Soot up for Sr Sto Niño Festival in Boracay
When I heard the night before that there’s gonna be an Ati-atihan Festival on our last day of stay on the island, I got excited and really hoped that the weather would clear up tomorrow. I never really got to shoot that much festivals so I was looking forward to this. And it’s not often I get to witness a festival by the beach. That morning, as if the Gods and the Saints were listening to the people, we finally got clear blue skies and sunny weather. Amen to that!
Revelers at Ati-atihan
So after a heavy and satisfying breakfast at the hotel, some of us rode the hotel shuttle towards the town church at Balabag Plaza where the revelry would start. By the time we got there, it was already packed with people. At the main basketball court, a mass was being held. Not really knowing which route the parade would take, I asked one of the Tanods there the directions they would go. They were very helpful so now I had an idea where I would place myself. Also, surprisingly, the guys spotted Anton, who mysteriously “disappeared” that morning, already there standing and leaning by the basketball hoop stand.
Ati-atihan Celebration at Boracay’s White Beach
Instead of waiting there at the plaza to finish the mass, I told the other guys I’ll be going by the beach, to wait for the paraders there. Going through narrow alley from the plaza, I was welcomed by a really pleasant sight of the blue skies, the sun and the sea. Ahhh! Now this is the Boracay I know. Wide and long stretch of blinding white sands and rich blue colors of the sea.
Half-faced, half-smile girl
I never really knew that there was a local island Ati-atihan in Boracay. The original Ati-atihan Festival is usually held in Kalibo Aklan, 2 hours by land from Caticlan. Considered as the wildest celebration and Mother of all Festivals in the Philippines, the Ati-atihan is celebrated every third Sunday of January. This feast is also held in honor of Senor Sto Niño.
Going Black and white
During the festival, revelers would usually paint their faces and bodies with black soot and wear very colorful and extravagant costumes. Dancing and merry making would fill the streets as both catholics and non-catholics would join the celebration. It has been a much anticipated event in the Philippines that people would books months ahead just to witness the event.
A devoted reveler
Here in Boracay, from what I saw from the assembled paraders at the plaza grounds, I didn’t expect it to be as big and extravagant as the Kalibo Ati-atihan. Still, I thought it would be interesting to see. From a distance I could hear the banging and beating of the drums and the shouts of the revelers signaling the start of the celebration. The mass has ended and they have began to move.
Colored Head dress
The sound of festivity closes into the white beach and in a short moment have poured in through the small alley from the inner street towards the beach. Revelers came in dancing through the beat of the drum, others raising their banner establishments or barangay and some carrying their precious images of Sto Niño. Some even got bottles of liquors which they share with their tribe-mates that early morning. One by one each tribe parades towards Station 3 of the beach and would re-route back to the inner streets heading back to where they started.
The lactating man
Not all tribes wore colorful costumes but they do have these interestingly dressed characters which represents their tribe. Their costumes are just crazy and hilarious it’s hard not to notice them.
The colorful body paint
It’s my first time to actually witness a real Ati-atihan festival. It’s kinda fun with their addicting drumbeats that really beckons you to move with them, crazy and colorful costumes and of course the sight of the local town folks actually having fun. Like I said, this is just like a slice of pie from the actual grand Kalibo Ati-atihan. If I had fun here shooting, what more in Kalibo? Hopefully next year I could check it out.
What ya lookin’ at? I’m not lost! Am I?
It didn’t take long until the last tribe passed by. It’s really great that we were able to catch this event in Boracay and better, the weather was on our side this time. We didn’t follow follow the parade until the end. Most of us are already satisfied with what we got and were able to see. In the meantime, the lure of the sea and blinding sand is calling upon us. It’s time to hit the beach!
A live walking Sr Sto Niño
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.