Taking a cue from the Ilonggos’ Dinagyang


Dinagyang 2023 was an amazing experience, and it was certainly worth the wait – two years to be exact after the festival was virtually held to abide by the health protocols due to pandemic restrictions. The Dinagyang Festival is a religious and cultural festival in Iloilo City held annually in January.

Iloilo City’s lone congresswoman, Julienne “Jam Jam” Baronda invited some of the country’s top elected officials with the First Lady, Liza Marcos representing the nation’s President, along with senators Frank Drilon, Jinggoy Estrada, Mark Villar, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino, Risa Hontiveros, House Speaker Martin Romualdez and several other high profile guests who joined the festivities. Amidst these personalities’ hectic schedules (Mrs. Marcos even coming in fresh from a business trip in Switzerland), they all made it a point to fly to Iloilo – hailed as the heart of the Philippines since it is located in the middle of the Philippines. Geographically situated as such, Iloilo City has historically provided an important function in the Visayan trade and commerce, education, and tourism.

The Dinagyang Festival 2023, as envisioned by Baronda, has spurred much needed economic activity not only in the city but in the province as a whole.

“I appreciate how important it is to really involve the private sector if we strive for economic recovery post pandemic. And this is exactly what we did during the festival. The private sector is a key stakeholder in economic development, and we are so proud that in Iloilo, we saw how our private business entities played a crucial role in making our event a huge success with the government playing a supportive role this year,” Baronda said.

This private-public collaboration was evident with the active participation of the Iloilo Hotels, Restaurants and Resorts Association (IHRRA), the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Incorporated (IFFI), and small and medium enterprises.

“I am elated that public figures, not just from Iloilo but from different parts of the nation and even our neighboring countries such as Indonesia, joined us for Dinagyang 2023. I am thankful for the opportunity to share our rich Ilonggo history, culture and traditions with them.” Baronda added.

Aligning with the Marcos administration’s vision to reboot the economy, Baronda re-filed the Metro Iloilo Special Economic Zone as President Marcos strives to champion the creation of economic zones in the regions to help spur the local economies outside of the national capital.

Dinagyang may merely be a festival to some, but events such as this bear a huge impact in terms of economic recovery because its societal contribution is multi-thronged. From a large-scale economic catalyst to helping small vendors producing locally made products, to promoting and preserving world-class tourism celebrations, festivals are essential to a country such as ours deeply rooted in traditions and religion. In fact, the President himself recognizes how the Dinagyang Festival will help sustain

“progressive gains” and rekindle the commitment of Ilonggos to contribute to nation-building, describing it as a showcase of the Ilonggos’s “creativity, vibrancy, resiliency and faith amid challenges” in a message.

The most apparent benefits of festivals are economic as they stimulate the growth of tourism and other businesses, the social benefits of festivals may be less visible, but they are just as important. Festivals foster community pride and strengthen relationships. If we are to sustain progressive gains, we must not underestimate the impact of cultural and religious celebrations as these are opportunities for communities to reaffirm their identities, and strengthen resolve towards long term growth.

For growth to be comprehensive, we go back to forging and strengthening partnerships as recognized by Baronda in the staging of Dinagyang. Significant bonds are forged between public and private organizations, governments and community groups, and connections are made between elected officials, staff, volunteers and residents during the planning and implementation of events. If executed well, the reward for building these relationships is the success of the festival or any other event for that matter. The benefits continue after the event as people bring their connections and collective knowledge and skills to improve their communities. These act as an essential “glue” to hold the community together, and without them, communities stagnate, or as experts call it, “social capital.”

“After the success of the Dinagyang, I am excited to promote more of the Ilonggos’ heritage. For instance, we are already planning a regatta but we will build around our people’s fishing industry. We take strides in rebuilding our economy, but we must never forget our identity as a people, and continue to take pride in our rich history and culture so we may go beyond transitory moments of success,” said Baronda.