The province of Aklan has been known for its Ati-atihan Festival long before the beauty of Boracay was 'discovered' by foreigners in the early 1980's. In fact, Aklanons claim that the tradition goes back to more than 700 years.
"Ati" is the Aklanon term for the dark indigenous people of Panay. Ati-atihan, therefore, means "playing Ati" or "pretending to be Ati". I only have vague information as to how the tradition started but it is said that a long time ago, the Atis who lived in the mountains and in remote areas of Panay, came down and were given food by the townspeople. In appreciation, the Atis played their drums and danced. Town folks soon joined the Atis in their infectious dance and this became a yearly merry-making activity. The Spaniards introduced religion in the festivities by dedicating the event to Sto. Ni¤o or the Child Jesus. Hence, Ati-atihan which had pagan beginnings is now officially a Roman Catholic-sponsored festivity.
Ati-atihan today is a big tourist attraction. Participants paint their faces and bodies black, wear colorful costumes and dance to the beating drums. Onlookers may join the parade and dance with them.
My companions and I had a great time and repeatedly went to the streets and the town plaza for three days (January 14-16, 2000) to take part in the festivities. It was indeed a unique experience. The beating drums were non-stop and your feet can't resist them. The atmosphere was festive and there was happy shouting of "Hala Bira" all over. I'm glad that I was able to borrow a camera (mine got damaged earlier in Boracay) and captured some pictures of the unforgetable event (excluding, of course, the photos with me in them which were taken by Bong).
|We painted fake tatoos on our faces in keeping with the Ati-atihan mood. When we went home exhausted after a night of street dancing, we were hesitant to wash them off. In the morning, we embarrassedly found the tatoos transferred on our pillows. (The pajero by the way, is not mine...hehehe...)|
|One of the happy Ati faces I took a picture of.|
|I joined the dance and had a picture taken as proof. This was Saturday morning, and these dancers will again parade on Sunday.|
|A child participant in a Neptune attire. A number of children were also costumed dancers.|
|With House of Representatives Speaker Manny Villar and the congressman of Aklan. We didnt look for them, they found us. :)|
|Another colorful costume. I wanted to take pictures of participants with their faces showing. Here, I had no choice.|
|I tried one of their headgears on. It was surprisingly heavy.|
|I obviously enjoyed joining the dancers. It was really fun.|
|Bong and I joining a participant in a Dalai Lama costume and another who was apparently hiding his nudity in a box. :)|
|This costume, I didnt understand. Seems like they are dressed as clowns. This one, however, doesn't look funny - he was scary. :)|
|A peacock lady.|
|With the Neptunes. I had on an ati-atihan necklace/souvenir.|
|Another headgear. This was during the Sunday parade and procession which took more than four hours.|
|It was already dusk and the fun was not yet in full swing. When night fell, the sounds got even louder and the dancers even livelier.|
|It was darker but part of the procession which hasn't passed by us was still about 3-hour long. >|
|Of course, the images of the Sto. Niņo were everywhere. The procession was headed to the parish church.|
|An old lady in glasses actively participating.|
|I was also livelier and danced more as the night wore on. I had few bottles of beer while dancing. Despite the spirits and alcohol, the event was peaceful. Pure fun and no untoward incidents.|
|A snake man who growled at my camera. Considering his costume, his holding of a Sto. Niņo image seemed out of place. But he offered me the Sto. Niņo to kiss after I took this shot.|
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