The Ati-Ati festival, celebrated in Kalibo, is Philippines’ most important festival. It was called the mother of all festivals until inhabitants of Iloilo, another city of the same island, started calling their festival the mother of all festivals… To which inhabitants of Kalibo answered calling their festival the grandmother of all festivals. The answer of Iloilo inhabitants is not yet known…
The festival celebrates 2 things:
- the fact that some exiled princes from Borneo dyed their faces black to blend in better with the natives (called Atis) during the 13th century.
- the fact that years later, the locals (it seems that the princes integrated that well that the locals were not black anymore… ) dyed their faces in black to scare Muslims who wanted to convert them from Catholicism to Islam. Apparently, the “holy child” also helped them. It added a religious touch to the festivities.
If you think about going, beware that the prices offered by the few hotels of the city are a total rip off. They speak of packages and even dare smile while saying they offer you a good price, but it’s still a rip off, a bit as during the international car fair in Geneva.
The festival consists of several days of tribal dancing, colourful costumes and a looot of noise (ups, I meant orchestras playing drums).
I did feel like in Spain during some ‘Fiesta del pueblo’ as San Miguel has ads every 1.4 meters and its colours (red and gold/yellow) are everywhere. I was waiting for the bulls to show up but it seems the noise (ups again, I meant the orchestras playing drums) scared them off.
We participated to the festival with our hotel (we got a free crappy (ups, I meant yellow) t-shirt in the ‘package’ which itself was worth more than a Lacoste collector shirt designed by Mr. Lacoste himself…). As their orchester didn’t show up, we integrated another group, which was I think one of the best as it was sponsored by an alcohol brand and they pushed a full bottle of Mojito in my hands 2mn after starting (just like that, for free)! It helped a lot to do it the local way as we were told that all men need to be drunk during the festival (it must be some remnants of the Spanish colony).
As for the rest, images speak more than words, so here you go: