Travels and Festivals

Ati-Atihan Festival: Experience the Hala Bira!

Ati-Atihan Festival

The Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo Aklan is the biggest in crowd size and participation. It is a week-long celebration with street dancing, lively drumbeats, and colorful costumes.

The Festival’s religious component is highlighted with the formal opening mass on the first day of the celebration. The procession with pulsating drumbeats and dancing parades around the street comes after the spiritual assembly. The second day starts at daybreak with a rosary procession and concludes with another dancing parade and community mass. 

The Festival’s highlight occurs on the third Sunday of January when groups representing different tribes. Furthermore, the Festival consists of religious processions and street parades. People of the dancing groups wear colorful costumes and their sporting faces and body paints. The street parade is known as Sadsad. The locals refer to their style of dancing, which involves briefly dragging a foot along the ground to the rhythm of the marching bands.

Interesting Facts about Ati-atihan Festival and its History

Ati-atihan Festival is a celebration of the Ati tribe, who were the original settlers of Aklan. Some people say that it has its roots in the pre-colonial era when Datu Puti ruled them and fought against the Spanish colonizers. The event marks the end of the harvest season and honors the life, spirit, and culture of the Ati tribe. In addition, the celebration is a way to welcome new babies into the community.

The first Ati-atihan festival occurred on January 21, 1929, at Brgy. Poblacion in Kalibo, Aklan. Governor General Frank Murphy organized the Festival to promote unity among Filipinos. The Ati-atihan Festival is one of the most popular festivals in the Philippines. It happens every January 15th and 16th, coinciding with its anniversary celebration. The Atis or Aetas were the native inhabitants of Aklan province. They paint their bodies in black or dark brown during rituals and ceremonies as a form of adornment.

The Ati-atihan Festival’s Highlight

The Festival is known for its lively atmosphere, and the procession is a crucial part of the celebration, with participants dancing and singing through the streets. The Ati-atihan Festival celebrates faith, culture, and tradition and attracts thousands of visitors yearly.

Parade of floats in Ati-atihan Festival

Ati-Atihan Festival, Parade

See the town’s historical and religious thanksgiving parade to glorify the Santo Niño.  Witness a variety of floats and thousands of merrymakers. Additionally, witness Ati-Atihan tribes and groups flood the streets to kick off the Ati-Atihan spirit.

Ati-atihan festival costume

Ati-Atihan Festival, Costumes

The elaborate and colorful costumes worn by participants are one of the most memorable and unique features of the Ati-Atihan Festival. These outfits are visually stunning and a way to pay respect to the indigenous Ati culture, which is at the heart of the Festival. In essence, the costumes are a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of the Ati people, showcasing their ability to turn simple materials into stunning works of art.

 Ati-Atihan Festival Street Dancing

Ati-Atihan Festival, Streetdancing

The Ati-Atihan Festival is a fun experience by letting your spirit soar, as the saying goes. So let free of your inhibitions, dance to the music, and yell “Viva kay Señor Santo Niño” (an Aklanon expression meaning “pour or dispense all means”) or “hala bira purya pasma”! (Long live Jesus, the Child!). Be ready to experience thunderous drum beats and cheers. And witness energetic participants with body paints and colorful costumes that will get you into the groove.

Religious Processions in Ati-atihan Festival

Religious Processions in Ati-atihan Festival

Visitors and devotees partake in the Dawn Penitential Procession at 4 in the morning, a day before the grand Festival. After that, thousands of participants take a solemn walk along the principal streets of Kalibo while praying the Holy Rosary. The transfer of the image of Santo Niño de Kalibo is finally witnessed by pilgrims and visitors on the Festival’s last day. The town’s bishop and priests from Aklan also led a pilgrimage mass after the relocation.

Torch Procession in Ati-atihan Festival

Torch Procession in Ati-atihan Festival

The Ati-Atihan comes to a close with the Torch Procession on the event’s last night. Thousands of people attend this ceremony with bamboo torches in hand. Hundreds of Santo Nino statues and the sound of drumbeats fill the air. Finally, the procession crawls through the town’s streets toward the century-old Kalibo Cathedral, where many will take a moment for a final prayer. 

A Convenient Way to Reach Aklan and enjoy the Ati-atihan Festival 

You can go to Aklan via land, air, or water. There are two airports in Aklan, one of which is the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Malay. And the only international airport outside a major city is the Kalibo International Airport in Andagao, Kalibo, Aklan. By flight, Kalibo is 30 minutes from Cebu and 45 minutes from Manila. 

Flights to Kalibo International Airport are available with the following air carriers namely: 

  • Cebu Pacific 
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Zest Air

You can hire a tricycle to carry you into town after you arrive at Kalibo International Airport. The costs are typically between 50 and 100 pesos depending on the distance.

The following airlines offer flights to Caticlan’s Godofredo P. Ramos Airport:

  1. Air Philippines
  2. PAL
  3. Zest Air
  4. Sea Air

The journey to Aklan by sea from Manila North Harbor can take up to 12 hours. There are three ports in Aklan: the port of New Washington, the port of Dumaguit, and the jetty port at Caticlan. 

You can take a jeepney or a tricycle from the port of Dumaguit to New Washington, where you can take a multicab or another tricycle to Kalibo.

