Last Updated on
Ati-atihan is called “the Mother of All Festivals in the Philippines” for a reason. It’s the first among the colorful and joyful feasts in the country, the kickstarter for the celebrations of the year. At the same time, it’s one of the most anticipated events, with tourists from different parts of the country and the world booking flights and accommodations a year before, in preparation for the January festivity.
According to history, Ati-atihan started as a celebration of the good relations between Bornean datus and Ati people, the natives of Panay Island. Signifying their diplomacy, the former covered their bodies with soot to look like the Atis. Today, the feast is a religious event, honoring Santo Niño or the Holy Infant Jesus. People still use soot, but this time, they dance to the beat of the drums, chanting “Viva kay Senyor Santo Niño!”
If you’re planning to join the festivities this year, here’s what you can expect and what you can do to make the most of the 10-day event:
The feast will kickstart on January 10 with Sadsad Students Night (Dancing Live Music) at Kalibo Pastrana Park at 7PM. On January 11, three major events are lined up. At 9AM, there’s a regional airsoft competition at the same park. In the afternoon, an auto show will be held around 3PM. Live music will fill Magsaysay Park at nighttime, starting at 7PM. On January 12, you can witness a motorcycle ride show back at Kalibo Pastrana Park around 1PM. Then in the evening, there’s going to be dancing at Magsaysay Park starting at 7PM.
One tip to keep in mind to make the most of the activities: protect yourself from the sun. You’ll be outdoors for a long period, especially if you plan to explore the province after the festival activities. The heat will quickly tire you out for sure. Bring lots of water and hydrate yourself often. Wear a cap or a hat, too. Avoid umbrellas, as these can block the view of other tourists watching shows. Finally, use sunscreen. The last thing you need is a painful sunburn while joining the street dances in the next few days.
On January 13, you can witness the highly-anticipated Parade of Floats and Tribes at Kalibo Pastrana Park at 1PM. Rest well after the parade because the next day, the Sang Kalibo Tamboe and Street Party, filled with day-to-night dancing, will be happening. This will be from 2PM until 12MN.
On January 15, the main event is the Pagdayaw kay Senyor Santo Niño, happening at major streets of Kalibo from 1PM to 6PM. There will be a battle of the sounds in the evening at Kalibo Pastrana Park. The next day, Sinaot sa Calle will be held in key streets in the city, running from 8AM to 12NN. In the afternoon, you’ll be able to see a parade of giants from 1PM to 6PM.
Take as many pictures as you can on the first few days of the festival. Seize this time window before the parties happen. Also, wear something comfortable all throughout so you can join in the dance freely. Sure, you want to be fashionable in your Instagram pictures, but you may not enjoy the entire event at all when your toes are aching from the high heels.
Speaking of partying, there’s a chance that you’ll be separated from your friends while having fun. So before you let yourself loose on the dance floor and to the overflow of booze, agree with your squad on a meet-up place.
On January 17, expect the biggest Ati-atihan street dancing “Sadsad Pagpasaeamat,” happening at major streets in the province. The event starts at 8AM. Wake up very early and find a good position so you can get the best view and take excellent pictures. At night, there will be a Kalibo-Invasion Spectrum (Music) event. It will be held at Goding Ramos Park, at 7PM.
On January 18, the dawn penitential procession will start at 4AM. Meanwhile, the Tribal, Balik-Ati & Modern and Individual Ati-Atihan Contest will start at 8AM. At 12NN, there will be Hornada or blessing of children in front of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral.
For the last day of the Ati-atihan Festival on January 19, the main events include the transfer of Santo Niño de Kalibo and pilgrim mass at the same church mentioned. This will happen at 6:30AM. “Sadsad Paghatod” and “Pagpadungog” will be held at 8AM and 9AM, respectively. In the afternoon, there will be a religious procession and torch street dancing at 2PM.
Join the Mother of All Festivals
All throughout Ati-Atihan, expect to see food feasts, bazaars, and trade fairs. Pastrana Park is open from 9AM to 12MN, offering various culinary specialties. Magsaysay Park, on the other hand, is open from 6PM to 1AM. Meanwhile, you can find clothing bargains at the bazaar in Veterans Avenue and native goods at the trade fair in Kalibo Plaza Trade Hall.
It’s good that you’re kickstarting the new year by participating in the grandest, most colorful festival in the country. It might just give you the cheerful energy you need this 2020.
Main photo via Wikimedia Commons