraged LGUs to promote tourism in their respective locality and the city government of Iloilo picked what was then called Ati-Atihan Festival.

The parish community also shared the organizing responsibility in conducting different revelries and activities associated with the festival. It was also the same year that it was renamed to Dinagyang Festival by Pacifico Sudario to distinguish the celebration from that of Aklan’s. Its schedule was also moved to the fourth Sunday of January, so it is held a week after Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival and Cebu’s Sinulog Festival.

In 2021, due to COVID-19 pandemic, activities of Dinagyang Festival became virtual and live-streamed online. It earned the grand prize of Pearl Awards at the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines Inc. that year. Activities were made virtual in 2022 as well.

Dinagyang Festival Schedule of Activities

There is a 100-day countdown to start Dinagyang Festival. An opening salvo likewise occurs weeks prior to the main events. Events and activities include cultural presentations, variety shows, fireworks, fashion shows, parade, art and food festivals, musical acts, and street parades.

Some of the highlights are the following:

Ati Tribe Competition

Ati Tribe Competition is the cultural highlight and pinnacle of the festival. Contingents, which are called tribes, perform dances that recall historical events, reenact certain cultural tribal features, and present the story of Christian conversion. Dancers are required to wear face and body paints, and their complete costumes include any assorted traditional weapons and shield.

Awards are given in choreography, costume, music, and performance. Non-bearing prizes are given too to creatives responsible in the aforementioned categories (choreographer, costume designer, and musical director), best headdress, and best in street dancing performance.

Fluvial and Solemn Foot Procession

Fluvial procession is held that traverses Guimaras Strait to Iloilo River, and it is followed by procession that ends in San Jose Church. The fluvial procession remembers the beginning of Sto. Niño devotion when an image was brought by Augustinian missionaries to Philippine shores, while the foot procession is an offertory to the feast of the Holy Child and a prayer for a successful festival.

Dagoy the mascot

The official mascot of Dinagyang Festival is the dark-skinned Dagoy. First introduced in 2004, he is the representative of the festival and has been flown in different parts of the country for its promotion. Dagoy is garbed in tribal costume, a head piece bearing the image of Sto. Niño, traditional loincloth called bahag, and various jewelry such as earrings and bracelets.

Dinagyang Float and Lights Parade

Dinagyang Float and Lights Parade was first established in 2018. An event held in the evening, it is a competition of colorful, beautifully lighted, and bedecked floats moving in parade through the main streets of the city. The float is participated by various institutions, organizations, and schools.

Kasadyahan Regional Cultural Competition

Kasadyahan Regional Cultural Competition is a contest among contingents from different parts of Western Visayas. These contingents present through dance their unique festivals that offer a glimpse to their way of life.

Miss Iloilo

Used to be called Miss Dinagyang, Miss Iloilo started in 2020. It is a beauty pageant for women where the winner is the best candidate who can become an “ambassadress of goodwill.”


Pamukaw, a Hiligaynon word that means wake-up call, offers a snapshot of the revelries that are going to occur in the festival. It is done in December, a month prior to the celebrations, and may involve parades of tribes and drumbeats in streets of Iloilo.


Sadsad is the traditional dance and ritual in offering to the Sto. Niño. Performers wear multicolored, visually striking tribal costumes and head-pieces. They also paint their face and body in black to look like Atis. Religious sadsad is conducted in the parish grounds of San Jose Church.

Tambor Trumpa Martsa Musika

Tambor Trumpa Martsa Musika is a drum-and-bugle corps competition. Participants are schools of elementary and high school levels from different areas of Iloilo.

Where to go

Parades, booths, and trade fairs are held in various locations in the city, including Freedom Grandstand, provincial capitol, and the major thoroughfares.

How to reach Iloilo City

Transportation in and out of Iloilo is available on air, land, and sea. Devotees can travel through Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan. Sea trips are also scheduled in many ports, especially in three major ports of Dumangas Port, Iloilo Domestic Port, and Iloilo River Wharf. Bus trips are also available from different points of Panay island.


Dinagyang Festival Summary

NameDinagyang Festival
CelebrationCulture, Religion
ChurchSan Jose Church
DateFourth Sunday of January
OrganizerIloilo Festivals Foundation Inc., San Jose Parish
Other NamesDinagyang
PatronSto. Niño
ReligionRoman Catholic