In the 13th century, a huge amount of Malay datus out of Borneo arrived at Panay Island during balangays, which they were able to cross over the ocean to flee the horrible reign of Sultan Makatunaw. They’ve been also welcomed warmly from the people of Panay. Datu Puti - the Chief Minister of Makatunaw at that time, has made a trade with the native and bought the plains for a golden salakot, brass basins and bales of cloth. They gave a very long necklace to the wife of the Ati chieftain. Feasting and festivities followed soon after.
After some time, the Ati local residents started facing challenges as they have no food left due to the bad harvest, they were famished and there was nothing to eat, so to fill their hunger, they started moving down from their mountain village. Interesting things happened when the Datus welcomed them and gave them food and drinks to eat, the Ati people were very happy because of their attitude so they decided to give something in return and make them happy by painting their faces and arms with black color and wear different colorful dresses only to look like them.
Ati-Atihan is a week-long event known for its street parties, dancing competitions, daily snake-dances, and general flamboyance. The festival has since spread to other cities but the one in Kalibo is the origin and still the best.
While many Ati-Atihan celebrations take place across the Aklan province, such as in Ibajay and the famous island of Boracay, the grandest of all takes place in its capital, Kalibo. It’s a week-long celebration that culminates on the third Sunday of January, with several events leading up to grand finale held over the weekend. Bazaars and food stalls are set up across the city, but the most exciting happenings take place down the city streets. Several parades are organized throughout the week involving bright and colorful costumes, giant floats, and best of all, vigorous street dancing.
Unlike many other festivals where attendees stand as onlookers on the sidelines, the Ati-Atihan allows and even encourages people to be part of the celebration. With the rhythmic, and seemingly ceaseless banging of the drums, the spirited street dancing by both performers and public, and the excitement and life that just fill the air, it becomes difficult not to get pulled into the action.
And if you enjoy having a drink in hand while taking part in festivities, you’ll love Ati-Atihan even more because it lets you do just that. Expect complete strangers to be handing you cans of beer and offering you sips of rum from their bottle. It’s uninterrupted merrymaking, and it goes on for days. But more than just booze-infused fun, it’s an interesting chance to see the commemoration of history, culture, tradition, and the joyful Filipino people.
Santo Nino Parade
The people attend masses for the Santo Nino, and benefit dances sponsored by government organizations. The formal opening mass emphasizes the festival’s religious event. The procession begins with rhythmic drumbeats, and dances parading along the street. The second day begins at dawn with a rosary procession, which ends with a community mass, and procession. The phrase "Hala Bira! Pwera Pasma!" is originally associated with the Sto.
Nino Ati-Atihan Festival as the revelers and devotees keep on going with the festivities all over the town from morning to the wee hours of the next morning, rain or shine, for one week or even more. They believe that the miraculous Child Jesus will protect them from harm and illness. The highlight of the festival occurs on the last day, the third Sunday of January when groups representing different tribes compete for tourists' attention and prizes. The festival ends with a procession of thousands of people carrying torches and different kinds of images of the Santo Nino. The contest winners are announced at a masquerade ball which officially ends the festival.