Ati Atihan Festival is held in Panay, Philippines in the month of January, annually. It is a traditional cultural festival of this island nation held in the town of Kalibo, province Aklan, island Panay. The festival is originally a two weeklong celebration, but the actual essence is in the last three days.
The Ati Atihan festival is not a native festival. This is because the festival was started by the immigrants from Borneo who bought land form the locals of Panay and became its settlers. The festival is actually a celebration of these settlers called Malay Datus where they celebrate the purchase of land through massive feasts and performances. They infact paint themselves black with soot to look like the islanders and hold dancing parades in large groups.
The main attraction of Ati Atihan Festival is people painting themselves black and gyrating to the sounds of loud drums. Bull fights, snake dance, beauty pageants, late night parties etc, form the part of this three day festivity in the island. Actually on this day anything goes in Panay. The history of the festival dates back to the 13th century when Atis, the natives who lived on the hill tops and sold the lowlands to the light-skinned settlers from Borneo, faced crop loss and asked the Datus for help. The settlers are said to have shared their produce generously with the Atis and the delighted Atis celebrate the day with the Datus on this day.
The Spanish influence to the festivities came when much later the Spanish settlers struck a deal with the Atis and the Datus that these celebrations would be dedicated to Santa Nino. Ever since, the parades and the dances also feature this catholic element in them. The intensity of the revelry leaves every one exhausted towards the end.