Ati Atihan - The Marti Gras of the Philippines

Trip Start Dec 28, 2011
Trip End Jan 30, 2012

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What I did
Ati Atihan

Flag of Philippines  , Western Visayas,
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Not really a narrative about Ati Atihan, but I will bring us up to the date and then run some random stories.

Upon return from Boracay, there was still a day before Allan was to arrive, so the family brought Andoy over to keep me entertained.  He was quiet too, as was I...It was a rainy day so I spend the time downloading pictures and updating the blog and doing some facebooking.

My desk while here is a table on the front veranda.  It really is no different from being indoors and here there is a breeze.

The day was uneventful, and we were up early to the airport to pick up Allan.  We waited a bit and were allowed entry into the arrival area by Dong Dong who is working as a fire fighter at the airport.  Kyle, Rudy and I waited, and finally Allan arrived off the plane.  I gave him Kyle and waited for Allan's luggage

The rest of the day was adjustment day and jet lag day for Allan.  I walked around Lezo a bit, but we mostly stayed home.

The next day we were into Kalibo for some shopping, and Allan wanted a haircut, so we went to his local stylist Francis, who was in his shop full of lady boys. 

Wednesday was our first forray into Kalibo for Ati Atihan.  This is an 800 year old festival which is well described on this link about the Ati Atihan

Wednesday was mostly rehearsal.  Now saying this, there were rehearsals going on all week.  Even in Lezo we heard the drums practicing, and driving around we saw lots of drum groups setting up and practicing.  However on Wednesday they actually got to start marching, dancing and playing on the streets of Kalibo.  That party had begun.  All the central streets were closed off from traffic, hundreds of vendors were out selling everything from trinkets and souveniers on the street to beer and bottles of rum.

Not many costumes on Wednesday, but there were a few, and the drum beat was everywhere.

Thursday was Student Day, traffic was terrible on the way in...its a busy highway at the best of times with this town swelling to three times its size during the day with workers and students.  Add in the event week, and both lanes were taken up with cars heading in.  There is really only way way into town from the west and one bridge that is two lanes.  A twenty minute ride took us well over 90 minutes.  We arrived in time to see the procession of all the area schools, first the dancers, then the school bands and finally the rest of each school in the area.  The Lezo school was represented so we had to go see them play.  The enthusiasm of the kids made up for any lack of musicianship.

Afterwards we met up with some of the school kids at the mall, and then went for dinner with some of Allan's classmates at Lorraine's Tapsi.  Food was great.

Next day we attended a different Ati Atihan in the town of Malinao which is next to Lezo.  While smaller, there is no less enthusiasm and the town show up for all the fun.  It started to rain during the procession, but that never stopped anyone.

Allan's cousins Poten and Bedoy were both in the procession with their school, and Poten was her typical shy self, while Christian was just wondering who was taking his picture....

The day was fun, and a good relax before the big two days in Kalibo. 

Friday we were supposed to march with the Aklan Camera Club, and when we arrived the procession had started so as we looked for them, it started to rain a bit.  A vendor approached with an umbrella, but we decided we didn't want one...bad the Camera Group found us the rain started really coming down.  We marched a bit and got totally soaked before escaping to a tented area.  We got smart and bought an unbrella for about 5 bucks and then a few minutes later, we bought another.  We situated ourselves near a corner, and of course the rain stopped...but we got lots of great pictures....

Sunday is the big day, the processions include floats for the Santa Nino....and it was a nice day all day!

Some random thoughts:

  • Filipinos love to party.  There was more booze in this parade than a normal bar month!
  • Filipinos love their pictures taken - so many wanted me to take their photo while posing with their friends.
  • They also love to have me in their pics....many times during the day people came up to me wanting me to pose in their pictures.  One wanted me to kiss their baby!
  • There is no drinking age in the Philippines.  I saw kids as young as 7 or 8 toting beers and saw one young teen sharing his beer with a toddler.
  • Sharing people though - if i had taken one drink from everyone who offered, I likely would not have made it home that night!
  • My ears rang each night from the drumming....It was LOUD and never stopped
  • While there is some organization, this event thrives on the bands being in charge and they basically marched as they pleased, with marchers meeting face to face more than once.  When some bands were alongside each other then tried to out drum each other....then the volume really went up.
  • Pretty much whereever you go in the Philippines young children will be out begging for money.  I was more impressed this trip, most of the children were collecting bottles and cans for the deposit money instead of begging.  (a few did beg, and I am reluctant to give anything as it might just start a large group trying to get money from me)  I always looked out for a child with a huge bag of bottles instead of looking for a garbage though.
  • In the pictures you will see many people with their faces blackened; this is to celebrate the Ati, the original inhabitants of the islands.  If you were not blackened they sure tried to make you blacker. I got hit once by a guy who grabbed my face with his hands all blackened

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Lillian on

hi kevin and allen, sure looks like your trip has been a great one! your stories and photos are amazing, i have enjoyed the read and pics. stay safe and keep enjoying!!!!

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