Kalibo Ati-atihan: The Mother of Philippine Festivals

I love festivals. I like how customs and traditions are depicted in the celebrations of each place through their dance and costumes. Last January 2014, I finally had the opportunity to watch the Kalibo Ati-atihan Festival when I embarked on a 10-day trip around Panay Island.

Kalibo is the gateway to the world-famous Boracay Island. It is also home to the Ati-atihan Festival, a feast in honor of the Santo Niño (Infant Jesus), and is considered to be the mother of Philippine festivals.

Aetas
Aeta

Ati-atihan, which means "to be like Aetas" is a weeklong celebration culminating on the third Sunday of January. Aetas are small people with dark skin, kinky hair and large flat noses. Participants paint their faces with ashes or charcoal powder and wear colorful costumes depicting the culture of the early settlers of Panay Island as they dance with beat of the drums along the streets of the town.

The origin of Ati-atihan dates back into the 13th century, a time when Malays arrived in Panay. The Aetas, who were the first settlers of the island then, allowed the Malays to dwell in the lowlands since they like to live in the highlands.

There came a time when the Aetas had a bad harvest and they had to ask for food from the Malays. Every year since then, the Aetas came to the lowlands inhabitants to ask for food. They sang and danced to show their gratitude for the helping hand. Soon enough the Malays joined the celebration by painting their faces black in honor of the Aetas.

The arrival of the Spaniards during the 16th century gave rise to the Catholic influence. There was an arrangement between the Spaniards, Malays and Aetas that the future celebrations will be in honor of the Santo Niño.

Ati-Atihan Festival

Ati-Atihan Festival
Ati-Atihan Festival

Unlike other festivals in the Philippines I have been into, Ati-atihan allows the spectators to join the parade itself. I even got face to face with the participants.

Dance and Drink with the Crowd

Dance and Drink with the Crowd
Dance and Drink with the Crowd

This festival is one big mardi gras as people gather in the streets of Kalibo, dance with the beat of the drums and drink during the parade. There was even a group who was drinking from a plunger (I assumed that it was new and cleansed before they used it).


Watch this short video of me during the 2014 Ati-atihan Festival.

Colorful CostumesColorful Costumes
Colorful CostumesColorful Costumes
Colorful Costumes

A sample of the colorful costumes, most of which are from recycled materials.

Spectators
SpectatorsSpectators
Spectators

Some of the crowd during the festival. There are families both local and foreign. There are also some couples, who are probably on vacation at boracay.

Face Paint
Face Paint
Face Paint

I found this guy having his face painted and wanted to have my own.


Video taken while my face was being painted. I looked like an Aeta after this.

Utazo
Utazo

Utazo was trying to fit this mask.

Face Paint
Mike Laagan with locals during Ati-atihan Festival

Took some photos with the locals after the morning parade.


Things you need to know about the Kalibo Ati-atihan

  1. Kalibo Ati-atihan is celebrated every third week of January, with the highlights of the festival happening on the third weekend.
  2. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia all have direct flight to Kalibo from Manila.
  3. Book your accommodations early. Accommodations run out as early as November. Expect to pay more than twice the usual rates
  4. Wear something comfortable.
  5. Spectators most often get dragged into the parade

It was a great experience to be at the Ati-atihan Festival this year. I am looking forward to join the festival in the succeeding years.

have you been to the Ati-atihan Festival. Describe your experience at the comment section below.






Share this article:





1 comment:

  1. Yes, been celebrating Ati-ATihan festival for several times already and each time is special filled with wonderful memories. Looking forward to 2015 festivities. Hala Bira!!!

    ReplyDelete