Each year around the start of January, the Ati-Atihan festival aims to take place for one week in Kalibo, a capital-town of the province of Aklan, Philippines. During this time, celebrations may also take place on the nearby tropical island of Boracay, which may be reached by taking a ferry transfer from Kalibo. According to the official Kalibo Ati-Atihan website, this unique festival is similar to Mardi Gras in terms of its colourful celebrations yet is historically and religiously significant for native Filipinos. During this time, locals, tourists and native tribes come together on the streets of Kalibo to celebrate this ancient tradition.
The Ati-Atihan festival takes place each year to honour the Santo Niño (infant Jesus) in a colourful and lively fashion. The festival is named after the Ati natives of the island, who are claimed to have started the tradition in the 13th century after surviving a famine by seeking the generosity of tribes elsewhere on the island. As a token of their appreciation, the Ati tribe are believed to have created a lively atmosphere of dancing and singing which has been carried forward through centuries. This is celebrated nowadays with live music, dressing up in vibrant costumes and participating in some traditional Filipino dancing. Costumes are often worn as tribute to aboriginal tribes and often feature masks, headdresses and painted faces.
There are a variety of activities to get involved in during the weeklong festivities. Nearer the beginning of the festival the local fashion shows and beauty pageants take place, as well as several religious gatherings in the Cathedral Parish of Saint John. Following this, there are an assortment of activities including a fun-run, art exhibits and a trade fair. This year, celebrations on the central streets of Kalibo are scheduled to take place on the 13th January through to the 16th. This includes a procession of large and small Filipino tribes followed by traditional dancing. According to the official festival website, the end of the ceremony will be marked by a fireworks display in Kalibo Magsaysay Park on the evening of the 17th January.
The festivities may also be felt on the island of Borocay, slightly off of Kalibo. However, these celebrations normally take place a week before the Ati-Atihan on the main land, in which locals and tourists dress up in tribal costumes, participate in dancing and enjoying live music. Besides the Ati-Atihan festival, there are many other things to see and do in the area. For example, on the island of Borocay there may often be fire dancers along the beach providing entertainment for tourists. Here, tourists may also shop at D’Mall, a small hub of gift shops, boutiques and cigar shops. For those looking for a fun night out, tourists may join a Boracay Pub Crawl and meet other people, from around the world.
In Kalibo, there are many events throughout the year to keep all entertained, such as the Kalibo Food Festival or Kalibo Day (in remembrance of Kalibo’s Foundation Day). There are also several areas of interest, such as the Tigayon Hill, which visitors may climb and explore. The local cathedral may also be of interest to those who enjoy historic attractions, as it was originally built in 1581 and has significant historic influence on the town. In addition to this, Kalibo is known for several products specifically made in the area such as Piña, which is a fabric made from pineapple and is generally far from exported abroad. The cultural heritage of Kalibo may still be witnessed around town, through it’s small tribal villages where tourists may purchase authentic clothing, and in it’s museums which showcase artefacts from a bygone era.
How may a country protect its cultural heritage in today’s society?