Iloilo’s virtual Dinagyang Festival wins pandemic’s best tourism practice

ILOILO CITY — This year’s virtual celebration of the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City has been hailed as the country’s best tourism practice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines Inc. (ATOP) declared the 2021 Dinagyang Digital as the Grand Winner of its Pearl Awards.

One of the tribes that were pre-taped for the virtual rendition of the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City. (Photo courtesy of IFFI/Manila Bulletin)

“This award is a reminder of how the city powered through the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic,” said the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) in a statement Monday, December 13.

“It did not only highlight our artistry and ingenuity, but also the courage and determination of the Ilonggos to rise above an enormous health crisis,” the IFFI added.

Iloilo City Tourism Officer Junel Ann Divinagracia received the award during the December 12 ceremony at the Manila Metropolitan Theater.

To recall, the January festival that honored the Santo Niño (Holy Child Jesus) was believed to be the first major festival in the country that went digital due to the pandemic.

The IFFI partnered with the Iloilo City government and San Jose Parish Church in mounting the 2021 Dinagyang Digital, which mostly pre-recorded activities.

In lieu of the actual live events for the festival’s highlight, the groups were pre-taped in their performances of depicting the folkloric story of Bornean immigrants making a pact with the tribal Ati people of Panay Island and their eventual Christianization.

Members of the Ilonggo Artists Festival Association, who used to be competitors, united in putting together the tribe performances that were streamed online for Ilonggos to watch.

The performances of groups were also a virtual tour of Iloilo City. Churches, the river park, the beachside, and landmarks were used as backdrops.