Saturday, May 28, 2016



The BACKPACKERS were so lucky to have witnessed one of the most colorful and celebrated festivals in the Philippines: Dinagyang Festival in the province of Iloilo. It was pure coincidence that we booked our flight for our Bacolod-Iloilo-Guimaras trip on the fourth weekend of January, which is when this celebration is being held.

Joining this trip: The BACKPACKERS Ghei, Bogs, April, Heinz, York, Ivan and two of our closest and dearest friends Ann and Joseph.

One of the best street party in the country

One very important lesson which we learned the hard and 'provocative' way was whenever you're visiting a place with this big of a festivity, make sure to BOOK ROOMS SUPER ADVANCE! We did not know of this coincidence two weeks prior to the trip so when we started hustling for reservations on a possible accommodation in the area, almost every backpackers hostels and inns were fully booked. If the word 'provocative' earlier intrigued you, it was because we found haven in an R18 lodge in the town's center. Yes, eight people were able to squeeze themselves in a big motel room converted as a baggage counter and for a quick night's stop.

We treated our interesting accommodation as a blessing in disguise as it was accessible to the different venues of the festivity.

Here are our stops where we felt the Dinagyang 2016 fever!


The 8th SM Supermall built by business tycoon Henry Sy Sr. was our first destination upon arriving in the port of Iloilo. We were still trying our luck to book a decent backpacking room during the time we were here! All of the hotels and pension houses we contacted had no available rooms for us and naturally we would feel down and disappointed. But believe me, we did not! Roaming around the mall was giving us a taste of what to experience in that 24 hour stay for the festival. There were people in colorful costumes, shops offering something Dinagyang-esque, posters and banners were everywhere and performances were left and right. The vibe was upbeat which made looking for accommodation much more challenging and exciting! 

One female shop offered free Dinagyang inspired face accent (left), and a Dinagyang dancer in front of Jollibee (right)


When night has begun, the party was just continually building up. We went to the inviting Plazuela where colors, banners and smiles were everywhere! First up were these standees where you insert your faces and voila! It would look like you were one of the dancers.

Who says we don't have costumes for the festival?

We roamed around the park which was so understandably crowded that night. There was a concert happening on the stage in front of tens and thousands of people - families and friends enjoying the night out. Of course  there were several stalls selling shirt and other memorabilia. There were a lot of decor and stages to match the festive theme. All these to contribute to the build up of the rich cultural heritage of Iloilo. The best moment was hanging out with your friends - eating, drinking and chatting, while there was a concert on the left side, and fireworks on the other side.

Feeling the tribal vibe - BPs Heinz and York

Hala Bira! Night party at Plazuela


When we went out of Plazuela, there was a heavy traffic jam. It was almost midnight and tons of people were still out on the streets! There were parties in every street corner and bars & restaurants staged the most alive party that they could to invite patrons. 

Busy traffic

Before we started our bar hopping, we passed by a carnival! And the kids in us took over as we saw ourselves playing on one booth to another and hopping on rides. In the queue before we rode Iloilo's version of Flying Fiesta, we saw and interacted with some foreigners. We thought they were also tourists, but turned out these gorgeous Koreans were actually residents of Panay Island where Iloilo is located. How cool is that?

Giant beer in the sidewalk (left) the colorful ferris wheel in the carnival (right)
Ghei ready to toss some coins! Go gurl!
Ghei and Ann riding the Flying Fiesta a la Iloilo

The kids reigned over the young adults as we eventually got tired in this jampacked day (we hiked in Mambukal in Bacolod the morning of this day). BPs April and Heinz went ahead in our accommodation as they were already tired. The six of us pushed through and scanned the even more crowded streets of Pison and Donato Pison. The night was still so unbelievably alive! Every seat in the bars we checked were fully occupied. We were lucky to find available table in Giligans Bar and settled there. After just a couple of beer, we went back to our (m)hotel room to finally hit the hay. Tomorrow's the biggest day - the Ati Tribe Competition and  the Street Dancing!


Morning of our second day in Iloilo, we wanted to try the province's specialty. You should not go in and out of Iloilo without trying the La Paz Batchoy! We were told that one of the best tasting La Paz Batchoy was at Popoy's in the nearby market. We headed there to fill in each tummy's cravings. To our surprise, Popoy's La Paz Batchoy is this ordinary stall in one of the narrow halls in the market.

Looks can certainly be very deceiving in Central Market as when this fresh and authentic La Paz Batchoy was served and started to fill out our tummies,.. It was superb! It was worth it! It was the authentic La Paz Batchoy that your stomach ever dreamed of.

Popoy's La Paz Batchoy - you can't go more authentic and delicious than this!

After our gastronomic session with Popoy's, we proceeded to the much awaited event in the week long event: the Ati Tribal Dance Competition!


We secured a nice spot early that morning. We were anticipating a huge crowd to fill in the streets close to where the Ati Tribe competition will be held. All of us were very excited about the street dance party from some of the competing tribes in the event.

There were two ways of enjoying the festival. One would be securing tickets from the organizers and local officials to be seated in a makeshift arena where you can watch the performances of the Ati tribes. The second one - one which we enjoyed a lot, would be to simply follow the procession and take pictures of the beautiful people in colorful costumes. Most of these tribes would gauge the crowd by showing off a little of their performances. Here are the moments we captured during the Dinagyang 2016 street dance:

When you go and join a big festivity like this - prepare to brave the very crowded streets as it is literally stuffed with people! And moreover, have fun! It was so overwhelming to experience Dinagyang Festival!

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