Saturday, June 18, 2011

Experience the Ati-atihan Festival


The Ati-Atihan, held every third Sunday of January in the town of Kalibo, Aklan , is the wildest among Philippine fiestas. Celebrants paint their faces with black soot and wear bright, outlandish and intricate costumes as they dance in revelry during the last three days of this two week-long festival. The Ati-Atihan, a feast in honor of the Santo Niño, is celebrated on the second Sunday after Epiphany.

A 13th century event explains the origins of the festival. A small group of Malay datus, fleeing Borneo, were sold some land by the Ati people, the original inhabitants of Panay Island. The new arrivals celebrated the event at a great feast by painting themselves black to look like them.

Ati-Atihan was originally a pagan festival. Missionaries gradually added Christian meaning. Today, Ati-Atihan is celenbrated in honor of the Christ Child, the Santo Niño. Three days of parades lead up to the main procession that starts in the church on Sunday afternoon. The parades are colorful and vibrant, much like the Mardi Gras carnival in Brazil.

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