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Join Ati-atihan - among the wildest Philippine fiestas

Kalibo, Aklan - January

Kalibo of Aklan celebrates the Ati-Atihan festival every third Sunday of January. Celebrants paint their faces with black soot and wear bright, outlandish costumes as they dance in revelry during the last three days of this two week-long Ati-Atihan festival.

The Ati-Atihan festival is usually celebrated on the second Sunday after Epiphany.

Catholics observe this special day with processions, parades, dancing, and merrymaking.

The origins of the Ati-Atihan Festival is the 13th century land deal between 10 migrating Bornean chieftains and the aboriginal Ati King Marikudo. Later the festival was done in honor of the infant Child Jesus or Sto. Niño.

The highlight of the celebrations is three days of parades.

In contrast to the riotous festivities that happen throughout the three-day celebration, Ati-Atihan ends somberly with a procession on Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon the main procession starts from the church. Participants carry torches and, starting from their town churches, walk along the streets that outline the town.

During Ati-Atihan, streets are filled with people singing and dancing in striking costumes. These costumes are usually brightly colored, with tall, impressive headdresses.

School bands and orchestras add to the music, and the revelers celebrate late into the night.

Faces blackened with soot, parade participants move to the rhythm of drum beats and the clanging sound of tin cans, crying "Hala, bira!" which means "to strike a blow."

The street parade celebrants are colorful and vibrant, much like the Mardi gras carnival in Brazil.

No one remains a spectator at Ati-Atihan for long. Many travelers join in the celebration by painting their faces and wearing costumes.

The ceaseless, rhythmic pounding of drums get to you, and before you know it you are on the street, shuffling your feet, shaking your head, waving your hands - and joining thousands of soot-blacked, gaily-costumed revelers in an ancient ritual of mindless merriment.

A familiar battle cry reaches your ears, and amidst all this confusion you remember where you are: Kalibo, Aklan. "Viva, Sto. Niño!"

The Ati-Atihan celebration is echoed in many parts of the country.

In Kalibo, besides being part of the procession, visitors also get to feast on the sumptuous food prepared by the residents of the province.

Then at Ibajay and Makati one week later.

Source: Festivals of the World: Philippines.

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