The Dinagyang Festival is celebrated every fourth weekend of January to honor the Christianization of the natives and to respect the Holy Child Jesus. On this day, streets of Iloilo City will once again come alive as the Ilonggos celebrate the annual festivity. It is a very colorful parade coupled with a dramatization in honor of the patron Saint Sto. Niño as the object of performs offerings and prayers amidst the cracking of drums and shouts of "Viva Señor Santo Niño." The thundering of "Hala Bira" by the tribe members makes the celebration a lively one. It is also a very popular tagline used by Ilonggos to express their warm participation during the "Dinagyang" celebration. A tribute in honor of Señor Sto. Niño whom Ilonggos believe was very miraculous in times of famine and drought.
Dinagyang is an annual event, when the whole town rejoices, shouting their pride of being an Ilonggo and telling their culture. It is a wonderful looking back to the past. It is not just a celebration, it is a religious evangelization. Going back to Iloilo is more like a past fulfilled and a looking forward for future celebrations. It is our culture. The Aeta culture. That's why it is painting the town black.
The root word is dagyang. In Ilonggo, it means to make happy. Dinagyang is the present progressive word of the Ilonggo word, meaning making merry or merry-making. A religious and cultural activity, it is a celebration of Ilonggos whose bodies are painted with black in effect to imitate the black, small and slender Negritos who are the aborigines of Panay . The warriors are dressed in fashionable and colorful Aeta costumes and dance artistically and rhythmically with complicated formations along with the loud thrashing and sound of drums.
Iloilo City's Dinagyang has its early beginnings in 1968, when a model of the image of Sr. Santo Ni¤o was brought from Cebu City to the San Jose Parish Church by Fr. Suplicio Ebderes, OSA with a delegation of Cofradia del Sto. Niño, Cebu members. The image and party were enthusiastically welcomed at Iloilo City by then parish priest of San Jose Church , Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, OSA, then Mayor Renerio Ticao, and the devotees of the Sto. Niño in Iloilo City . The image was brought to San Jose Parish Church and preserved there up to this time, where a novena in His honor is held every Friday. The climax of the nine-day novena was the Fluvial Procession.