My Dinagyang Fever

20 02 2012
Dinagyang Festival, 20 21 22
Sunday, 22 January 2012
Iloilo City, Philippines

I have had this fever for years. Finally, I had the last opportunity to do it. I did it with O.

I thought once I have the final schedule, everything will just be smooth. I started booking the flights since last month and I tried checking out the hotels only to find out they were full! After all, Dinagyang festivities will surely draw crowd since it is a cultural and religious celebration in honor of Sto. Nino. “Viva Sto Nino!”

One day before the flight, I still was not able to find the hotel. Upon landing the IloIlo airport, I went to the tourism desk. And voila! 3 flyers were there, waiting to take a chance with me. After several sms and calls, JC (Jesus Christ) heard my prayers. We got a Friday night hotel booking!

Our hotel was very near the festival’s venue, Freedom Grandstand. And the port for our Saturday side trip was just 2 blocks away! I told myself, I will deal with the Saturday night hotel booking tomorrow.

(Swimming-Hiking-Touring SHT: one whole day side trip to Guimaras, then half day Dinagyang/city tour the following day.)
DAY 1 (Guimaras island tour)
0900 ETD Iloilo to Guimaras.
O and I started walking to the ferry terminal and headed to Jordan, Guimaras! We reached the destination after less than 20 minutes of cruising the Iloilo Strait, a narrow channel between Iloilo and Guimaras. It was a very welcoming and safe arrival. The local tourism on the island greeted us. We registered and they gave a 5-minute briefing on what are the interesting spots on the island. They told us their registration process whereby you will also have an idea how much the cost of the “contracted” vehicle per the 5 areas – Buenavista, San Lorenzo, Jordan, Sibunag and Nueva Valencia. More better than this, the locals were very hospitable! Although they speak different dialect (Hiligaynon/Ilonggo), they tried conversing with us in Filipino. (The country has a minimum 120 dialects all over the 1,707 islands around the archipelago.)
We hired a tricycle for us to maximize our day within the island. Tricycle is a local 3-wheeled motorcycle with an attached passenger sidecar.
1000 Start of island tour. White beach of Poblacion
We first targeted the “white beach” at the southern west part among the places to go to on the island. And ended up ordering early lunch at Raymen Beach resort. While having our seafood, we sat on the beach and frolic under the sun. We were awed by the beauty of white soft sand Guimaras castle made by some foreign and local tourists.
1330 Guisi Point Lighthouse, Dolores
After a refreshing underwater fun, we took some snaps of the historical Guisi Point, built during the Spanish era (1896)
1430 Sad-sad Falls
We did some 30 minute hiking (descending and ascending) to Sadsad falls so that O could see how it looks like in its actual form. This was the side trip of the side trip ’cause it was not really part of the deal! It will be a shame if I will not show a falls to this city person after she asked, “How does a waterfall look like for real?”
Melvin our driver took the challenge. We turned right at km 611, started trekking under a scourging sun and left our bags on the trail so that we will not miss our way back. Then after few minutes, we started hearing the sound of water. We were near the falls! We were able to walk on the rocks on top of the falls and peer over the edge. We saw the beauty of Sad-sad falls!
1530 Trappist Monastery – Our Lady of the Philippines in San Miguel
We did some meditation in the artistically crafted church and bought some “pasalubong” such as processed mango, ube, handmade bags etc from the Gift Shop
1630 Guimaras Adventure Park in Alaguisocs
We checked out the park, saw the zip line, the rappel and other facilities.
1700 ETD Guimaras back to Iloilo
We were already considering to stay on the island since we saw more spots for snaps
but the hotels were full as well. We then decided to take the pumpboat back to Iloilo.
As soon as we reached the main island, I started the hotel booking marathon. I almost reached the finish line but when I found out that the hotel charges on an hourly basis, I started doubting! I told myself, “This is not the hotel suited for a 12-year old Manila girl!”
Finally, we found a new hotel in Molo. When O heard that there was no aircon in the room, she told me with a smile that this will be an exciting experience for her. I uttered, “simple things give surprises!”
DAY 2 (Dinagyang Ati-atihan Parade/Contest and some historical city tour)
0900 Iloilo Dinagyang 2012
While heading back to the Freedom Grandstand area, O told me that she was surprised that the ceiling fan could be as cold as the aircon! Then we braced ourselves as we wandered through the crowd like a needle dropping incessantly. We saw the Ati-Ati street dancing where locals returned back in time pretending to be the Ati natives with bodies covered with soots and ashes. (Ati natives were the indigenous on the island before the Malay arrival in the 10th century). The crowds were chanting “Viva El Senor Santo Nino!”
After few snaps, I was already melting in the sun. We left the crowd and tried some local food.
1400 Historical tour to Plaza Libertad and Fort San Pedro
We took the “sicad”, the local pedicab and did 2 out of dozen historical landmarks within the city.  One, at Plaza Libertad, the spot where the First Philippine Republic flag was raised in triumph after Spain surrendered Iloilo to the revolutionaries in 1898. Then off we went to the second landmark, Fort San Pedro built in 1600s by the Spaniards. This was the place attacked by Dutch, British, American and Japanese troops.
1500 Recharge in the hotel then go to the airport.

I am sure I will no longer have Dinagyang fever. But would rather go back to Iloilo for more local food galore like at Roberto’s then explore more Guimaras island one day..h




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