[Opinion] The bag of promises of a repackaged Dinagyang

The newly-formed Iloilo Festival Foundation, Inc. (IFFI) would like to captivate public interest this early by presenting a repackaged Dinagyang Festival starting January 2020. The group laid down the concept and showed the big picture to illustrate what it meant when they described a Dinagyang that is bigger and better.

The event is worth looking forward considering the elements that IFFI introduced to transform the festival from a routinary annual fiesta, depicted as a spectator event, into an experiential and Mardi Gra like festival.

Experiential means that the people and the various stakeholders are at the center of the festivities, said IFFI. They visualized a Dinagyang where people are dancing on the streets and merry-making and that they are not simply sitting on judging areas watching the tribes perform or see the tribes pass them by at food kiosks.

The committees is shaping the upcoming activities using a multi-faceted approach in order to mirror its religious, cultural, and historical significance and bring its value to the consciousness of the current generation.

The Dinagyang 2020 is not only anticipated as a bigger and better festival; it is also grandiose in terms of promises considering that the IFFI Board is composed by almost all of the honchos of Iloilo’s big business and well-meaning individual professionals.

The call was “Kadto na sa Iloilo” (Come and visit Iloilo for the Dinagyang Festival). Skeptics of the event and Treñas’ critics must hold tightly on their commentaries as we first examine the promises.

First promise – Bigger and Better Dinagyang. The upcoming festival will be bigger in terms of prizes. The City Government under Mayor Jerry P. Treñas has earmarked P25-million as a City Government counterpart for the event. The IFFI disclosed that it will match the amount for the festival. By bigger, it implies that the Dinagyang 2020 will earn a conservative P50-million price tag.

Moreover, bigger will also come in the form of prize money. The grand champion in the tribes competition will go home with at least P5-million in combined prizes. From that amount, the host schools of participating tribes will have a P1-million grant in the form of school projects.

The Dinagyang 2020 might become as the most extravagant festival in the history of Dinagyang. The major activities of the weeklong event will conformon the designed program which is intended to emphasize its thematic relevance.

It will also highlight a renewal of its religious essence in order to convey its spiritual meaning. Therefore, IFFI promised to moderate the profit-driven character which has defined the Dinagyang all these years.But certainly, it will still be a spending spree festival for some people.

Lastly, bigger also pertains to IFFI itself, because the foundation will serve as a vehicle who will carry the management of all the festivals in Iloilo City as a partner of the City Government. It might take one good roll out (or a bad one) on all the festivals in Iloilo City under IFFIto have this aspect sink in among stakeholders.

Second promise – Perfect Vision 10+1 programming. The entire Dinagyang Festival is intended to exhibit inclusivity with its 11 major component activities: the Iloilo Dinagyang Arts Festival; Ilonggo Food Festival; Miss Iloilo; Tambor, Trompa Martsa Musika; Fluvial and Solemn Foot Procession; Floats Parade of Lights; Fireworks Display; Dagyang sa Calle Real; Festive Parade Sponsors Mardi Gra; Religious Sadsad; and Dinagyang 360 degrees.

The programming aims to provide an equal opportunity to exhibit Iloilo’s heritage, tradition, history, culture, creativity, art, hospitality, food and culinary practices. It will be a celebration of diversity, uniqueness, and resilience – the Ilonggo spirit.

Pocket concerts will be set-up at the downtown area wherein invited guests from Manila are coming over to play with local bands. IFFI explained that this approach is not to belittle the Ilonggo talents, but rather to allow them to interface with fellow Filipino talents who has acquired advanced experience and exposure. This will open an opportunity for the Ilonggos to establish linkages with other networks which could bring them to a higher level of engagement. The committee is looking at how to utilize the historical Plazoleta Gay marker where the JCI Iloilo Monument is standing for a concert event.

The Kasadyahan, which used to be an event held a day prior to the highlight, will now become part of the Iloilo Charter Day program.

Third promise – Transparent and Accountable Organizers. These are the big words that were never associated with the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. (IDFI)and the previous administration of the City Government who used to handle the organizing of the Dinagyang Festival.

This is probably a buy-in to IFFI and which will set them apart from IDFI once realized.Unfortunately, there is no person who holds utmost familiarity on how the IDFI was operated more than Mayor Jerry P. Treñas.

If I can correctly recall, it was also under the 9-year administration of Treñas as chief executive that IDFI thrived and become the most dependable and influential business group. The IDFI earned the financial support and also the commendation of the City Government for the annual holding of the Dinagyang Festival in spite of the fact that the post-event income statement and the balance sheet was usually summarized as “break even”.

Transparency and accountability is a critical promise considering that around P25-million of Local Government funds will be poured into the festival and with a potential millions of funds that will be collected from the private sector who will participate in the festival in the form of sponsorships, fees, and advertisements.

Lawyer and IFFI president Joebert Penaflorida emphasized the significance of transparency and accountability as a principle enshrined in the Oath of Office administered on them by Mayor Treñas. We hold IFFI and Mayor Treñas responsible of their words and promises.

There were many other issues that requires clarification from either IFFI or the City Government, especially on funds management. But allow me to reserve that for the next column article. For the time being, Viva Treñas! Viva IFFI! Viva Dinagyang!

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