One of the Philippines’ most popular and iconic folkloric, tribal festivals, the Ati-Atihan is traditionally held in the island and town of Kalibo in Aklan, western Visayas region.
The Ati-Atihan is a feast held annually in January in honor of the Santo Niño (Infant Jesus), concluding on the third Sunday of January. Philippine historians said a 13th century event explains the origins of the festival. A group of 10 Malay chieftains called datus, fleeing from the island of Borneo settled in the Philippines, and were granted settlement by the Ati, the endemic ttribes of Panay Island.
The Ati-Atihan was originally a pagan festival from this tribe which practices animism. To convert the natives to Christianity Spanish missionaries fused native and Christian practices. Today, the Ati-Atihan is celebrated as a rather raucous folkloric festival complete with colorful costumed dancers or Ati, marching and dancing to the rhythm of drums.
The parade in Kalibo, Aklan is a major tourist event and attracts both local and foreign visitors for day-long festivities and drinking similar to the carnival events elsewhere in the world.
Outside Kalibo, similar Ati-Atihan-like tribal dance festivities are often celebrated in the Philippines, accompanied by indigenous costumes and weapons to mark or celebrate auspicious events.
Mabuhay ang Ati-Atihan!