BY JOHNNY DAYANG
The Ati-atihan of Aklan, Sinulog of Cebu, Dinagyang of Iloilo, Maskara of Bacolod, and other types of Ati-atihan festivals, including those in Tondo and Pandacan – traditionally celebrated this month of January – are all renewed expressions of hope, faith, and prayers.
The celebration, which welcomes the beginning of New Year and reflects some cultural significance and historical assertions, is largely a reaffirmation of people’s faith in the Sto. Nino, adherence to the reign of peace, and triumph of spirit.
In Aklan, the late Dr. Artemio Nabor, a laborite, scholar, and historian, called the Sto. Nino celebration, in his writings in 1956 as “Ati-atihan”, pointing to the celebration of peace settlement between the Bornean datus and the natives of Panay island. Dr. Nabor’s research was backed up by credible data. Since then, the celebration has been known as Ati-atihan.
As a child, I was always amazed seeing thousands of devotees, whose bodies were painted black, trooping to the Church. In those days, the participants of the “Ati-atihan”, meaning “our own” merry-making, was supposedly to celebrate peace and thanksgiving of the Atis and the Bornean settlers. The hilarity was then devoid of trimmings and commercialism.
Today, however, the celebration, declared by Malacanang as the “Mother of Philippine Festivals”, annually draws hundreds of thousands of people spontaneously from different parts of the world. Unlike in Cebu, the merry-making and street dancing, and parade are not organized.
Anybody can join the merry-making and hilarious movements of people. Some houses in Kalibo and neighboring towns welcome guests, even those not known to homeowners, to partake of their food and drinks.
While smaller groups of merry-makers have already started in Kalibo with drums, trumpets and other musical instruments, the 2014 festival has been officially declared to commence on January 13 and ending on January 19.
Already, Kalibo Mayor William Lachica has received notices of arrivals of tourists from various parts of the world. From Canada alone, some 500 Canadians and Aklanons from Canada are joining the 2014 Ati-atihan. Likewise, over a hundred mediamen attending the 50th Anniversary of the Federation of Provincial Press Clubs of the Philippines, Inc.