Religious Sad-Sad: Tracing the Origin of the Dinagyang Festival


The city of Iloilo’s Dinagyang 2010  finally came to a successful end yesterday. Like any other Visayan festival, this celebration is marked with street dancing with elaborate costumes. But amidst those merry-making activities is the religious affiliation of these festivals – the devotion to the Infant Child Jesus, Senyor Santo Niño.


The history of Dinagyang can be traced way back in 1969 when the image of the Santo Niño ( Holy Child) of Cebu was brought to Iloilo in San Jose Parish Church, which is located very close to the center of Iloilo City. As they welcomed the Holy Child in their city, merry making started and as years go by, they have added their own tribal history of how the Malays settled in the island with the Aetas. The result is the present-day Dingayang of tribal dancing while giving homage to the Santo Niño.


The highlight of the festival is the street dancing and tribe competition but we preferred to witness and participate in the religious sad-sad last Saturday, January 23. The religious sad-sad is more solemn as you cannot expect any rowdy tourist or dancer in this event. After all, as a freelance writer, I am more interested in the real essence of Dinagyang. The word “sad-sad” is a Hiligaynon word for “street dancing” and with the term “religious” added to ther activity, it is obviously a dance with a religious purpose.

Though it was hard to reach San Jose Parish Church from our place in Jaro when many roads closed for the main event the day later, we finally arrived in the church. There were TV crews and some writers from local newspapers covering the event and as a humble freelance writer, I was thrilled to share the event in this blog.  The sad-sad reminds me of Sinulog, prior to the mass commercialization -how people dance their petitions as well as their loved ones’ to the Holy Child. From good health to a boyfriend or girlfriend, devotees danced, praised and asked for their sincere intentions to the Holy Child Jesus.


It was nostalgic for me as the crowd shouted the familiar phrases like “Pit Senyor, kang Mama kini” ( Pit Senyor, this is for Mama) and the likes which was the same when I was growing up in Cebu. And how little children were carried in their father’s shoulders as they danced for health and prosperity. With some music in Hiligaynon even the most classic Sinulog music was played to accompany the dancing. And no Cebuano can’t recall that music or help but to jive to that joyous beat.

Here is the video of the Religious Sad-sad. Enjoy!

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