The Ati-atihan Festival is a week-long annual celebration held in Kalibo, Aklan, ending every third Sunday of January but relevant festivities are enjoyed even weeks before the main event. The festival is made in honor of the Santo Niño (Infant Jesus) but also recognizes the primary settlers in the islands, the Aetas or Atis.
It is said that the festival began as a thanksgiving by the natives to the Malay settlers. Just like many islands in the Philippines, Aklan was first inhabited by the Atis, dark-skinned natives. When Malay settlers arrived in the 13th century to feel Borneo, they were warmly welcomed and the Atis readily sold their lands, moving to the mountains. During a time when harvest was bad and the Atis didn’t have food, they descended the mountains to ask help from the Malays. They were given food and other gifts. In gratitude, they danced and sang. Every year since then, they would go down to ask for food and celebrate the gifts with song and dance.
Today, the festival features tribal music, with participants dancing to the rhythm created by drums, trumpets, and native gongs. The dancers are decked in colorful garb made from native materials but are also covered with soot and ashes to simulate the dancing Atis. Also, weapons are incorporated as props in the dances aside from various images of the Sto. Niño also paraded in the streets by devotees and the dancers.
A very lively celebration, many of the dancers and participants look like warriors about to go to war but actually dance in a festive celebration.
Ati-atihan Festival 2014 (Tentative*) Schedule of Activities and Highlights of Events
January 13, 2014 (Monday)
- Parade of the Aklan Festival showdown featuring ecological tourism themed costumes (route: Major Streets of Kalibo)
January 14, 2014 (Tuesday)
- Viva kay Sr. Sto. Nino parade (route: Major Streets of Kalibo)
January 16, 2014 (Thursday)
- Annual Higante Contest Parade (route: Major Streets of Kalibo)
January 18, 2014 (Saturday)
- Tribal, Modern, Balik-Ati and Individual Ati-Atihan Contest (route: Major Streets of Kalibo)
January 19, 2014 (Sunday)
- Religious Procession and Dance (route: Major Streets of Kalibo to the Cathedral)
*Note: The actual schedule will be updated once released by the festival organizers.
Right Photo: courtesy of Pinoy Adventurista of TripGrocery.com
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