Ati-Atihan Festival: The Mother of All Philippine Festivals

ati-atihan festival 2020

Dubbed as the Mother of All Philippine Festivals, the Ati-Atihan Festival is widely known not just in the Philippines but across the world. Ati-Atihan Festival meaning is “to be like Atis or Aetas (Aklan Province’s natives).”

Similar to Cebu’s Sinulog Festival, and Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival this event is celebrated to honor the Child Jesus, Santo Niño.

The Ati Atihan Festival celebration consists of multiple events that happen in various parts of Kalibo town. You’ll never run out of things to do because Ati-Atihan has all kinds of events—from solemn masses, loud marching bands to partying on the streets.

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So if you are planning to visit Boracay in January, you might as well watch the locals masquerading as Negritos in colorful costumes, chanting “Hala Bira!” while doing the Ati-Atihan Dance in Aklan.

Ati-Atihan Festival 2021 Guide: What’s inside this blog?

Ati atihan Festival is a festival dance that originated in Cebu and usually celebrated by the month of January. Learn more about this Aklan Festival by reading this guide.

Ati-Atihan Festival History

The Ati Arihan Festival history goes way back to the 1700s. In 1975, a Catholic priest named Msgr. Jose Iturralde wrote that the origin of the Ati-Atihan Festival started from an old couple who lives in the western part of Aklan.

Msgr. Iturralde said that in the early-1700s, a fisherman went fishing in a river but caught a piece of wood instead. He threw the wood away, but it repeatedly returned to his net. The fisherman was dismayed so he just went home and decided to bring the wood. He threw it in a pile to use as fuel to cook their meal. While sleeping, the fisherman and his wife heard a beating sound. When they search where it’s coming from, they found a carving of a child on the piece of wood from the river.

The fisherman placed it on their altar. Since then, the family received blessings, including good fish harvests. After a few weeks, the fisherman sought advice from a priest.

The priest asked the fisherman to place the wood at the Ibajay Parish but the wood was repeatedly disappearing and was always found at the roof of the fisherman’s house.

The Ibajay residents believed that the incident was a call for them to seek forgiveness of their sins. Part of their penance was to blacken their faces with coal and to dress in rags which later on became the Ati-Atihan Festival costume. After doing this, the piece of wood has remained and never disappeared in the church.

One day, a group of Spaniards known as the Moros from the Mindoro province tried to invade Ibajay. The residents fought back and dedicated their victory to the piece of wood

Until now, the fight between the natives against the Spaniards is being commemorated as part of the Ibajay Ati-Atihan.

In 1798 Padre Fernando de Legaspi, a priest based in Malinao town heard about the yearly celebration being held in Ibajay. Upon witnessing the revelry, he decided to do it, too, in the towns of Malinao and Kalibo in 1800.

And on June 11, 1871, a testament was signed by a Kalibo priest with businessmen in town to institutionalize the holding of the annual Ati-Atihan Festival.

On the other hand, there’s another legend connected to the Ati-Atihan Festival history. It was said that 10 Bornean datus sailed to Aklan to escape the dictatorship of their ruler. They accidentally landed on Panay Island and welcomed by the Aetas.

The 10 Bornean datus were believed to have bought the entire Panay Island from the Aetas with gold jewelry. This legend was, however, officially declared a myth by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).


Ati Atihan Festival Description

Ati-Atihan Festival means “to be like Atis or Aetas (Aklan Province’s natives).”


When is Ati-Atihan Festival celebrated?

Ati Atihan Festival is celebrated every January in Aklan Province in Visayas.


Ati-Atihan Festival 2021 Schedule of Activities

Because of the pandemic, the usual celebration of the Ati-Atihan Festival tagalog was done digitally. There were no public gatherings, Ati-Atihan Festival street dances, and other activities that require close contacts to follow the health and safety protocols. The local government didn’t let the pandemic ruin the Ati Atihan mood so they celebrated the yearly festival in Aklan virtually. You can watch the virtual Ati-atihan Festival tagalog here.