By land, you can travel from Iloilo to Kalibo by bus or van. Air-conditioned buses can travel for up to 3 hours and 30 minutes, whereas regular buses can take up to 4 hours or longer. Vans, though, can arrive in as little as three hours from Iloilo. Note:  Avoid using the bus between 10 am and 12 am since the drivers will stop for lunch, which could cause a delay of up to 45 minutes.

Vans are an additional option, and buses from Roxas City to Kalibo are not air-conditioned. As a result, it can take two hours to complete the journey.

Buses from Libertad or San Jose Antique frequently lack air conditioning. As a result, the journey from San Jose typically takes 5 to 6 hours. The journey can take between three and four hours from Libertad.

Discover the Perfect Places to Stay During the Festival

The Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan, Philippines, is a popular event that attracts thousands of visitors yearly. To ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience, finding the perfect place to stay is essential. Here are some options to consider when planning your trip:

Ati-Atihan Festival Hotel

Ati-Atihan Festival hotel

Ati-Atihan Festival Hotel is a fantastic option for lodging in Kalibo and is only 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) from the airport. The spa pampers guests with massages, and a coffee shop/café offers light fare. A snack bar is an additional amenity. Travelers praise the friendly staff’s assistance.

Asia Novo Boutique Hotel- Kalibo

Asia Novo Boutique Hotel- Kalibo

Asia Novo Boutique Hotel-Kalibo is a fantastic accommodation option in Kalibo and is only 2.1 miles (3.4 km) from the airport. Free extras for guests include WiFi and self-parking. Other travelers praise the friendly personnel.

Discovery Shores Boracay

Discovery Shores Boracay

This luxurious resort offers beautiful rooms and suites, a variety of dining options, and top-notch facilities, including a spa and infinity pool. The new building and spotless white walls were stunning. It complemented the island’s snow-white sand, azure oceans, and golden sunsets.

The Lind Boracay

This upscale hotel offers stylish rooms and suites, a beautiful beachfront location, and various dining and recreational options. Each accommodation at The Lind has a view, allowing guests to use their great beachside location. Some have views of the garden, the ocean, or both.

Discovery Country Suites

This elegant boutique hotel offers beautifully appointed rooms, a peaceful atmosphere, and a convenient location in Aklan. This facility puts you close to sights due to its accessible placement in Station 1 and intriguing dining options.

Aston Kalibo Hotel & Convention Center

The room rates in hotels and resorts can vary depending on the time of year, location, and the level of luxury and amenities offered. The typical rate for a room at a mid-range hotel or resort is from PHP 3,000 to PHP 15,000 per night. On the other hand, high-end hotels can be much more expensive, with rooms starting at PHP 10,000 and above.

Remember, no matter where you choose, book your accommodation well in advance to ensure you have a place to stay during the Festival. Then, enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and experience the rich culture and traditions of the Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan!

The Wonders of Aklan Awaits You!

Aklan has some breathtaking locations that adventurers, nature lovers, and beach lovers would all adore. Check out the top tourist destinations in Aklan if you are attending the Festival and still deciding where to spend your weekend or holiday.


Boracay is consecutively on the “World’s Best Islands” list by international travel magazines and agencies. It is a tiny island at the northwest tip of Panay Island. Millions of tourists continuously visit the island all year round. It is well-known for its gorgeous white sand beaches and clear waters, which draw many tourists. Therefore, bus transportation from Kalibo, Aklan, to Boracay (Island) is the least expensive option. And Local Bangka Boat via Kalibo International Airport costs between $650 and $1,100 and takes two hours and thirty minutes.

Location: Malay Island, Aklan

Hacienda Maria

Hacienda Maria is a 14-hectare that serves as an ecotourism destination in the province of Aklan frequented by many local and foreign tourists. The site’s main attractions include a waterfall, caves, and Hot Pot Jacuzzi. Visitors can also enjoy swimming and cliff jumping in the waterfall’s 10-foot-deep plunge pool.

Location: Barangay Tigum, Buruanga, Aklan.

Bakhawan Eco Park

The Philippines’ most successful mangrove reforestation project, the eco-park, is a 220-hectare mangrove forest. Additionally, it shields the neighborhood from natural disasters like floods and storm surges. Also accessible from the entry are a magnificent river, bamboo bridge, flying birds, and lush mangroves. A shallow lagoon, a sandbar, and the expansive Sibuyan Sea that you can see from the end of the wooden trail, which is rewarding.

Location: Kalibo, Aklan.

Hinugtan Beach

A private beach is one of Aklan’s top tourist attractions. There are coconut trees and a beach with fine, white sand. Since the town is nearby Caticlan Airport, this would be the nearest airport to Manila. The Kalibo International Airport in Aklan’s capital is an option. Going to Boracay and renting a boat to Hinugtan, only about an hour away, is the most popular way to get there.

Location: Buruanga, Aklan.

Kalibo Cathedral

Kalibo Cathedral is a must-see for all tourists who visit the city. One of the country’s oldest churches is this one. Despite being one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, the cathedral still stands strong today. Tourists often visit this place because of its beautiful architecture and stained glass windows. In addition, it is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Kalibo, Aklan. It’s also a venue for the Ati-Atihan festival. 

 Location: P967+4CM, GM Reyes Street, Kalibo, Aklan

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or nature, Kalibo has something to offer everyone. Kalibo is an excellent destination that should be on your travel itinerary.

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