DINAGYANG MONUMENT: IMMORTALIZING 500 YEARS OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE PHILIPPINES

One’s greatest achievement stems out the moment they make a choice, a choice that matters and will affect the greatest number of men. It is a choice of taking chances to the dreams of others and see the beauty it will create for generations to come. This is the vision of the people behind the Dinagyang monument. It started out as a quiet wish, reserved but hopeful. There is an underlying burst of passion that is awaiting to be heard, to be noticed, to be shared with those who see its potential, its meaning, and its symbolism of the Christian faith.

This call for kinship was heard by several similar-minded individuals who share the same sentiments of our dear Augustinians in honoring the double quincentennial celebration: the 500th anniversary of the introduction of Christianity to the country and the 500th anniversary of the arrival and giving of the image of Santa Niño to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan.

The University, in cooperation with the Office of the Congressman of the Lone District of Iloilo, the Iloilo City Government, National Historical Commission, Friends of St. Augustine, and the Zonta Club of Iloilo City, Inc. launched the search for the visage that would depict the historical event through  the launching of the Dinagyang Monument Regional Design Competition at the Hotel Sta. Monica last February 16, 2021. The monument  will be a Bronze Commemorative Tableaux along the Iloilo Esplanade near the University of San Agustin. The tableaux will depict the three historical events in 1521, 1565 and 1968 respectively. The final design of the monument will be based on the results of a regional competition.

This launching was overwhelmingly attended by individuals who enthusiastically expressed their interest and support to the project: Secretary Silvestre Bello III, from the Department of Labor and Employment, Secretary Wendel Avisado, from the Department of Budget and Management, Congresswoman Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda of the Lone District of Iloilo, Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., Governor Iloilo Province, Gabriel Umadhay, Executive Assistant to Mayor Jerry Treñas, Mayor City of Iloilo, Atty. Hans Leo Cacdac, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator, Fr. Jose Gonzales, OSA, Parish Priest of San Jose Placer, Iloilo City, Augustinian friars, Ruth Tirol-Jarantilla and Ma. Amelita Lazarraga, President of Zonta Club of Iloilo City, Inc., the Deans of the University of San Agustin and other academic officials, faculty, and the alumni.

Fr. Frederick C. Comendador, OSA, University President, expressed in his welcome message that “even if there is a pandemic raging on, we have more reasons to celebrate. The mere fact that we are here present, alive and in the pink of health are enough reasons to be happy and grateful. It behooves to us to remind the new generation of the legacy of faith and how the faith and image have touched lives of millions of Filipinos, how it has shaped our identity and culture, how it has sustained and strengthened Filipinos all over the world as they face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and hence the need to continue the propagation of the devotion. The Sto. Niño who is God who became a child, can teach us and the new generation the values of humility, gentleness, hospitality, and service for the development of humanity.”

According to Fr. Harold Ll. Rentoria, OSA in his message, “the Dinagyang monument will become a landmark of Iloilo City, from where both the Ilonggos and the tourists can have a glimpse of the endearing cultural identity of the place. Its aim is to become a platform of commemoration of the rich history, culture and identity of the city and her people.”

Notable guests also shared their thoughts on the relevance of the Dinagyang Monument, Iloilo Governor Arthur “Toto”Defensor said that the Ilonggos’ faith continues to strengthen its resolve as a community and that in his leadership in the province, he is very much supportive of this Augustinians’ endeavor. Furthermore, Mayor Jerry Treñas sends his support through Executive Assistant Gabriel Umadhay who shared his vision for the Ilonggos, making art the heart of the city. That through art, this undertaking of commemorating a historical event will be manifested through the vast imagination of the Ilonggos, advocating the very tenets of USWAG Iloilo.

Iloilo City Lone District Rep. Julienne “Jam-Jam” Baronda conveyed her gratitude to those compelled this dream coming to fruition. Being an alumna of the university, she expressed her pride for the Augustinians’ ability to work from scratch and eventually to the fulfilment of a purpose, that is the birth of the Dinagyang Monument in celebration of 500 years of Christian faith. The first step is afoot, and with the help of the local and national government agencies this celebration of hope and love for Sr. Santo Niño will reverberate through the generations to come.

Fr. Rentoria added that the “underlying theme beneath the tableaux is the strong partnership between the Catholic Church and the civil government in the Catholic faith in the country and the promotion of the devotion of the Santo Nino. This productive partnership is still very evident today where the San Jose de Placer Parish and the local government of Iloilo City have been working hard together through the years in the annual celebration of the Dinagyang festival. Because of this the devotion to the Santo Niño de Cebu and the Dinagyang Festival have truly found a home within the cultural landscape of the Ilonggos.”

The Dinagyang Monument Design Competition is open to Western Visayan or citizens of Western Visayas who aspire to have their artwork experienced by Ilonggos and visitors alike. The prizes are as follows:

  1. 1st Prize: PhP200,000.00
  2. 2nd Prize: PhP100,000.00
  3. 3rd Prize: PhP50,000.00
  4. 4th and 5th Prize: PhP10,000.00 each

Deadline of submission is on or before 17 May 2021, Monday, at 5:00 PM.  For interested parties, visit the link: http://usa.edu.ph/dinagyangmonument/ for more information.

To quote St. Augustine: “For if a thing is not diminished by being shared with others, it is not rightly owned if it is only owned and not shared.” May this celebration of devotion and love to Sr. Sto. Niño be an instrument to showcase and honor one’s gift of talent, and magnify our aspirations to share the good news to mankind.

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