Photo by Sheeber Joyce

Dinagyang Food Festival: Traversing the Crowded Streets for Food

By sheeber joyce

Foodies think about food 24/7. The impenetrable streets that go with the yearly Dinagyang festival can’t stop foodies from indulging in their field of interest. The three major stopovers in the middle of the city are the Provincial Capitol grounds, the IHRRA (Iloilo Hotels Resorts and Restaurants Association) section at Delgado and the individual food kiosks at Valeria.

Run by the Iloilo Provincial Government, the Food Fest at the Provincial Capitol grounds has been my Dinagyang haven for years. They have each town’s specialty; Cabatuan’s tinuom, seafood from northern Iloilo and grilled catfish or pantat from the town of Zarraga are the opera magna among the gastronomes. These aforementioned dishes plus the classic pork barbeque and dried squid abounded my dinner plate.

Next stop: Delgado Street! The IHRRA offered their best menu in this stretch. Ilonggo food in all its varieties that our balikbayans missed so much and the locals would surely opt to taste can be found here: batchoy, KBL (Editor: a colloquial shorthand for “Kadyos, Baboy, Langka”, which stands literally for “pigeon pea, pork, jackfruit”), pata, grilled meat, steamed oysters, prawns and everything that tastes Ilonggo!

Last destination: Valeria Street! This is where individual kiosks rented by interested hometowners and small entrepreneurs are set up. Home cooks who have mastered Ilonggo dishes stand out here: from the simplest grilled tapas to exemplary soups that will cure any hangover.

After four hours of singing the blues against the elbow-to-elbow horde downtown, three things got clearer: One, the price of food is almost twice its usual cost. Two, in an era where people are technology-bound, the streets are still packed to rafters that even a motorcycle with a Dinagyang vehicle pass can get stuck. And three, Dinagyang brings with it a very festive spirit that despite the first two inconveniences mentioned just now, the food fest will always be part of the family itinerary during Dinagyang Season.