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Inquirer Visayas

From community to national fests

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Bigger prizes and more contingents are in store for the public in the three festivals in Cebu, Iloilo and Aklan, held every January in honor of the Holy Child Jesus.

This only shows that the Ati-Atihan of Aklan, Sinulog of Cebu and Dinagyang of Iloilo are growing into regional and national festivals from mere community events.

Total prizes for the Ati-Atihan more than doubled from P600,000 last year to P1.6 million this year, according to

Albert Menez, chair of the Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan Foundation Inc.

Subsidies to participating tribes in the Ati-Atihan tribe contest have also increased from P70,000 to P150,000.

“We have more sponsors and more participants because more and more revelers and devotees come each year,” Menez said.

The capital town of Kalibo in Aklan is commemorating the 800th year of the Ati-Atihan festival, considered the mother of Sto. Niño festivals. It will peak on Jan. 14 and 15.

The Ati-Atihan traces its roots in the 13th century as a pagan ritual of Aeta people and later transformed into a Christian tradition in the 18th century after a Spanish priest baptized 1,000 inhabitants of Kalibo. (The name of the town is said to have been derived from “Isa ka Libo,” referring to those first baptized.)

It is considered unique and the merriest among the Sto. Niño festivals because tribes compete through spontaneous street dancing without a defined parade route. Revelers can also freely dance with the competing tribes whose members are representatives of private companies, families, barangays, towns and schools.

It is different from Sinulog festival in Cebu, which will also peak on Jan. 15.

Carousel route

Held every third week of January, the Sinulog Grand Parade, the highlight of the festival, follows the carousel route. The dance moves to the sound of the drums, resembling the current (sinulog) of what was then known as Cebu’s Pahina River, according to the festival


The first Sinulog parade was held in 1980 and spearheaded by physical education teachers. It was participated in by seven schools and universities.

Over the years, the parade got bigger.

This Sunday, 48 dance contingents will participate in the Sinulog Grand Parade.

While this year’s dance contingents are two less than last year’s 50 participants, 12 groups come from outside the city, said Ricky Ballesteros, Sinulog executive committee director.

The groups include those from Tangub City; Liloy in Zamboanga del Norte; Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental; and Placer in Masbate, which will be among the competitors in the Sinulog-Based category.

Contingents from the towns of Alang-Alang, Tanauan and Dulag in Leyte,  and groups from Kidapawan City, Dumaguete City, Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay, and Lanao del Norte have signed up for the Free Interpretation category.

Prizes for the grand champions in the Sinulog-Based and Free Interpretation categories have been doubled from P500,000 each last year to P1 million this year.

Ticket sales for the grand parade had also been brisk, said Ballesteros. They were expecting to raise about P7 million from grandstand ticket sales, lease of street fair stalls and registration for the Sinulog floats and photography competitions alone.

This year, revelers and spectators will enjoy unlimited wireless Internet access from the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. along the Sinulog carousel route.

But Msgr. Roberto Alesna, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cebu, has called on Cebuanos not to forget the true essence of the Sinulog celebration which is devotion to the Sto. Niño.

“People should be reminded not to lose sight of the true essence of our celebration year after year, which are the church-initiated activities, the fluvial procession and the masses,” he said.

Western Visayas

Religious and cultural traditions of Western Visayas will be showcased in Iloilo’s Dinagyang festival, which will peak on

Jan. 21 to 22.

The Kasadyahan festival on Jan. 21 will be transformed into a showcase of major festivals in Western Visayas with the participation of 12 groups (including four guest performers) representing the provinces of Iloilo, Antique, Aklan, Guimaras, Capiz and Negros Occidental.

Thirteen tribes will also compete on Jan. 22 in the Ati-Atihan contest, the main event of the festival.

Around P1.5 million in prizes for major and minor awards are up for grabs for the competing tribes and groups, up from last year’s total prize of P800,000, said city tourism officer Ben Jimena.

Organizers expect a million spectators and revelers on Jan. 21 and 22.

Dinagyang traces its roots to 1968 when Fr. Sulpicio Enderes, OSA, with a delegation of the Cofradia de Cebu, brought a replica of the image of Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu to Iloilo City.

The image was brought to San Jose Parish Church where it is still enshrined.

A year after, the first parish feast of Señor Sto. Niño was celebrated. The champion and runner-up in the Kalibo Ati-Atihan contest performed in what was considered the first Ati-Atihan festival in Iloilo City.

In 1970, the first Ati-Atihan contest of Iloilo was held at the Freedom Grandstand.

Seven years later, festival organizers changed “Ati-Atihan”  to “Dinagyang” from the Hiligaynon word “dagyang” or merrymaking so as not to duplicate Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan.

The event has since been elevated into the Hall of Fame by tourism officers for being the country’s best tourism event. With a report from Edison A. Delos Angeles, Inquirer Visayas

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Tags: Ati-atihan , Culture , Dinagyang , Festival , Sinulog , Tradition , Visayas

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