Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hala Bira! Ati-Atihan 2016: Sadsad

The Ati-Atihan Festival is held in Kalibo, Aklan every January to honor Santo Niño. It culminates on the 3rd Sunday of the month. It actually inspired and served as the model for other festivals in the country, such as the Sinulog in Cebu and the Dinagyang in Iloilo which also celebrate the Sto. Nino. For this reason, Ati-Atihan legally holds the title "Mother of all Philippine Festivals" (read more about it in wikipedia).

While some festivities and parades start earlier in the week, the biggest and most important activities start late in the week. (See the 2016 schedule here.) I arrived in Kalibo on Friday early afternoon so I got there just in time to witness and join some of the major events.

When I checked into my hotel, I asked the receptionist what time the parades would start and he told me that they were already ongoing. He also said that the sadsad (or street dancing) with vibrant and elaborate costumes would start on Saturday at around 8 or 9am. While many parades are scattered around city, majority of them make their way to the plaza so that's where I went after I settled into my room.

It was my first time in Kalibo so I studied the map of the city center (which I checked online) to give me an idea of the layout of the land. Of course, asking around was still the easiest way for me to get from my hotel to the plaza. I arrived at the plaza at around 3:30pm and when I got there, I was welcomed by an endless stream of parading people and a cacophony of drumbeats and xylophone music.

The vibe was electric and while I had very little sleep and not a lot to eat that day, I was suddenly filled with a lot energy. I stayed there for about 3 hours, running around taking pictures of the sadsad, the crowds, and the Kalibo Cathedral and enjoying the atmosphere.

This lechon was still pretty intact when I first saw it on the other side of the plaza. :)

I had planned to wake up early on Saturday to catch the parades in costume but I woke up late and got to the plaza at around 1030am. By then, the parades in costume seemed to have already completed their rounds. I asked one of the vendors if there would still be an opportunity to see them and he told me that they would be going around again on Sunday morning after the Pilgrim's mass. I hung about in the plaza a bit to see a few more parades and take a few more photos before having lunch at a restaurant just a few blocks away. At around 1pm, while waiting for my food to be served, I heard a drumbeat that was steadily increasing in volume. I look down the street and I see a parade of people in full costume heading down and making their way towards the plaza! Cool!

This was the first parade in full costume that I saw.

Apparently, they all had another round to make that afternoon and it seems that they were starting again after lunch. Once my meal arrived, I ate it really quickly and then went back to the plaza. It was at that point that I saw one colorful parade after another. Check out my sadsad compilation video here:

Seeing all those people dancing down the streets in brilliant costumes was just so thrilling! I must have had a smile plastered on my face that entire afternoon. The sun was scorching hot but even that was not enough to stop me from running around the plaza, taking photos and dancing along to the drumbeats and the music.

Sadsad at the plaza

I don't normally take selfies but as I was there by myself, I ended up taking more selfies than I ever have in a short span of time.

Selfie time!

In the mid-afternoon, a few tribes completed their sadsad and some of them rested in the church grounds. I asked one of the guys from Tribu Bukid Tigayon if I could have my photo taken with his headdress and he very kindly agreed. Cool! :)

wearing the headdress of Tribu Bukid Tigayon

Later that afternoon, I visited my uncle, who lives in Kalibo, and my aunts who were both in Kalibo for Ati-Atihan, to give them some gifts from my mom. Thankfully, I passed by at the right time. They told me I should join them in the sadsad of our group of relatives. After watching so many different parades go around the plaza, I was more than eager to actually join one. We started at around 5pm and we finished our sadsad at close to 8pm. Even at that time, there were still a whole lot of people dancing around the streets and the plaza was still filled with people.

The plaza at night

My uncle and aunts told me that there was a party that night and they invited me to join them. However, since I wasn't expecting to join a sadsad, I didn't manage my energy for that and I had spent about 8 hours on my feet, walking, running and even dancing under the intense heat of the sun. I also knew that I had to wake up really early the next day to join the Pilgrim's mass (which I will write about in more detail in my next post) so I passed on the party invite and went back to my hotel to rest. I was exhausted and sunburned and my legs and feet were sore but it was such an amazing day.

Next: the Pilgrim's mass and the last day of Ati-Atihan

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