Events + Entertainment

Here’s How Boracay Celebrates the Ati-Atihan Festival This Year

Here's a quick update about the Ati-Atihan festival celebrations

By: Jun N. Aguirre | January 17, 2024
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The Boracay festival is a lively and dynamic cultural celebration held every January.

Image: Malay-Boracay Tourism Office

Every January, the island of Boracay comes alive with the vibrant and colorful celebration of the Ati-Atihan festival. This festival honors St. Niño, also known as infant Jesus Christ, and is celebrated by the Ati tribe, the island's indigenous people.

Here's a quick update if you’re wondering what’s happening about the Ati-Atihan festival in Boracay this year.

about Ati-atihan festival street procession

The Holy Rosary Parish conducts a 'hornada' or street procession.

Image: Malay Tourism Office

Before the highlight, the Holy Rosary Parish conducts a ‘hornada’ or a street procession in key areas of this resort island.

The highlight of the Boracay festival was the fluvial procession in the early morning of Sunday, where devotees of Boracay residents ride their respective motor boats carrying their Sto. Niño images roaming the island.

After the fluvial parade, a high mass will be held at the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish. At the end of the mass, upon the signal of the priest shouting Viva Kay Sr. Sto. Niño, members of the ‘tribes’ beat their drums, start the parade from the Parish to the front beach, and then return to the Parish.

about Ati-atihan festival procession on the beach

Residents participated in a beach parade on the white sandy shore.

Image: Malay-Boracay Tourism Office Facebook page

A similar beach parade will be held in the afternoon, but it is more solemn this time. In the morning parade, residents and tourists were invited to join any participating ‘tribes’ for free. Everyone was invited to dance with gusto through the beat of the Ati-Atihan style drum and lyres.

The dance at the beach is meant as a form of worship to the Sto. Niño, a freestyle thanksgiving dance to the divine providence for all the blessings it received the previous year. Participants were also encouraged to wear their descent costumes.

The Ati natives include the Boracay Island Tribal Organization (BATO), the Bolabog Tribal Group, and the Bukidnon Indigenous Cultural Communities Indigenous People of Boracay. Tourists and spectators were encouraged to join with them in the parade.

Delos Santos said this year’s Ati-Atihan Festival in Boracay was a record-breaking revelry.

“Under the astute leadership of Mayor Frolibar Bautista, our Municipal Incident Management Team, activated by MDRRMC, together with Municipal Tourism Office as event organizer, flawlessly implemented the 2024 Boracay Sto. Niño Celebration,” Delos Santos said.

“With steadfast support from diverse agencies in emergency preparedness, response, safety, security, and peacekeeping, the celebration proudly achieved its primary objective— a ZERO INCIDENT event. A total of 5,841 participants and 10,919 tourists joined the most-anticipated celebration on the island. Gratitude to everyone for your commitment and endless cooperation. VIVA KAY SENIOR STO. NIÑO!,” he added.

Felix Delos Santos, the Malay Tourism Office, said that the Ati-Atihan Festival in Boracay, which is being held the second week of January, was also the time for the local government to recognize tourism frontliners and their services who did best in the previous year.

about Ati-atihan festival procession on the white sandy shore

Devine Pogoy, an HIV-AIDS advocate from Cebu, joins the Ati-Atihan Festival in Boracay.

Image: Philippine Red Cross-Malay

One of those participated in the Boracay revelry was Devine Pogoy from Cebu.

Pogoy was crowned as the Queen of Aklan, a pageant for a cause of the LGBTQ community, on December 8, 2023. She was crowned after, in the question-and-answer portion, publicly confessed she was HIV-AIDS positive. She said she publicly admitted, urging the public not to discriminate against other people who are like her, who are positive for the said virus.

“I started my devotion to the Sto. Nino when a friend of mine gave me an image seven years ago soon after I was diagnosed as HIV-AIDS positive. Sto. Niño was my inspiration since then to continue living the normal life. I felt Sto. Nino was smiling at me now when I joined the Boracay Ati-Atihan parade,” she told the Yorreekka in an interview.

For his part, Roy Mateo, 46, an ati from Numancia, Aklan, said that the Ati-Atihan festival was a mix of devotion to the Sto. Nino and the way of life of the Ati’s.

“Technically, there was no mention of any festivals to the Republic Act 8371. What it is only indicated is the preservation and promote culture,” he said.

When did the Boracay festival start

about Ati-atihan festival woman and a man carrying their Sto. Nino images

The locals are celebrating their Sto. Niño patrons.

Image: Malay-Boracay Tourism Office Facebook page

The Ati-Atihan Festival in Boracay started in 2013 and has been celebrated until now.

In late 2012, the local government of Malay and the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Boracay discussed the holding of the Ati-Atihan revelry to showcase the century-old tradition. The first Ati-Atihan at the beach was held on January 13, 2013. Subsequently, the date of the Ati-Atihan Festival in Boracay varies depending on the first week of every year's calendar.

Aside from Boracay, other towns in Aklan have their respective versions of the revelry. The towns celebrating on different dates were those of Ibajay, Malay, Batan, Lezo, Altavas, Kalibo, Malinao, and Makato.

The famous among these is the Kalibo Ati-Atihan, the mother of Philippine Festivals. Aklan residents know that the Ati-Atihan festival started in Ibajay, Aklan, and is celebrated traditionally every last weekend of January.

A bit of history

about Ati-atihan festival street procession carrying Sto. Nino

A religious procession takes place where the image of the Holy Child Jesus is carried.

Image: Malay-Boracay Tourism Office Facebook page

The Ati-Atihan festival, or mimicking the lifestyle of the locals the ati’s has been an Aklanon tradition in the 1800s. According to legends, the festivity started upon the arrival of the ten Bornean datus from nearby Antique province.

The Bornean datus led by Datu Puti has escaped Brunei because of conflict with the sultanate. Upon landing, they decided to settle and meet with the locals and trade the ownership of the Panay Island through golden jewelry.

However, The National Historical Institute debunked the trivia due to a lack of physical evidence. Thus, it is currently considered a legend.

Visit Yoorekka Magazine to know more about the latest happenings in Boracay!

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About Jun N. Aguirre
Jun Aguirre is a mobile journalism (Mojo) practitioner and a freelancer covering mostly Panay Island to include Boracay. In 2020, he was the only Filipino featured via online conference promoting MOJO during the Mobile Journalism Congress in Asia.
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Disclaimer: All articles in the Consumers Magazine of Yoorekka are for general information and entertainment purposes only. Although careful research has been made in writing them, Yoorekka does not make any warranty about the completeness and accuracy of all information presented in our articles. Our content is not intended to be used in place of legal, medical, or any professional advice.
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