Ati-Atihan Festival - Kalibo, Aklan Philippines

Ati-Atihan is very lively and colorful festival, a mixture of pagan and Christian elements held on the third Sunday of January in Kalibo, Aklan. The town of Kalibo is the capital of the province of Aklan, one of the four provinces comprising the island of Panay, the sixth largest island in the Philippines.

Ati-Atihan means “making like an Ati” . Panay’s inhabitants are called Ati (Aeta)- they are dark Negrito Aboriginal, they are Panay’s original inhabitants.

The Legends says . . .

No one is certain how At-Atihan started, however legend says that the first Ati-Atihan festival happened in 13the century circa 1210 or 1212, when the 10 Bornean Datus (chiefs) with their families and companions fled from Borneo to escape the tyranny of Datu Makatunaw and landed on Panay Island.

The leader of the Borneans, Datu Puti sought audience with the chief of Panay named Marikudo and offered to buy the entire island. After the negotiation the coastal lowlands of Panay was offered in exchange for golden salakot (hat), brass basin, cloths and and an ankle length necklace for the wife of Marikudo, a harvest for one summer of fish from the sea and while the inland region behind the coastal lands remained for the Atis.

It wasn't the most lucrative real estate deal ever concluded but both parties were satisfied. The deal was sealed with a great celebration, The unending flow of native wine called "tuba" and the lavish meal motivated the start of merrymaking. The Malays as a sign of appreciation to the Atis and to show their sincerity by smearing themselves with sooth, (uling) they have done a lot of cooking using wood so the uling from the cooking utensils was used to blackened themselves. This gesture is to look like Atis and identify themselves as one of the Atis. The feast and the dancing of the two races lasted till late to the beat the drums.

When the 10 datus have established themselves in the island, they commemorated the purchase every harvest time.

When the Spaniards came to the Philippines in 1521, they introduced Christianity to the island. Filipino historian Beato dela Cruz states that in 1750 Fr. Andres de Aguirre baptized 1,000 inhabitants of the town.

To celebrate the eventful day, the drums of Aklan were sounded for this beneficial event and coincided with the existing Ati-Atihan festival. Thus, the present Ati-Atihan is tinged with religious fervor is now associated with miracles. Devotees nowadays participate in the street dancing, novena and masses in honor of the Sto. Nino - (The Baby Jesus).

The At-Atihan is not only a pagan festival celebrating a moment in history, it is also a deeply religious event held to give thanks to Santo Nino. With the passing of time, people migrate from one province to another and they brought the celebration with them and Ati-Atihan festival has become so popular that similar festivals have cropped in all over the Western Visayas.

In Antique, a rural province of Panay has its Binirayan and Handugan festivals while in Iloilo City have a more lavish and extravagant version of Ati-Atihan called Dinagyang.

Bacolod has an annual Ati-Atihan while every January the city of Cebu has the Sinulog, which is also related to Santo Nino fiesta.

  • I Recommend the Ati-Atihan Festival in the Philippines

    Have you ever joined a festival wherein you can dance to the beat of drums, act like crazy, and party like there’s no tomorrow?

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Ati-Atihan performance

Where is Kalibo Aklan?

A markerKalibo Aklan Philipines -
Kalibo, Philippines
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Comments 3 comments

aesta1 profile image

aesta1 22 months ago from Ontario, Canada

We were once in Iloilo for Dinagyang and the costumes were spectacular as well as the performances. Ati-Atihan would be great to watch when one plans to enjoy Boracay beach which is in Aklan.

Leann Zarah profile image

Leann Zarah 5 years ago

Nice hub, MM.

MM Del Rosario profile image

MM Del Rosario 5 years ago from NSW, Australia Author

I am glad you like the tuba. . .it is palm wine, taste a bit sour, sweet and scrumptious. Always good on the first and second day but after the fourth or fifth day I think it turns to a vinegar.

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