because people speak English
Early this year, I was able to experience one of the most celebrated festivals in my country. It's the Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival.
The Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival is held every third week of January in the town of Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines. This is celebrated to honour the Holy Child Jesus Christ. Local people call him, "Sr. Sto. Nino". It is common for devotees and tourists to carry icons and replicas of the holy child. Just like what I'm holding on some of my photos.
Devotees honour the Sto. Nino for the bountiful harvest, for their answered prayers, for their good health and blessings, and for their protection from disasters and accidents. It is a religious way of thanking the holy child for every little things he has given to those who believe in him.
The Ati-Atihan Festival is one of the greatest and most colourful festivals in my country. Ati-Atihan means to be like an "aeta". The Aetas, an aboriginal group, were regarded as first settlers of Aklan. Today, different government organizations conduct a contest which is participated by local people. They form tribal groups, and imitate what the aetas did when they were honouring the holy child. Tribal members dress up and present their indigenous, colourful costumes to the public.
Each group will be judged by their performaces (pace and dance rhythms), creativity and theme. Cash prizes await for the deserving winners. It's a great contest with an important religious purpose! Tribal groups must do their best to convince the judges, that they are deserving for the title.
Tourists can get the chance to have their own photo taken while in the middle of the tribal participants. They can even dance and get along with them for awhile. So, expect to be carried away by the tribes' musics and loud drumbeats. "Viva Sr. Sto. Nino" as what they'll hear in every corners. It's a cheerful way of praising the holy child. I think, these are some of the reasons why this festival is unique.
The colourful parades are the exciting parts of the festival. These can be seen during the last two days of the event. But the highlight of the festival is the procession, which falls on the third Sunday of January at around 3 p.m. Devotees gather in front of St. John the Baptist Church, where the procession starts. Everyone is invited to join in this religious custom. The Sto. Nino de Kalibo, along with different holy child icons will be paraded around the nearby streets. After the procession, there will be a final program and the announcement of the winners.
The festival is also celebrated in other parts of the country like in Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, and other provinces.
I'm really grateful to be a part of this celebration. I not only enjoyed the experience, but I also felt a strong devotion to the Holy Child. For me, that's the very essence of this festival. This is truly one of my real-life adventures that I would never forget.
How about you? Have you attended a memorable festival? When and where it was held? I would love to hear it from you.
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