The high sense of spirituality and inter-cultural values of the Ilonggos paved the way for celebrations of festivals and fiestas as a form of thanksgiving for almost everything the Divine Providence has lavishly endowed them. Aside from district fiestas which usually celebrate a patron saint’s day, there are festivals which are celebrated by the whole city and have attracted visitors from other places in the Philippines and foreign countries. The following are the city’s famous festivities:
Dinagyang Sa Iloilo
Dinagyang is dubbed as the “Festival of Excellent Folk choreography”. It is a colourful display of street dancing and story-telling.
Dinagyang is the Best Tourism Event in the country. Various festivals in the country learned and applied innovations in their own by watching Dinagyang.
A religious and cultural festival held every 4th week of January in reverence of “Sr. Santo Nino”
A fluvial parade is held on Friday. It also serves as the highlight of the religious aspect of the festival.
Kasadyahan is held on Saturday and is a cultural competition showcasing the diverse and colourful Festivals of each participating municipality of Iloilo Province.
The Ati Tribe competition serves as the highlight of Dinagyang. Contestants paint their bodies brown as they dance with the pulsating beat of the drums. The dance usually tells the story of how reverence in “Sr. Sto. Nino” affected the community.
Paraw and Samba Regatta Festival
The sunny but cool and windy February climate paves the way for the annual Paraw Regatta along Iloilo Strait. Colorful paraws (local sailboats) vie for trophies and cash prices for the different categories of the contest.
The contest gives tribute and honor to this water vehicle as an indispensible partner of local fishermen and as a common means of transportation between Iloilo and Guimaras and the other nearby coastal towns.
Side events also include; Porma Balas a sand sculpting competition; search for Ms. Paraw Regatta; Beach-volleyball; Beach-soccer; and the Samba Regatta, a music and dancing competition which has resemblance of the mardi gras in Rio de Janeiro.
Chinese New Year Festival
Held during the First Full Moon of the year, lighted paper lanterns of various shapes and sizes line on street corners in downtown area of the city. At night, Iloilo is alive and busting with merriment that features lavish and colourful fireworks display, Chinese cultural and variety shows and night bazaar where festive goods are on sale.
Not to miss out is its most spectacular festivity, the lion and dragon dance performed to the beating of the gong and drums accompanied with acrobatic performances. The food festival that features a variety of culinary delights adds flavor to the festive spirit of every Ilonggos.
Candelaria de Jaro
Jaro literally sparkles as it celebrates the feast of its patroness, La Nuestra Señora de Candelaria or Our Lady of Candles. Although a religious holiday, the whole city and the country literally goes to Jaro to celebrate with the Jarenos this fabulous and famous celebration. Originally, the celebration is a thanksgiving of the Jarenos for the good harvest and fortune that the patroness has showered on them for the past year, but it has drawn local and foreign visitors alike because of its lavish luncheons and dinners, opulent religious procession which literally need security men because of the great display of diamonds, gold and other jewels, the grand cock derbies, and most of all, the grand ball and coronation of the Jaro Charity Queen who is usually selected from among the beautiful maidens of rich Jaro families. Famous national figures always grace this occasion.
Iloilo City Charter Day
The Charter day celebration only started on 2010. It is a 40-day celebration beginning on July 16 and climaxing on August 25. It aims to create public awareness of the history and development of Iloilo as a City; arouse community sense of pride of place; and showcase the celebration as link to culture and heritage. Like Dinagyang Festival, it is a product of Iloilo’s unique brand of public-private partnership style of governance.
Activities range from Blood-letting campaign; River Clean-up; Fun Runs; Exhibits of Ilonggo arts and crafts; Food Festival of delectable Ilonggo dishes; Search for Mr. And Ms. Iloilo; Ilonggo Music Festival; and a Civic-military parade as the highlight.