Hala Bira and stuff like that

AND HERE we go again. They’ll be drunk, laughing and dancing on the streets and other stuff like that.

It’s the time of the year when the natives of “I am Iloilo City” throw their inhibitions to the wind and turn the streets of the city into one big beer garden. From Iloilo Viejo or what is commonly known as Calle Real or downtown up to Iloilo Nuevo i.e. Megaworld, Iloilo Business Park, Atria District, Smallville and the SM City Complex, everything is in festive mood.

There are street parties, concerts, street dancing, and revelry everywhere, well almost everywhere. As in line with “I Am Iloilo City” Mayor Geronimo’s strict compliance with the DILG or the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s directive to keep the city streets clear of obstructions, only designated areas are transformed into kiosks for food and beverages, including the ubiquitous beer garden.

These kiosks will be situated along Iznart, Delgado, Ledesma, and Guanco streets while the Arsenal Street will be for foodie members of Kaon Ta Iloilo, a Facebook group.

And as tradition demands, the “national beverage” San Miguel Beer is consumed by the natives like this weekend is the last day for drinking beer. Why, it almost seems blasphemous if you’re not drunk. Let me put it this way, all forms of intoxicating drinks are consumed by the natives during the weekend like there’s no tomorrow. It’s as if Bacchus, the God of Wine, suddenly transported the whole City of Iloilo, natives and tourists included, into the drunk’s paradise.

No, it’s not anything mythological or magical happening, this sort of festivities happen to “I am Iloilo” every third weekend of January or fourth Sunday since 1976. And this revelry is officially called the Dinagyang Festival.

From that free online encyclopedia a.k.a. the internet:

The Dinagyang Festival is a religious and cultural festival in Iloilo CityPhilippines held on the fourth Sunday of January, or right after the Sinulog in Cebu and the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan. It is held both to honor the Santo Niño and to celebrate the arrival on Panay of Malay settlers and the subsequent selling of the island to them by the Atis.

Dinagyang began after Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, the first Filipino Rector of the Augustinian Community and Parish Priest of the San Jose Parish, introduced the devotion to Santo Niño in November 1967 after observing the Ati-Atihan Festival in the province of Aklan. On 1968, a replica of the original image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was brought to Iloilo by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez of Cebu as a gift to the Parish of San Jose. The faithful, led by members of Confradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, Iloilo Chapter, worked to give the image a fitting reception starting at the Iloilo Airport and parading down the streets of Iloilo.

In the beginning, the observance of the feast was confined to the parish. The Confradia patterned the celebration on the Ati-Atihan of Ibajay, Aklan, where natives dance in the streets, their bodies covered with soot and ashes, to simulate the Atis dancing to celebrate the sale of Panay. It was these tribal groups who were the prototype of the present festival.

In 1977, the Marcos government ordered the various regions of the Philippines to come up with festivals or celebrations that could boost tourism and development. The City of Iloilo readily identified the Iloilo Ati-Atihan as its project. At the same time the local parish could no longer handle the growing challenges of the festival.

Dinagyang was voted as the best Tourism Event for 2006, 2007 and 2008 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 & NGO cooperatives.”

Dinagyang is an Ilonggo term for revelry or merrymaking. It was coined in 1977 by Ilonggo writer/broadcaster Pacifico Sudario to describe the riotous celebration. Prior to this, Dinagyang was labelled “Iloilo Ati-Atihan” to differentiate it from other Ati-Atihan festivals”.

Today Dinagyang is not only “I Am  Iloilo City’s” but the country’s premier festival attracting thousands of tourists to Iloilo City to celebrate and join the revelry with the natives and of course to get drunk with them.

Dinagyang has become the official de facto fiesta of “I Am Iloilo City” and one of the main reasons Ilonggos come home every year.

With all the debauchery, alcohol and other intoxicating stuff free flowing, some people are surprised that it’s supposed to be a religious festival, but who’s complaining.

So, Hala Bira and all that nonsense. Don’t forget to pass me that bottle of Colt 45, and my shot of CuervoTequila Gold! ([email protected]/PN)

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