Friday, September 26, 2008

Dinagyang Festival

I'm sure many of you have no idea what Dinagyang is - as did I, before I met my very patient director and gracious host, Kevin Piamonte and all my new found friends in Iloilo (production and admin crew, all the dancers/drummers of Passi Highschool, Bobby, Susan, George, Archie etc.). I learned so much more on this trip than I couldve imagined. It became much more of a learning experience, than a money making one. I was emersed into something very Filipino by nature, something I've been wanting to do for a long long time. To give you guys a little background, here's a little about the festival and the concept of our performance as a tribe.

Dinagyang started in Iloilo in 1967 when a replica of the Sto. Niño from Cebu was brought to Iloilo City. To date, it is the city’s biggest tourism festival with activities that showcase the different cultures of the towns of Iloilo. The main event of the Dinagyang is the tribal competition which takes place on the 3rd Saturday and 4th Sunday of January. In honor of the Sto. Niño, the tribes painted in basic black, dance through the main thoroughfares of the city. Black is a required color for the tribes since they are supposed to project the revelry of the Atis who were believed to have first discovered the holyimage along the shoreline of Kalibo. Thus, Kalibo has Ati-atihan, while Iloilo City has Dinagyang. Dinagyang takes place a week after Ati-atihan in Kalibo.

There are 3 main events in Dinagyang. The first is called Kasadyahan (our category). In Kasadyahan, tribes are given a freehand in their concepts and interpretation. This is why in Kasadyahan, tribes are not required to paint themselves black. They are free to wear any costume suitable to their concept. Like the two other main events, Kasadyahan is also a street parade where tribes perform in 4 judging areas. Streets around the city have been closed off for the Tribes to parade and line up for each judging area where bystanders and paying spectators can watch all the performances on bleachers and a covered mini-grandstand. The competition takes place only in the morning of Saturday (Jan. 22.) This year there were 17 towns competing in the Kasadyahan. We represented the town of Passi (a town an hour away from Iloilo). As a tribe, they are known as Pintados or people who paint themselves in tribal fashion (like tattoos), so we used this a part of our performance concept as well. Every single performance has to start from a concept, and is judged by its execution as a dance drama, with awards given to the Best Peformance, Choreography, Music Score and Costume Design.

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This was our concept for Pintados de Passi's performance. In the morning, the townsfolk are going about their usual way of planting and harvesting sugarcane and producing mascuvado. This is the main livelihood of people in Passi. They ignore the story of one person who has seen a strange creature in the nearby area. After a day’s toil in the field, the people celebrate. It has been another day of bounty. Suddenly the warning call of the budyong is heard. Creatures have arrived to attack the town of Passi. The aswang, the kapre and the tikbalang ravage the town and leave some of the townsfolk dead. Devastated, the townsfolk are desperate to seek help. In the dead of the night, a vessel of fire (yours truly) appears, guiding aerial spirits in their quest to help people who are in need. The wizened aerial spirits tell the people that in order for them to conquer the evil elements, they have to paint themselves. If they paint themselves (like tattoos) they will be brave and they will have the power to defeat their enemies since the paint on the bodies bring about the warrior nature of the person. Thus, the pintados. The townsfolk prepare themselves to fight the elements. And when the aswang, the kapre and the tikbalang appear once again, the pintados in their warrior-like attitude bravely attack the creatures. Victory comes swift and fast to the Pintados. However, success is never complete without paying homage to the Santo Niño. The wizened aerial spirits appear once again with their guide blazing in the sun (i can do a great sun impression haha, pero may extra bayad yan ha) and lead the people to the church to pay a rousing tribute to the most powerful of them all.

So there you go, an indepth background about Dinagyang and my tribe's performance concept. As to how everything went, Ill have to write another time cuz I'm spent... it hasnt been a good day. Though this journal entry-ing has helped, I think I really need some shut eye. So stay tuned for more details on happenings and my thoughts during the trip

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