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AKLAN, Philippines – The local government of Malay, Aklan, reported a record-breaking number of tourists who attended this year’s Boracay Ati-atihan.
According to the Malay Tourism Office, 36,741 people participated in the beach dancing and traditional Sadsad Panay events alone during the Ati-atihan Festival on January 13. It logged 10,919 tourists and 5,841 residents who joined the revelry and parade, respectively.
Malay Mayor Floribar Bautista said on Thursday, January 18, the high turnout has inspired the local government to elevate the Boracay Ati-atihan as a major tourism attraction for the resort island, starting next year.
He said the local government did not anticipate such a high number of tourists attending the festival.
Bautista graced the Higante Festival in Kalibo on Thursday, one of the highlights of the Kalibo Santo Nino-Atihan Festival, concluding this weekend.
The street parade commenced at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Balabag and proceeded to the beach for a dance parade. Before the parade, residents led a fluvial procession around Boracay aboard their respective boats.
Despite the surge in the number of tourists and participants, the police said it recorded no crime during the events.
“We did not anticipate such a large number of participants. The Boracay version was only the Ati-atihan celebration at the beach,” Bautista said.
Before the Boracay Ati-atihan highlight, Lieutenant Jesus Cambay III, Malay’s chief for police operations, had anticipated only around 2,000 people would join the Ati-atihan at the beach this year.
In 2019, the week-long Love Boracay (formerly Laboracay) festival saw 7,000-11,000 people participating in various activities.
Evangeline Tambo-on, the project manager of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization, said the Ati-atihan celebration “immortalized their (Ati indigenous people) existence.”
The annual Ati-atihan Festival is a lively celebration, famous for its energetic street dancing, elaborate costumes, and tribal music. Known as the “Mother of All Philippine Festivals,” it strongly influences festivals nationwide.
Dating back to the 13th century, Malay chieftains and followers, escaping a Borneo famine, landed in Panay Island, celebrated with the indigenous Ati people, and gave rise to the Ati-atihan Festival.
“Ati-atihan” means “to do like the Atis.” Participants paint their bodies in black soot, emulate the dark-skinned Ati people, wear colorful costumes, and dance energetically to traditional instruments, creating a dynamic atmosphere.
While the main event is usually in Kalibo, Aklan, similar celebrations have spread to areas influenced by Ati-atihan. The festival, typically in January, peaks on the third Sunday of the month. – Rappler.com