Community Participation and Collaborative Governance through the Dinagyang Festival
The Dinagyang Festival has emerged as the most popular festival in the Philippines. Since its inception more than 40 years ago, the festival has turned into a huge undertaking that entailed the creation of a tripartite event management body.
In 2001, the Iloilo City government partnered with the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. (IDFI) to comanage the festival. The Parish of San Jose formed the third party of the tripartite body. The City LGU provides financial and public service support, the IDFI takes care of the administration and solicitation of sponsorships, and the Church administers the liturgical activities. The LGU also provides services related to security, sanitation, health, first aid, engineering and traffic management. Its City Tourism and Development Office serves as the Festival Secretariat. The terms of reference are indicated in the Memorandum of Agreement and the composition of the working committee is designated through an Executive Order.
Dinagyang is held during the last week of January, and the planning and preparations for the next event take place soon after the festival culminates. Dinagyang has become a community activity where schools, civic organizations, civil society, youth, professionals and the barangay residents are involved in making costumes and props and in preparing the needs of the competing IP tribes during rehearsals.
Workshops and trainings are conducted to help participants produce quality performances and to orient ushers and guides about courteous, hospitable behavior and proper information dissemination. The LGU also provides seminars for choreographers. During the nightly practice, members of the community would gather in the school gym to contribute money and food for the kids. Some provide cooking utensils and help design costumes, repair props, decorate headdresses, and paint risers.
Traffic rerouting is carefully planned to ensure the smooth flow of vehicles, pedestrians and commuters. Before the festival, radio announcements and tarps posted in the affected roads inform motorists about the traffic rerouting plan.
The Dinagyang coordinators encourage activities that are environment-friendly. The number of vehicles in the parade is kept to a minimum to reduce pollution. Participants are urged to use recycled and recyclable materials for the souvenirs and costumes. Hygienic portable toilets are put-up in strategic areas and garbage collection is regularly conducted to maintain cleanliness. Kiosk and stall operators are required to provide garbage bags and bins.
Beyond the celebrations, Dinagyang has taken a new direction in terms of its outreach program for the indigenous people (Aeta). It offers scholarships, provides livelihood, and medical services to the Aeta. The IDFI has set up funds for their scholarship in college, while the City Government provides Day Care facilities, and takes care of the Aeta’s pre-school, elementary and high school education. The IDFI also provides financial assistance for IP members in need of medical and funeral services. Funds are allocated for the promotional travel of performers and technical support staff. The Public Employment Services Office helps find jobs for IPs. There is also a livelihood program for jobless IP members after the festival.
As part of the Dinagyang activities, the Cofradia of Santo Niño of the Parish of San Jose conducts catechism and value formation training. It also conducts a month-long feeding program dubbed as Arrozcaldohan ni Señor Santo Niño for children in the nearby barangays. The mobile kitchen of the Red Cross is tapped for cooking the food. After the festival, this project is turned over to the Day Care Center in the area with funding from various sponsoring organizations and food companies.
In a span of twelve years, Dinagyang has developed into a world class act and an award winning event. It was adjudged best tourism event for 2007, 2008, and 2009 by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) and elevated to the Hall of Fame in 2010. More importantly, it was recognized as Best Practice in government and private sector collaboration by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The festival was even commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme in formulating the localization of the Millennium Development Goals. Today, LGUs are taking a new look at festivals as effective governance tools.