‘Dinagyang’: More than pageantry, a ‘call to imitate Jesus’

‘Dinagyang’: More than pageantry, a ‘call to imitate Jesus’

The faithful venerate the image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu in Iloilo during the religious procession from the port area to San Jose Church on Jan. 26, 2018. VINCENT VALENCIA

ILOILO City – As thousands of devotees and visitors congregated in this city over the weekend for the world-famous festival celebrated every fourth Sunday of January, an Augustinian friar reminded the people that the

“Dinagyang” is, above all, a challenge to imitate the Señor Sto. Niño – “the poor, chaste, and obedient Son of God.”

“As we celebrate the Dinagyang in honor of the Sto. Niño, we too are reminded of our calling to imitate Jesus and try our best to become worthy of the name that we bear – that of being ‘Christians’, followers of Christ,” Fr. Edsel Raymund Alcayaga, O.S.A., exhorted the faithful as the main celebrant and homilist of the concelebrated High Mass in San Jose Parish Church on Jan. 28 for “Dinagyang@50”.

Teaching the faithful to be poor, chaste, and obedient

Alcayaga highlighted the religious aspect of the festival and invited devotees to learn from the life of the Christ Child.

“The Dinagyang festival has [a] much deeper meaning to it than the street dancing competitions, the stage shows, the revelry and the partying, or the hundreds and thousands of tourists flocking [to] Iloilo City for the colourful pageantry.

“The Lord, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, who in the fullness of time became man, assuming the form of a child – our Señor Sto. Niño – did not only teach us to be poor, chaste and obedient. He Himself put His teachings into practice,” stressed the priest.

The theme of the Dinagyang festival on its 50th year highlighted three essential traits that characterize the life of Jesus during His earthly ministry – a life lived in a spirit of true poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Personal conversion

The Augustinian preacher asserted that devotion to the Sto. Niño should not only strengthen one’s faith but should also lead to deep personal conversion towards the imitation of Christ.

“As we look at and pray before the small image of the Child Jesus, let us do a serious examination of conscience and ask ourselves: ‘Up to what point am I succeeding in imitating Christ in my life?’, ‘What are some of the things that hinder me from imitating His poverty, chastity and obedience?’” the priest challenged the faithful.

According to him, all the faithful, not just consecrated persons, are called to follow Jesus, living out the “true spirit of poverty, chastity, and obedience” according to their capacity and state in life.

To bring home the message of the Dinagyang, the Augustinian friars, the faithful of San Jose Parish, and other devotees of the Sto. Niño, celebrated the festival not only with the usual novena Masses, fluvial parade, processions, and the “Religious Sadsad”. Programs in favor of the “little ones”, such as the “Arroz Caldo ni Niño” – a feeding program for street children -, medical and dental missions, catechism for barangay children, livelihood seminars for fathers and mothers, and a healing Mass for the aged, sick, and abandoned were also held.


Dinagyang traces its origins to the late Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, O.S.A., parish priest of San Jose Church at the time, who introduced the devotion to the Señor Sto. Niño to Iloilo City in 1967.
In 1968, a replica of the original image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu was brought to the Queen City of the South by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez as a gift to the Parish of San Jose.

The devotees, led by members of Confradia del Sto. Niño de Cebu – Iloilo Chapter, gave the image a fitting reception starting at the point of arrival, parading down the streets of Iloilo, until it arrived at the San Jose Church.
This became a tradition that has been celebrated annually as the “Iloilo Ati-Atihan” and, from the year 1977 onwards, as the “Dinagyang”, taken from the Hiligaynon word “dagyang,” or “merrymaking”. CBCPNews