by TERENCE T. TORIANO
Every third week of January, as if clockwork, Balikbayans, tourists and local visitors flock to the capital town of the Province of Aklan, the progressive and urbanizing town of Kalibo, for the biggest and most colorful street party the world has ever known. By its own right, it could rival the Mardi Gras of New Orleans.
The Ati-atihan season this year in kalibo starts on. January 6 and culminate in a procession on Sunday evening, Jan. 15. The Ati-atihan Tribes and Modern Ati-atihan groups started dancing on the streets during the evenings, as early as December.
Professionals, students and even the laborers head off to their favorite Ati tribes or groups right after work or class to dance around the streets. Even those unregistered tribes participate in the Ati-atihan contest turn up in droves to dance the local dance known locally as the “sadsad” (or stomping of feet).
In this 2012 Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-atihan Festival, there are 30 tribes and groups which registered for the categories of Tribal Big Groups, Tribal Small Groups, Balik Ati (Indigenous) Groups, Modern Groups, and the outrageous individual performers as of press time and will continue to register especially the individual participants.
The groups or tribes who registered to join the Ati-atihan contest will be judged on the Saturday and Sunday mornings of the weeklong festival. However, the number of tribes more than double during the afternoon revelries even on weekdays with some unregistered groups pouring on the streets.
The people of Kalibo and Aklan in general including the regular Balikbayans and frequent tourists come back not because of what they can see but what they can experience, a festival like no other.
Here, the audience is encouraged to participate in the revelry and be one of the tribe members. Street dancing is none stop even to conduct a choreographic dance.
None could compare from its originality dating back to the Pre-Spanish time according to Kalibo’s cultural traditions and during the Spanish time.
Due to limited funds, the Kalibo Ati-atihan Festival has limited international exposures thus, limited international interest. /MP