Kalibo Ati-atihan

Color & frenzy at Kalibo’s Ati-atihan festival

Kalibo Ati-atihan

It was a frenzy as costumed dancers, most in elaborate, multi-colored headresses and garb, danced in abrupt and syncopated movements to the beat of drums. At first look, their’s is a somewhat wild, agitated and chaotic, feels primeval, but it’s one orderly mass just going around Pastrana Plaza in Kalibo during the Ati-atihan Festival.

Kalibo’s Ati-atihan, in homage to the Sto. Nino is said to be the oldest festival in the country having its roots way back centuries even before the Spaniards came. It was said to be a celebration of the barter of Panay between the Atis, dark, short and with curly hair tribes who are believed to have first peopled the Philippines, and the Malays who arrived to find new life.

When the Spaniards came and baptized a thousand natives (thus the name of the town, Kalibo – by the thousand) and coincided with the barter commemoration, became a religious event centered around the icon of the Sto. Nino de Kalibo.

I love this festival. It has less of the pomp, pageantry and commercialism of the other major festivals like Cebu’s Sinulog and Iloilo’s Dinagyang. There is great participation by locals and it’s not uncommon to see people, with their icon of the Sto. Nino, get lost in their own revelry and dance in the middle of the crowd! The pre Ati-atihan festivities are also worth the visit.

While the early Ati-atihan probably resembled that of Ibajay’s Ati-Ati Festival, less pageantry, more on revelry and authentic, it was only a few decades ago that the costumes went garish and loud, a setup that we are familiar with today.

The route is short and it has fewer contingents than other festival but the beat, the frenzy and colour makes Kalibo’s Ati-atihan Festival one of the must go in the country.

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo Ati-atihan

Kalibo’s Ati-atihan is just one of the few ati-ati festival that happen during the month of January in Aklan but its the biggest and happens every third Sunday of January, coinciding with Sinulog. There are flights coming and going to Kalibo from Manila and Cebu. It is also well served by buses and passenger vans coming from Roxas City, Caticlan and Iloilo.

During the festival, hotel accommodations can shoot up several hundred percent and it is always advisable to book a few months before. To save, I based myself in Roxas City (just 2 hours to Kalibo).

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

4 Comments

  1. Pre Ati-atihan revelry in Kalibo » langyaw
    March 2, 2014 @ 19:05

    […] this Visayan capital’s plaza fronting the church in the run up to the festivities of the Ati-atihan that is celebrated every third Sunday of January. And yes, I was witness to this enjoyable and […]

  2. Micole l Philippine Traveler
    March 3, 2014 @ 14:06

    It is simpler and so more close interpretation as to what the festival is about for me.. I think this is why its nicer for me too compared to the elaborate of Cebu and Iloilo…

  3. estancabigas
    March 3, 2014 @ 17:55

    simple and mas pang masa di ba? unlike the too choreographed numbers in Dinagyang and Sinulog

  4. January festivals you should see in the Visayas - langyaw
    January 27, 2015 @ 18:40

    […] READ MORE: Color & frenzy at Kalibo’s Ati-atihan festival […]

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