By Elle Quevedo, March 9, 2017
Boracay Island, Aklan – Boom! Boom! Boom! Loud and non-stop rhythmic beats of the relentless drums and lyres spilled all over the streets of Kalibo, Aklan on one Saturday. Rain or shine, the parade continued! Colorful indigenous costumes worn by locals, and intricate headpieces and religious figures, symbols and souvenir filled every direction you look at. Tons of people flooded the once empty pavements of Kalibo. Certainly not that day, because that day was the fourth day of the week-long Ati-atihan Festival!
Ati-atihan is an 800-year festival that celebrates a sort of Thanksgiving to the early settlers of the island of Panay where the province of Aklan is situated. Ati-Atihan means to dress like Ati(s), the first natives of Panay. The Atis have very dark skin, so the tribal groups dressed in costumes, both adults and children alike, smudged black soot onto their skins to be like the Atis. During the Spanish Era, the Spanish missionaries had gradually inserted the religious veneration of Senior Sto. Niño that Ati-atihan Festival became the annual tradition that it is now, every third week of January.
This was the second time Paradise English has joined this yearly festival. It was three years ago that the former PE group braved their way into this exciting festival. At 6:40 AM, our group embarked from Cagban port to catch the bus to Kalibo from Caticlan in the mainland. There was a bit of rain toward the end of our 2-hour journey, but all in all it was a smooth ride. We ate some sandwiches and had some water to drink during the bus trip, as we did not have any time for breakfast. Some students fell asleep and some had quiet conversations. We gathered in Citymall where we had our face painted before we joined the parade for the day. We took our group pictures, did the headcount and then off to the streets with our umbrellas and raincoats in tow. At lunch time, our huge group of 31 had separated into smaller groups to our individual sightseeing. Then after lunch, we then reconvened on one of the busy streets to witness more of the colorful display of the groups dressed up in the most artistic, intricate and amazingly vibrant costumes. The little children in tribal costumes danced tirelessly. The display was just awe-inspiring.
Our group danced, (some even drank a few beers), walked lengthy roads, took pictures with the crowd under the pouring rain through the beats of the endless drumming of the revelers. There were many people so; we made sure to leave at our planned time. The parade was still ongoing and was not showing any signs of fading out. We took the bus home around 5PM and then we’re back to the quieter island of Boracay just in time for dinner. I have to say that it was one of those brief but definitely a unique experience that a non-local would always have in their memory.
Photo Credits: Elle Quevedo