Last friday, I ventured down town to catch a glimpse of the brewing preparations for the much anticipated Dinagyang festival. It’s a celebration that dates back to the 1960’s and is one of the best cultural affairs in the Philippines with several national and international awards under its belt. The colorful banderitas have been strung across the streets of Calle Real as early as the first week of January and the chilly Amihan air has brought about even more followings for the now ubiquitous “varsity jacket”.
This year’s Opening Salvo, a parade of the different participating tribes for the Dinagyang festival, was met with eager eyes, despite the mid-afternoon downpour.
The Opening Salvo not only signals the beginning of the festival, it’s also the teaser of all teasers, offering bits and pieces of a tribe’s performance in a synchronized march that lasts for about two hours.
If you clicked on the link to the Dinagyang write-up at wikipedia, you may have noticed that the article did not say anything about the participation of the indigenous Aeta tribes from the province (these ethnic tribes are the inspiration for the whole Dinagyang street dance competition). But this year, all that is about to change. With the help of the Dinagyang foundation and the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Aeta’s from Barotac Viejo and Anilao have formed, Tribu Tiriringob, a group completed for the festival competition.
However as much as I wanted to simply take pictures of the dancing and the frantic drum beating, I found some other sights that rivaled the festive notes of the whole affair.
Like this physically challenged man in a customized trisikad (also known as a “cycle rickshaw”). He still manages to get around and probably earn some living by using his hands to turn the wheels.
The colorful street vendors lined up in a corner. Street food in all its guilty-pleasure glory.
Or this little boy, eager for his share of street ice cream. There’s nothing like the sight of wide-eyed children who get impressed by the simplest things. And because Dinagyang celebrates the feast of the Sto. Niño (the child Jesus), this may well remind us to be children once more.
The sight of devotees carrying images of the child Jesus.
Or this construction worker on the second floor of a commercial building, on a much needed break, looking on at the festive march down below.
Yes, the Opening Salvo is the perfect prelude to Dinagyang, a festival that is as colorful as the people it represents.