Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan Festival
Kalibo comes alive during the third week of January for the Ati-Atihan, considered to be the mother of all Philippine Festivals. This year it started on the 14th and culminated with the highlights on the 19th and 20th. The event commemorates the sealing of the first real estate deal between a group of Malays and the “Atis” or “Aetas”, the first settlers of the island. During the festival, participants wearing flamboyant costumes, cover their faces and bodies in soot to “be like the Atis” as they dance around town in heart-thumping drum beats.
Associated with the festival is the Sto. Niño – the christ child, introduced by the Spanish to convert the people into Catholicism. This eventually became the religious aspect of the once pagan practice, wherein some devotees carry images of the Holy Child as they dance for petitions.
Although, still one of the more important festivals in the country, the Ati-atihan today is overshadowed by the Sinulog Festival in nearby Cebu island in popularity and commercial value, however it still remains to be the choice for foreign visitors as they can freely participate in the street dancing that snake around town.