Friday, 25 January 2013

My Very Own Dinagyang Moment

Born a Guimarasnon,  I am first and foremost an Ilonggo by heart. So it is with pride that I am gonna write about one of our Ilonggo's best -- Dinagyang.

Dinagyang is a festivity held every 4th week-end of January, following that of Cebu's Sinulog, and Aklan's  Ati-Atihan. As much as it is a festivity held in honor of Sr. Sto. Nino, it is also a celebration of the barter of Panay Island from the natives, the Ati(s), to the Malay. Street dancing is the form of such celebration. Every 4th Saturday, Iloilo holds the Kasadyahan, a competition of various tribe to showcase the Barter to the Malay.  This is followed the next day by the Dinagyang proper, always held every Sunday, another competition of various tribes to showcase the Natives dancing on the street with the beat of the drums.

As a child, I grew up watching it from the t.v. I remember always rooting for Konggo Tribe and always waiting for their signature zigzag formation. When I spent my High School in the city proper, that's when I started enjoying the nights of staying up to watch the tribes practice on the streets week before the competition. I remember waiting for that Friday of Opening Salvo, when the tribes tease you with a little bit of their dance as they bring Sr Sto Nino from San Jose Church to the Cathedral in Jaro. I also remember, getting in trouble for not listening to the grown-ups of their warning to stay off the crazy area during the Sadsad hours (post competition when the people crowds the street and dance on whatever beat of drums and music, sober, drunk and in between).

Then I remember experiencing Dinagyang to it's fullest. By being on it. By being there as part of a tribe, dancing on the beat of the drums, finishing up that 5 rounds of judging area.

I was a U.P. Prior to that year (1996?), U.P. Visayas would join the Kasadyahan competition. If I'm not wrong, our school tribe is Tribu Amihan. That second semester of the school year, I registered to this P.E. class, Social Recreation. This without knowing that I'll be in for that opposite awakening of a journey, not in any Social Recreation sort of way. Our class professor encouraged us to sign up for being in the tribe. If by any guts you make it to the Dinagyang competition, you will automatically get a 1.0 grade and do not need to attend class anymore.

 I was hesitant, at first. In my mind, I could possibly join late the already-practicing tribe, but I am not sure if I do have the endurance to round up the city streets and finish the 5 judging area. And I have two-weeks before the competition. But because it is a challenge my silly brain can't refuse - i signed up and started rehearsing the dance.

The first week was not bad. I was able to skip my major classes without that much scare, and got validly excused to some other classes/presentations. The dance rehearsals were mostly after/in-between my class schedules, so I was able to pull it off. But towards the end of that first week, I twisted my left ankle. It was the worst ankle-twisting I ever had in my life. I saw stars and I black out for 10 seconds. Good thing my bestfriend was beside, she was able to drag me to the clinic. With bandage and all, I came back to my rehearsal, thinking everything would be all right.

Painful is an understatement. I decided to back out. But again, my brain tells me otherwise. I took the pain... and I took it all. That friday of Opening Salvo, when we tried to round the streets for the first time, I thought I'll gonna collapse. But listening to the bystanders screaming for us (especially because we are the only tribe with 80% girls)... I got more encouraged to push myself to finish my painful journey. The 2nd week, we rehearsed non-stop in the gym, and in the streets at night. I remember going back twice to a 'hilot' (broken-bone fixer) in Jaro because I could not take the pain. I remember mustering all the ways I was told by anyone, just to minimize the pain I felt. I will always remember it, and how painfully I danced steadfastly just to make it through the competition.

That very Sunday of Dinagyang competition, I painted myself black, don my costume on, put my headdress, and held my spear and shield, walked head high as I went with my tribe to face the million crowd of spectators in the streets of Iloilo. I danced with the beat of the drums, taking the pain of my broken ankle, the scourging heat of the sun, and just forgetting -- that killer pain, hoping against hope that I will not collapse or fall down.

Then the first judging area was done. Applause errupted. My family alongside the streets spraying water to my face. Then off we danced our way to the second judging area, then the third, then the fourth. I remember asking for ammonia. Just to help me get through the last judging area. Just to make me finish the competition. I remember thinking of giving up after the fourth judging area. My left ankle all swolen and red, and just crazy painful. But again, I asked for ammonia. I remember my bestfriend handing me a bottled water as I saw her on the side of street. I thought of them, and I thought of my family, and of my tribe. I know they will not miss me if I fall... but I owe it to myself to finish it to the 5th judging area. And when I did.... when we did our last move, I just totally sat down. I remember making it back to the school bus, picking up my stuffs from school, and went home and wash off the paint. Then I slept for 4 straight hours. I slept the pain away. I slept my tired body away.

Then I woke up and saw my boyfriend's worried face. I smiled.. and told him to come with me to check out the street-dancing and wait for the result of the competition. He got mad. of course, he hated the fact I joined in the first place. I think, he just can't believe how stubborn I am. He left, of course pissed off and all. I went to the streets, met up with my niece and cousins... and they shared with me that glorious moment of listening our tribe announced winning the 3rd place.

That was what I called a sweet-surrender.
Painful journey, but a test of will and determination.
That was one of those moments when I realized, I can push myself beyond my brains limit and boundaries.

That's when I realized, I could be strong. And I am strong.

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