They look like warriors of centuries ago in a festive mood, in celebration of an occasion. They fill the streets of Kalibo, Aklan, they sound up the drums and it is only once a year. Yes, it is the Ati-atihan festival.
Currently celebrated in honor of the Sto. Nino, the Ati-atihan festival is very lively, colorful and it is a week long fiesta! The blackened dancers attract tourists from all over the world and when the festivities are done, these tourists hit the beach on the white sands of a nearby island called Boracay for more parties.
It was a pact to be celebrated. A pact between two races and cultures. In effort to show appreciation to the kindness and hospitality of the Aetas, the Malays smeared themselves with soot from their cooking utensils. Thus the first Ati-atihan started.
Upon the colonization of the islands, the baptism of a huge number of the natives to Roman Catholicism was celebrated and the drums were sounded. Coinciding with the Ati-atihan of old, it became a combined celebration.
The Ati-atihan festival, the mother of all festivals in the Philippines, the origin of pinoy festivities. When there was just farming and warfare on other islands, there was partying on Aklan. For the past 800 years more or less, it has been a tradition. It will be carried on for generations to come, it will be our original, local Mardi Gras.