Ati Atihan Festival 2021 Activities

  • Ati Atihan Festival Vibrant the New Normal (Pre-filmed)
  • Ati Atihan Festival Face Mask Making Contest
  • Ati Atihan-Themed PPE Making Contest
  • Miss Kalibo Ati Atihan 2021 (Virtual)
  • Ati Atihan Room Contest
  • Encounter with Sr. Sto. Nino
  • Color My Ati
  • Ati-Atihan Festival Costume Making Contest
  • Ati Atihan Binaeaybay: Talento ng Inisyatibo it Kalibo
  • Throwback Kalibo Sr. Sto. Nino
  • Ati-Atihan Festival Photo Contest
  • Ati-Atihan Food Competiton

Main Highlights of Ati-Atihan Festival

Before the pandemic, these were the main highlights of the Ati-Atihan Aklan Festival:

  • Parade of Tribes and Floats
  • Ati-Atihan Street Dancing
  • Religious Procession and Torch Street Dancing

Ati-Atihan Festival 2021 Guide

Just like any other festival, Ati-Atihan will be so much fun and tiring! Don’t let the heat and crowd spoil your trip. But because of the pandemic, the mother of all festival this year is celebrated online. And in case this Kalibo Aklan festival is back to normal next year, here are some tips to make the most out of your Ati-Atihan Festival 2021.

1. Mind your valuables
The Ati Atihan mood will definitely be fun and electrifying because of all the fun Kalibo Aklan Festival activities. Though there will be security personnel around the areas of the celebration, they can’t keep an eye on each and everyone in the crowd. So keep your belongings at your sight and hold them carefully. 

2. Bring water
Always bring water with you to keep yourself hydrated when celebrating the Aklan festival. Because most of the time, you’ll be outdoors and with the many fun activities waiting for you, for sure, you’ll get tired at some point so stay hydrated.

3. Wear appropriate clothes
Sure, style is a plus when going on a trip especially for the Instagrammable OOTDs but never compromise comfort for it. Wear anything comfortable and you’re willing to soil to enjoy the Ati Atihan mood and message.

4. Wear sunscreen
Protect your skin from harmful UV rays of the sun by putting on sunblock. Don’t leave the hotel and lose yourself in the festive mood of Ati Atihan without sunblock if you don’t want to have burnt skin at the end of the day. Trust us, it hurts!

5. Book your accommodations in Aklan early
It is expected that Aklan will be full of tourists during the Ati-Atihan Festival so we suggest that you book your accommodations in Aklan as early as today.


Aklan Tourist Spots

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Here’s a list of the best places to visit in Aklan once you’re done celebrating Ati-Atihan Festival.

  1. Boracay
  2. Kalibo Cathedral
  3. Museo It Akean
  4. Hinugtan Beach, Buruanga
  5. Ariel’s Point
  6. Jawili Beach
  7. Tangalan Church
  8. Bulabog Beach
  9. Diniwid Beach
  10. Ilig-Iligan Beach

Must-read: 10 Boracay Tourist Spots That’ll Convince You It’s One of the World’s Best Islands


Aklan Tourism Guidelines 2021 | COVID-19 Updates

As of April 23, 2021, only domestic tourists coming from GCQ and MGCQ areas are allowed to enter Aklan according to the Aklan Government.

Before you plan to attend Ati Atihan Festival, make sure to take note of the following:

  1. Access https://www.touristboracay.com/ and choose Aklan Mainland.
  2. Fill out required fields and click submit. Make sure that the correct visitor type is selected (Traveller).
  3. Take a screenshot of the OHDC confirmation page.
  4. Send the following documents to aklantraveller@gmail.com, using the email subject OHDC-FamilyName, FirstName:

FOR TRAVELLERS COMING FROM OUTSIDE WESTERN VISAYAS

  1. Screenshot of the OHDC confirmation
  2. Philippine government-issued ID
  3. Negative RT-PCR Result Certificate (saliva or nasopharengeal or oropharengeal) with date of extraction within seventy-two (72) hours to date of travel
  4. Travel details (Only Kalibo International Airport can be used by those travelling via air.)

