Ati-Atihan is a festival in honour of the Santo
Niño, celebrated in the third week of January. During the last three days of this week-long
festival (fiesta), a parade is characteristic. A colourful happening
with celebrants who paint their faces in many different ways and who are
dressed in the most exceptional costumes. The dancing on
the rhythms of the drums makes this festival comparable with carnival in
Rio in Brazil!
fiesta is celebrated in Kalibo on the island of Panay (Visayas).
In the thirteenth century, long
before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, light-skinned immigrants from the island of Borneo (Kalimantan)
in Indonesia arrived on Panay. The local people of Panay,
the Ati (negritos), a small and dark (black) kinky-haired
sold them a small piece of land and allowed them to settle down in the
lowlands. The Atis themselves, lived
more upland in the mountains.
time the Ati people was in need of food because of a bad harvest in their
homelands. They came down to the lowlands of the Maraynon
and asked them food. Every year since
then, the Atis
came down to the lowland inhabitants to ask for some food. They
danced and sang in gratitude for the helping hand. A real
friendship was born and the Maraynon started to
paint their faces black in honor of the Atis and took part
in the fiesta.
the Spaniards settled down in the Philippines, some
Catholic elements infiltrated in the fiesta, especially honoring Santo
Spanish representative arranged a deal with the local leaders of the
Atis and the leader of the immigrants from Borneo. The outcome of the
deal was, that in the future the existing native celebration would be dedicated to the
Nowadays it is a mix of parades, procession and dancing people on the
rhythms of monotonous music of drums or the rhythmic
tinkling of metal and stone on bottles. It looks as if the dancing never
stops! The ritual dance originates from the Atis. The name Ati-Atihan means "make-believe Atis."
kay Santo Niño!
is said that the procession is the climax of the fiesta. It is held on
the last Sunday. The street dancers never
fail to enter the Kalibo church every time they pass by.
slogan "Viva kay
Santo Niño!" is repeated frequently. It is clear that it is Santo
Niño who is honored.
for Filipinos coming from everywhere
Celebrants arrive by
airplane or boat from all over the country. Tourists have discovered
this fiesta too as a festival which should not be missed! During
days or the whole week they accommodate in
hotels or in private homes and public
buildings. Even camp on the beach is normal during these days.
festivals copies of Ati-Atihan?
the Visayas, the central part of the Philippines, many fiestas are in some
way similar to the Ati-Atihan festival of Panay. It's true, many
islands if not all, have evolved their own version of the Ati-Atihan. In ilo-ilo City they have the festival Dinagyang, in Cebu City
they have the popular Sinulog and in Antique they have the
and Handugan festivals.
a picture for more information about the specific festival