Every September, the streets of Iligan City transform into one huge stage of merrymaking as Iliganons celebrate the colorful Diyandi Festival. Honoring their patron, St. Michael the Archangel; food festivals, trade fairs, beauty contests, art exhibits, sports fests and street dancing fill every street corner of the city.
I was lucky enough to be invited by the Iligan Bloggers Society to witness the Diyandi Festival which coincided with their Waterfalling Adventure Tour. While I’m really not the festival-going kind, especially after experiencing the suffocating crowd of Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival, I still said yes since it’s really not everyday that I get to witness a festival from Mindanao.
Unlike some of the more famous festivals in the Philippines, Diyandi Festival is a fairly recent affair. Established only nine years ago by Iligan’s City Council, it rebranded the long standing annual fiesta that Iliganons have been celebrating since time immemorial.
The term Diyandi is an Iliganon word that connotes merriment or celebration. Its roots goes back to the time when the Dumagats (Christians), the Maranaos (Muslims) and the Higaonons (natives) venerated St. Michael for protecting the city during raids.
What’s interesting is that even though St. Michael is a figure known mostly to Christians, it is not uncommon for our Muslim brothers to also honor him.
One of the most awaited events during the Diyandi Festival is the Kasadya Street Dancing which usually occurs at the peak of the month-long festival. A few Iliganons recall that before the Diyandi Festival came about, Pistang Iligan used to be called Sinulog Festival, a term that has now been taken by Cebu’s world-famous festival.
It was actually my second time to witness a festival in Mindanao, having previously attended Zamboanga del Norte’s Hudyaka Zanorte Festival. Both have a very Mindanaoan flavor to their costumes and I can see a few similarities between the two festival’s garbs.
The main difference I guess is the statuette being held by the festival queen; at the Diyandi Festival it is St. Michael’s.
The famous battle between San Miguel and Yawa-Yawa or the devil is depicted by two actors of each Diyandi contingents; the archangel clashing his sword with the demon’s fork until St. Michael steps over his defeated enemy.
The contingents of the Diyandi Festival are mostly kids. I can see how tasking the performances are, especially with their heavy ornate costumes. But their good cheer and enthusiasm at dancing across the streets of Iligan City can clearly be seen from their shining eyes and smiling lips.
It took an hour for every contingents of the Diyandi Festival to pass where I was posted. You can just imagine how long the whole parade would be since it would still be passing through a number of streets, dancing merrily along the way, before finally doing their grand performance at the city amphitheater.
At the tail end of the Diyandi Festival parade, Iligan City’s rickety kalesas soon followed.
Besides the city’s numerous waterfalls, Iligan is also known for still using the kalesa as a mode of transportation. So much so that it has become one of its icons.
Iligan City’s Diyandi Festival may not be at par in terms of popularity with the more famous fiestas in the country but it is as fun and as colorful as those. And therein actually lay Diyandi’s strength. I really abhor crowded spaces and the rowdy multitude of more popular festivals isn’t present here. Somehow, it still retains that charming small town fiesta feel. And I love Diyandi Festival for it.
Iligan City, Lanao del Norte
Celebrated every September