FOR PASSING THROUGH PASSENGERS

  1. Screenshot of the OHDC confirmation page
  2. Philippine government-issued ID
  3. S-Pass TCP/TPP with other Provinces as point of destination (can be obtained from https://s-pass.ph/)
  4. Travel details (Only Kalibo International Airport can be used by those travelling via air.)

FOR RETURNING AKLANONS WHOSE POINT OF ORIGIN IS AKLAN

  1. Screenshot of the OHDC confirmation page (destination should be in format “AKLAN DESTINATION AKLAN” and date of travel should be the date of return or 7 days after departure date from Aklan)
  2. Philippine government-issued ID
  3. Travel details – include Roundtrip Ticket or ticket with departure date from Aklan (Only Kalibo International Airport can be used by those travelling via air.)

Multiple Traveller documents can be sent in one email. Just include a listing of the names. Note: Please submit your documents at least 12 hours or more before your travel to Aklan to avoid delays. RTPCR results are verified with the laboratories. Travellers with falsified results shall be criminally prosecuted.

  1. Wait for the email response (successful or unsuccessful) of the Final Validator. The validation team processes the QR Code within several minutes from receipt of email and usually responds within an hour. If you have not received any response within two hours, please send another follow up email.
  2. If processing is unsuccessful, an email will be sent to you requesting for additional requirements or clarification. Please immediately comply with this to avoid delays in the QR Code release. 7. If processing is successful, a copy of HDC with QR Code will be sent back through email. Have a printed or digital copy. The QR Code will be used in the ports of entry (land, air, sea).

For more travel updates, visit the Aklan Local Government website.


Frequently Asked Questions About Ati-Atihan Festival

Q: What is the purpose of Ati Atihan Festival?
A: Ati-Atihan Festival meaning is “to be like Atis or Aetas (Aklan Province’s natives).” Similar to Cebu’s Sinulog Festival, and Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival this event is celebrated to honor the Child Jesus, Santo Niño. The Aklan Festival celebration consists of multiple events that happen in various parts of Kalibo town.

Q: How is Ati Atihan Festival celebrated?
A: Dubbed as the mother of all Philippine festivals, Ati-Atihan in Kalibo is among the biggest, colorful, and festive celebrations in honor of Santo Niño. It is also celebrated by the rhythmic beating of drums and traditional street dancing in January. Because of this, any tourists from around the world visit the province to experience this festival in Kalibo Aklan.

Q: What does Hala Bira mean?
A: Hala Bira is derived from the Aklanon language meaning “dispense all means”. Locals and street performers chant Hala Bira at the festival.

Q: Who is the patron saint of Ati Atihan Festival?
A: Ati-atihan Festival is a week-long celebration in honor of the Patron Saint Sto. Niño, which culminates on the third Sunday of January.

Q: Where is Ati Atihan Festival celebrated?
A: To answer your question where is Ati Atihan Festival celebrated, it’s in Kalibo, Aklan.

Q: What is the Ati-Atihan Festival place of origin?
A: According to history, the Ati-Atihan Festival place of origin is in Ibajay in Aklan. But a priest based in Malinao town heard about the yearly celebration and decided to bring the Ati Atihan festival description in Malinao and Kalibo.

Q: What festival is celebrated in January in Kalibo Aklan?
A: Ati Atihan Festival is celebrated in Kalibo, Aklan every January.

Q: Where is the Ati-Atihan Festival place of origin?
A: The Ati-Atihan Festival place of origin is in the province of Aklan in Visayas.

Q: What is the Mother of all Festivals?
A: The Mother of all Festivals in the Philippines is the Ati-Atihan Festival held in Aklan Province. 

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