Food and Leisure

Celebrating Dinagyang at Megaworld Iloilo business park

Julie Cabatit-Alegre - The Philippine Star
Celebrating Dinagyang at Megaworld Iloilo business park
Colorful float at the Dinagyang Grand Parade of Lights showcasing Illongo artistry
Julie Cabatit-Alegre

With this year’s focus on “rhythm, colors and flavors,” Megaworld’s Iloilo Business Park once again hosted, for the third year in a row, some of the major events of the annual Dinagyang Festival, the 52-year-old religious and cultural celebration that honors the Sto. Nino and commemorates the arrival of Malay settlers in Panay Island.

The Dinagyang Grand Parade of Lights, the most awaited highlight of the festivities on the fourth weekend of the first month of the new year, featured colorful floats showcasing Ilonggo artistry. The floats staged by local groups, companies and corporations wound its way from the Diversion Road to Megaworld Boulevard at the Iloilo Business Park (IBP), as it had in previous years, shortly after sunset.

The difference from last year is that instead of just passing through, this time the floats were parked at the IBP at the end of the parade. “We have the space,” Festive Walk general manager Ford Tan explained, referring to the 72-hectare mixed-use integrated township. This gave the revelers a welcome opportunity to take photos and selfies with the Instagram-ready floats serving as illuminated background the rest of the night.

At the Dinagyang Food Fest 2km Parade of Flavors
Julie Cabatit-Alegre

At the Festive Walk Parade right across the Festive Walk Mall, pop-up food stalls participating in the Dinagyang Food Fest lined the entire 1.1 km strip where families and friends filled the tables and chairs to enjoy popular local fare such as chicken inasal, batchoy and pancit molo.

Kap Ising’s Pancit Molo soup
Julie Cabatit-Alegre

“With almost 100 participants, the almost 2 kms Parade of Flavors is the longest food fest in the city for Dinagyang,” Tan remarked. “This is our way of supporting small businesses, a number of them tenants or prospective tenants at our mall.” We sampled Kap Ising’s Pancit Molo, a local favorite. And if that isn’t enough, you can also buy frozen molo balls to take home.

The Biscocho Haus is an old reliable where you can do some more of your pasalubong shopping. With its branch conveniently located at the Festive Walk Parade, you won’t need to travel all the way to the original Biscocho Haus in Jaro to get their popular butterscotch and other special homemade delicacies. 

“We attract a lot of the locals since we have the facilities and amenities such as the luxury of parking,” said Tan, a native Ilonggo from La Paz. “Before Megaworld came, there were few places that the locals could go. When the site of the old airport here in Mandurriao was acquired by Megaworld, it really changed the landscape of Iloilo, especially economically, particularly in providing more job opportunities.”

“We are targeting a specific market,” Tan says. “The Ilonggos always want to try something new.” The Festive Walk is a lifestyle mall where they can find what they otherwise would have traveled to Manila to get, as they used to do before. Now there’s Marketplace by Rustan’s and Save More, as well as familiar mall staples such as Watson’s, Mercury Drug and National Bookstore. You know they have truly leveled up when you can find a Starbucks at the mall, as well as Jollibee, McDonald’s and KFC.

Nadej’s Croatian Brodet
Julie Cabatit-Alegre

The Iloilo Business Park is also host to a number of homegrown restaurants with global concepts, such as Pauline Banusing’s Farm to Table restaurant which uses seasonal local ingredients fresh from the farm in familiar Filipino dishes prepared and served in refined gourmet style. The newly opened Nadej café and restaurant located right across the street from Richmonde Hotel features international cuisine with such dishes as Croatian Brodet, Brazilian Felijoada, Hungarian Goulash, Cuban Ropa Vieja, Portuguese Rojoes and Slovakian Halusky.

The different countries represented in the dishes listed in the menu are countries that owner Jonathan Aliponga, a former schoolteacher in Japan, has visited. “Nadej is the Slovak word for hope,” Aliponga explained. “Part of the restaurant’s profits will fund the education of the less-fortunate children in Iloilo.” 

The hotels were fully booked during the Dinagyang Festival. Not only visitors and tourists but also many locals enjoyed their staycation at Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, the first Courtyard brand to open in the Philippines, as well as Richmonde Hotel, the award-winning homegrown hotel at the Iloilo Business Park.

Festive Walk general manager Ford Tan
Julie Cabatit-Alegre

“We are building additional hotels and we are developing the transport hub across Festive Walk Mall where P2P (point-to-point) buses will be stationed to shuttle visitors to and from the airport and other points in the city,” Tan shared.

We watched the grand fireworks display from the open-air balcony of the ILOMOCA (Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art), the groundbreaking contemporary art museum devoted mostly to Filipino and Ilonggo artists in the Casa Emperador Building at the Festive Walk Parade. From this vantage point, the fireworks burst directly above our heads, with the shower of lights illuminating the night sky. It was magical.


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