On how they nurtured the island, no book can say and no meter can measure. For it was when God created man, and Malays built a new world here in Panay – Iloilo.

            Iloilo. I can clearly remember the story my mother told me when I was 9. Iloilo City, before it was hailed a city, was a picture perfect portrait of a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary where Iloilo river and the anemic sunset met at 6pm. By the Iloilo River banks laid trees of abundance and women basking in the waters. But after so long a time, my mind said “this is not the Iloilo River that I have heard of and this has been afar from what my mother has told upon my youth.”

            But this is not the problem, WE are the problem. We have become traitors to our promise. We have drawn away from our responsibilities. Ladies and gentlemen, we have become untrue to ourselves.

            Colonial times and the war might have devastated and changed the principles and beliefs of the Ilonggos, and many lives participated in the sacrifice of duty and patriotism but because of it, now, we see the color of real Iloilo. January comes, we feel the colors of the wind. The thuds of drums in raga. The swinging arms of the performers. The blackness of the ashes on their skin. And the smiles from all around the world seeing the wonders given to us by THE BARTER OF PANAY as interpreted by the Dinagyang Festival.

            Months pass. Thereon comes Paraw Regatta and all other festivals celebrated. Places that make tourists’ eyes wide. Economy that provides livelihood to every family. Ancient architectures that entail the preserving heart of every Ilonggo. Daily and nightly environment smiles. We have every, each of it.  Every little piece of it.

            I have a question, ladies and gentlemen. Who was the very first man who stepped on the moon? Neil Armstrong, right? How about the second man? The third? The fourth? Any idea? If there be none here, then it answers the question for reputation and the race for excellence.

We don’t need to be number one just to feel proud of our city. We don’t need to be renowned just to say, “hey, I live in the best city in this country” or, “we have the cleanest road and the highest establishments in the world.”

            No. My friends, every place is blessed with a bounty of nature and festivals. Iloilo City is one of them.

             Iloilo’s proud Dinagyang is atop amongst all other tourism-oriented festivals in the Philippines. Truly, we should be proud and definitely is a must-be. But let us put in mind that being proud of our tourist spots, events and, festivals comes the responsibility of preserving, caring and loving it.

            And yes, my mother was right. Though Iloilo River is far from what it was before, it has changed and so have we.

           Sa kada tikang sang pagba-o, dapat ini aton ikabugal. Kay ang dakbanwa sang Iloilo, akon bugal.

(Iloilo Charter Day 2010)