Ati-atihan de Boracay

2:15 am PHT

 Picture of Ati-atihan paraders wearing grass skirts.

Last weekend I was in Boracay together with several travel and photo bloggers and some of us (at least those who woke up early on a Sunday morning) had the lucky chance to witness the island’s version of the Ati-atihan Festival which apparently is celebrated one week earlier than the mother festival in Kalibo, Aklan. This year, the celebration was on January 13 and the parade started at the Balabag Plaza after the Holy Mass and wound its way along the stretch of Boracay’s White Beach before going back to the Plaza via the internal roads.

This is the first time I’ve been to Boracay and it’s also the first time that I got to see a major Philippine festival, albeit a less ostentatious version. I’ve been told that the Kalibo festival is a much more grander and fantastic event—the Ati-atihan has been called the Mother of all Filipino Festivals and also the Mardi Gras of the Philippines.

The Ati-atihan Festival is a Catholic fiesta native to Aklan that celebrates the feast of the Sto. Niño or the Child Jesus. And like many other Catholic fiestas, this one traces its roots to a pagan festival, one that commemorated the arrival of the ten Malay datus (chieftains) from Borneo to Panay Island. These datus bought the lowlands from the native Ati tribes and this event is immortalized in the Ati-atihan where celebrants paint their bodies with soot to mimic the Ati tribe—thus “ati-atihan.”

Aside from the pictures above of which there are more in Flickr, I also managed to capture a video, which I uploaded to YouTube. Sorry for the crappy quality of the video; I’ve had trouble uploading so I opted for a smaller video size. (Another blogger, Noemi Dado, has also uploaded a video.)

 Video screenshot.

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On 6:18 a.m., 16 Jan 2008, Jon Limjap wrote:

Hmmm, does that mean that the Ati-atihan is not a pagan, but rather, a historical commemoration that was also “taken over” by the Catholic church?


On 2:22 p.m., 16 Jan 2008, seav wrote:

I’m referring to the word “pagan” in its broadest sense: that of any belief system outside the Abrahamic religions. The “historical event” of the arrival of the ten datus is based on the legend of Maragtas, which may or may not have happened. The Ati-atihan practice of covering oneself in soot to commemorate this legend can be considered as a part of the belief system of the people of Panay, thus the “pagan” description.

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