a centuries-old celebration?
The Ati-atihan of Kalibo has been dubbed
as a festival that dated from the early Spanish colonial
times. It is said to have fused the elements of Spanish
catholicism and those of animist aetas (atis) of the island of
Panay. Instead of the moon or the spirit believed to be
inhabiting a tree, the Santo Niņo became the focus of their
veneration and celebration.
Ati-atihan celebrations are characterized by the wild dancing,
the putting of soot on some parts of the body (usually the
face), the loud cheering, the colorful attire, and the
culmination of the festival with a mass in the Kalibo
Not too many
people know or remember, however, that the festival began in
the late 1950s -- not in some particular year of the Spanish
colonial era in the Philippines. The Ati-atihan was conceived
as a response to the drive of the national government to boost
tourism in the country. Since the feast of the Sto. Niņo in
Kalibo was already a popular event in the lives of Aklanons, a
merging of the Catholic and low-land feast with the aetas of
the mountains was viewed as a viable tourist-attracting ploy.
An aeta-like celebration of the feast of the Sto. Niņo was
thus born: an ati-ati, an imitation of the aetas or atis, an
ati-atihan -- but with a Catholic spiritual flavor.