Ati-Atihan is my home province’s annual fiesta celebrated in honor of Sto. Niño. Celebrated for centuries now, it is deemed the mother of all Philippine festivals.
Since I last joined the Ati-Atihan in 2012, I decided to go home this 2015 to experience it again, and it was one of my most memorable Ati-Atihan to date because I spent it with my mom. You see, I realized that as we grow older, my siblings and I have done things with our friends and in a way, left our parents behind. In a reversal of roles, I was now the one leading my mom as we walked the streets of Kalibo while doing the Hala Bira! And it felt good to take care of her in the same way (I hope) that she has taken good care of us all these years.
Here are some of my favorite shots from this year’s festivities:
Ati is our dialect for Aetas, the dark-skinned primary settlers of Panay where Aklan is located. It was told that when a group of Malay chieftains fled Borneo, the Aetas granted them settlement. In celebration, the Malays painted themselves with soot to look like Atis. Hence the soot-smeared faces of today’s participants.
Over the years, festival costumes have evolved. We now have a category called modern where costumes made of fabric are allowed.
Still, for me, nothing beats colorful costumes made of native and traditional materials like wood, shells, rooster feathers, bamboo, tiger grass, and the like.
These past years too, more and more groups are going back to the basic. That is, their costumes are made of simple materials like coconut husks, dried banana leaves, and woven mat.
Some also got creative and used recycled PET bottles, Yakult containers, plastic cups, old CDs, and even plastic forks!
Ati-Atihan is also a time for Akeanons to parade on the streets of Kalibo wearing or being anything they want. This year, I’ve seen snakes, a Dalmatian, Michael Jackson, Shrek, etc., though if you had been to past Ati-Atihan festival like I had, you would notice that some of these characters e.g. Michael Jackson and the Les Papag Blues were recurring and it’s because it’s the panata (devotion) of these people, a way of thanking the Sto. Niño for the graces they received.
It broke my heart though, to see Shrek up close since I realized that he has Down’s Syndrome.
Though Ati-Atihan may seem to some as just a form of merrymaking on the streets, it does have a religious facet. When the Spaniards arrived in Panay and witnessed the celebration, they added a Catholic element to the festivities by celebrating it in honor of Sto. Niño.
The above photo was taken on Sunday, the culmination of Ati-Atihan festival. After the mass, the mayor shouted Viva kay Señor Sto. Niño! (long live the Child Jesus), participants held their Niños up high for the priests to bless.
It was inspiring to see people clutching their Niños as they did the hala bira (streetdancing). These people who did not mind their heavy load because they knew they’re doing it for Him.
From 4 PM onwards, a procession of carozza with statues of the Sto. Niño served as the culmination of this week-long festival.
Here’s my favorite photo of the Sto. Niño with palm trees as its backdrop.
I’ll end this post with a photo of a boy from one of my favorite groups from this year’s Ati-Atihan, the Black Beauty Boys.
Viva Senor Sto Niño!