Thousands join Kalibo Ati-atihan despite typhoon devastation
ILOILO CITY, Philippines — Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc called on devotees of the Santo Niño to take care of impoverished and downtrodden as tens of thousands of Aklanons still reeling from the devastation of Typhoon Ursula (internationally known as Phanfone) took to the streets of the capital town of Kalibo in Aklan in this year’s celebration of the Kalibo Santo Niño Ati-Atihan Festival.
Talac-oc, who celebrated the Pilgrim Mass in front of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Kalibo on Sunday, urged the faithful to be like the Child Jesus, the Santo Niño.
“Like a child, we must humble ourselves. This, however, does not mean that we should stop growing and remain as a child,” he said in his homily before thousands, including tourists and local officials, who attended the Mass.
He said the faithful should strive “to follow the example of Jesus himself as we grow up and feel the weight of all the concerns and responsibilities in this life.”
“We are not only called to be like children but to receive and take care of children in Jesus’ name,” the prelate said.
Tala-oc said this would not only mean taking care of little children “but all the little ones in our society — the poor, neglected, rejected, sick, voiceless, victims of hatred, of violence and of greed.”
He also called on Aklanons to address the plight of the members of the Ati indigenous people’s group. He lamented that there were people taking advantage of the tribe members as he reminded them that the festival should not be “just merry-making and street-dancing.”
The Kalibo Ati-atihan, held annually every third week of January, is considered the oldest among the festivals in honor of the Señor Santo Niño, or the Child Jesus.
It is known for its unique and spontaneous “sadsad,” or street dancing, participated in by residents and guests to the beat of drums and the melodic tune of lyres.
The festival was held just three weeks after Aklan was placed under a state of calamity after the typhoon left nine fatalities in the province with 10,298 houses destroyed and 101,230 others damaged.
Many areas in the province remained without electricity due to toppled electric posts.
But many typhoon survivors still joined the festival, as an expression of faith, is even as they struggled to rebuild or repair their and recover from the loss of livelihood and income.
The Kalibo Señor Santo Niño Ati-Atihan Management Council (Kassamaco) said 32 tribes competed in the street-dancing contest held on Saturday.
The number of tribes is two less than the 34 tribes that joined the festival last year.
The 32 tribes competed in four different categories. These include the Big category, Small category, Modern category, and the Balik Ati category.
“The participation of many tribes in this year’s Kalibo Señor Santo Nino Ati-Atihan Festival is a display of the undeniable resilience of the people of Aklan and the rest of the province of Aklan,” a Kassamaco statement said.
At least 50,000 devotees, spectators, and guests poured onto the streets on Saturday for the Sad-sad Ati-atihan contest.
The festival peaked with a religious procession with street-dancing that started at 2 p.m. and was expected to last late into the evening passing the main streets of Kalibo and culminating at the cathedral.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.