Ati-Atihan Festival 2021 will push through; however, to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus, festivities will be toned down to avoid crowds. For the exact changes and the final events for the festival, please visit the local government of Aklan’s social media page and/or website.
Everyone takes part in the festivities!
Image: Vibrant Kalibo Facebook Page
As a nation of happy people, the Philippines is teeming with all sorts of festivals. There is one almost each month in every city. One festival to look forward to yearly is the Ati-Atihan festival in Aklan. The festival, which coincides with the Sinulog Festival of Cebu, is celebrated in honor of the Señor Santo Niño de Kalibo (Holy Child of Kalibo).
If you’re wondering what fun activities you can do in Kalibo during Ati-Atihan, here is a quick guide to get you started.
Dubbed as The Mother of All Philippine Festivals, Ati-Atihan is an 800-year-old celebration in the capital town of Kalibo. The annual festivity falls on the third week of January and is marked with the deafening beats of drums and endless street dancing.
Aside from the festivities, there’s also a religious aspect to Ati-Atihan. All week long, devotees flock to the Cathedral Parish of Saint John the Baptist—more commonly known as the Kalibo Cathedral—for a traditional healing ritual called paepak. The ritual involves placing a small figure of the Santo Niño on specific body parts that a devotee wishes to be healed.
Where to stay: The Ati-Atihan Festival Hotel is close to the main business district. This 20-room boutique hotel offers economy, standard, and de luxe private accommodations as well as hostel rooms for backpackers. Booking several weeks prior to the festival is recommended.
Taking a side trip to Boracay before or after the Ati-Atihan festivities can be easily accomplished. Since Boracay is just 1.5 hours away from Kalibo, you can already do so much in just one day.
If you prefer to stay within mainland Aklan, you can visit Bakhawan Eco-Park, a 220-ha. property with over 20 species of mangroves. A 1.1km-long bamboo trail weaves through the mangrove forest and leads to a magnificent view of the Sibuyan Sea.
You can also visit La Herminia Piña Weaving Industry in Old Buswang, Kalibo to see how Aklanons weave piña (pineapple) fabric.
You can learn more about the rich culture of Aklan at Museo it Akean. The two-storey Aklan Museum is located on Martelino Street, near the Kalibo Cathedral. The museum features the works of famous Aklanon artists. It also houses the image of the first Filipino Archbishop of the Philippine Catholic Church, Monsignor Gabriel M. Reyes, who was from Aklan. Wooden Santo Niño replicas and woven products made of piña are also housed at the museum.
You can also reflect on the history of Aklan at the centuries-old Kalibo Cathedral. The church had a major facelift after it was hit by an earthquake in 1990, but the interior speaks of its old grandeur. The cathedral also serves as the center of worship during the festival.
Tip: Visit the Kalibo Cathedral on the last day of the Ati-Atihan Festival to witness the Aklanon devotion to the Santo Niño.
Tasting local flavors during your Ati-Atihan visit is also something you shouldn’t miss. One famous dish in Aklan is the binakoe or binakol, or chicken soup cooked inside a fresh bamboo tube.
Another famous dish in Aklan is tinumkani, which is made of young coconut meat and ueang or pounded freshwater shrimps. After wrapping in taro leaves, the dish is then cooked in coconut milk.
Ampao or sweet, puffed rice cake from Lezo town is also a must-try. Their version of the famous rice crispies is a favorite among tourists.
If you prefer something more exotic, you can try eating tamilok or woodworms. Tamilok is harvested from old mangrove wood and is often served fresh with vinegar.
Tip: You can also sample tamilok when you visit Bakhawan Eco-Park.
5. Join the sadsad.
Participants and spectators parade across the streets of Kalibo.
Your Ati-Atihan experience will not be complete without joining the street dancing parade or sadsad. Throughout the week, government officials, students, and members of the private sector from all over Aklan join various sadsad activities. The grandest sadsad activity is held on the Saturday of Ati-Atihan week as different tribes compete in the street dancing competition. Some group members cover themselves in soot, while others don colorful costumes mostly made from indigenous materials. Others wear superhero costumes or dress up as famous personalities.
Rather than be mere spectators, tourists can dance and take photos with tribe dancers. You can even join these groups and march in the parade with them until you get tired. You can also try body painting or ask people along the street to put some color on your face.
Tip: Wear comfortable shoes to protect your feet if you plan to join the festival. Expect to do a lot of walking since major streets are closed for the parade.
Make sure to visit Yoorekka to learn and find out more about the best activities that you can do during ati-atihan festival.
Though it’s not as grand as other Philippine festivals, the charm of Ati-Atihan lies in its simplicity and religiosity. Experience the Ati-Atihan festival and enjoy exploring Kalibo!
Stay safe as you travel! Make sure to follow social distancing protocols and observe health precautions wherever you go. Have a great trip!
This article was originally published in Yoorekka on January 06, 2018.
About Karen Bermejo
Karen writes to earn a living, tell stories and promote her advocacies. She’s a traveler and a volunteer. Her adventurous soul makes her more comfortable to sleep on the couch of a stranger than pay bucks for accommodation. Her ultimate dream is to travel the world, master a foreign language and learn how to swim. To keep her sanity while chasing her dreams, she chases waterfalls on weekends.
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