Sunday, September 26, 2010

Celebrating Aklan Ati-Atihan Festivals

by Ernesto T. Solidum
Officers and members of the Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan Foundation, Inc. (KASAFI) are guests of the September 18, 2010 Kapehan at Smokehauz Resto & Bar. The topic is "2010 Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival" celebration. Mr. Albert A. Meñez, BOD Chairman, Ms. Mila R. Balleza, Secretary, Mr. Augusto C. Tolentino and Mr. Edison M. Lao – Auditors, Mr. Dennis Dalida and Mr. Joselito Motus, – members Festival Event attended the forum.

Atty. Ronquillo C. Tolentino, Consultant of KASAFI, stated that Section 23 of our Constitution in the Declaration of State Policies encourages involvement of non-government organization (NGOs) in government planning and implementation of programs/projects for the benefit of society.

Ms. Balleza said, "the overriding concern of KASAFI is a meaningful and successful religious revival of Ati-Atihans’ colorful past. The only way to achieve this is through volunteerism. Today we have all private and public sectors represented in the Foundation that we are bound to succeed".

The creation of KASAFI, according to Meñez, is mandated Resulotion No. 2010-41 approved by Mayor William S. Lachica. This is formal transfer of power from the Kalibo Ati-Atihan Management Board created in February 2, 1988 during the incumbency of Mayor Allen S. Quimpo. While there is considerable outpouring of support from our local partners, we need to reach out to our friends and benefactors abroad. Kalibo Ati-Atihan is known as the "Mother of Festivals" in the country and we believed preparation for this event must be on year long basis.

Atty. Tolentino believes that Kalibo festival, over the past two or three decades, have considerably weakened because of inadequate tourism promotion. "What I see from my travel abroad is that airport and hotel lounges have stocks of flyers/leaflets advertising festivals celebrations. What can be disheartening is that nothing is mentioned about Aklans’ Ati-Atihan. I think the best way to start massive info campaign begins among us – members of the tri-media and fanning throughout the country and the world through the internet".

"Balik Ati" concept started in last year’s celebration will be featured again according to Mr. Dalida. Presently, there are 25 active groups that urgently need sponsorship by individuals, business establishments or organizations. He averred that reason behind the success of festivals in neighboring is sponsorship and commitment.

Mr. Lao is rallying for support to a plan to transfer flea market from shopping area to Veterans’ Avenue. The objective is to avoid disruption of regular business flow and transactions from establishments in and around Shopping Center. Important changes will be the rerouting of procession and ceremonial parade. Parking of motor vehicles along Mabini St. will disappear completely in order to allow free passage of RORO passenger buses and trucks.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mutos will implement poster making contest and Day of the Drums from Monday to Friday. In view of the shortage of lodging accommodation in Kalibo, he proposes that Day Tours be encouraged among local and foreign tourists from Boracay. KASAFI will coordinate with Boracay Foundation, Inc. to provide shuttle buses for their interested guests to see and enjoy the week long festival in Kalibo. Actually, this is reminiscent of the heyday of late Mayor Federico Icamina where boatloads of tourists from Negros Occidental docked at New Washington Port, their ship converted as floating hotel.

Replacement of inept Kalibo Ati-Atihan Management Board of KASAFI is long overdue. It is hailed as monumental success for Mayor William Lachica to rid the organization of in-competent officials. Kalibo Ati-Atihan celebration has waned over the years with loss of religious adherents and public support. This was compounded with shooting rampage resulting to the deaths of three members of the PNP and one civilian almost six years ago. Now heightened PNP alert is always part of the celebration and foreign tourists often shy away from "tightly secured military strongholds". It is understandable since British and Malaysian law enforcers use night stick. Here in this country, we use assault rifles and high caliber pistols in maintaining peace and order. Yet our streets and homes are not safe against criminals.

Now the "Mother" is eclipsed by its dashing and more popular cousins: Dinagyang of Iloilo, Sinulog of Cebu and Maskara of Bacolod. The younger generation seems to be fascinated with these festivals that millions are attracted there. What make them tick?
Well, the common bond is part entertainment, semblance of religiosity and culture. Admired ones are choreographic tableau presentation of different tribes of Sinulog, rhythmic dance steps and exotic costumes of Dinagyang and outlandish masks design of Maskara. Evidently, they just evolved from Ati-Atihan taking advantage of local talent and raw materials. In all these celebrations, audience is passively watching the events unfurled before their eyes as if mesmerized.

In the case of the Kalibo Ati-Atihan, both participants and guests are free to enjoy the rhythm and beats of the drums. Prancing and shouting "Viva kay Sr. Sto. Niño" could be an arduous six kilometer trek through sun and even rain. Aching muscles, sunburned faces and tired feet are parts of festival experiences but nevertheless cherished. Religious vows are actually of self sacrifice and piety.

It would be welcome event that all 17 towns in Aklan are slated to present their One Town One Product display floats during the Ati-Atihan parade. Given that tribal groups are privately sponsored. There is a need to hedge in commercial advertisements like product display, banner and streamers.

While KASAFI may be engrossed over tourism and material benefits, why don’t we consider deepening our Christian faith? Remember that Kalibo’s celebration is both religious and cultural. We need to be original and devoid of inconsistencies. What if we failed to be No. 1 in the region? Tourism is just an offshoot of our religious-cultural heritage. Some may exploit this for economic gain but let this be exercised in moderation. It would be best under the circumstances to practice our life, holy and acceptable in the eyes of God and not of men. Those that think otherwise are plain hypocrites. /MP

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