The fuss about Boracay Ati-Atihan and the Kalibo Ati-Atihan brouhaha

The fuss about Boracay Ati-Atihan and the Kalibo Ati-Atihan brouhaha

History has favored Aklan province with generous contributions to the country’s political, social, and most of all, religious developments. However, it also tells us how generations twisted some events that are basically vital to our existence, as well as to events we religiously celebrate in this part of the country.

Let’s take for example the yearly celebration of the Ati-atihan festival billed as the Filipino “Mardi-Gras” and claimed to be the country’s oldest festival that grafts the veneration of the Santo Niño.

History tells us rightly that Ati-atihan is not just a festival for merry-making. It has its many-splendored meaning and significance to the life of the Aklanons, specifically, and to the Filipinos, generally.

Its historic origin dates back to the celebration of a blood compact and meeting of minds between the chieftain of Aklan and three datus who came all the way from Borneo during the 12th century to escape the tyrannical rule of Sultan Makatunao, and eventually settled in this part of Panay. In exchange for the settlement, which marked the historic opening of the first barangay, a golden salakot and necklace were offered to Marikudo and his wife Maniwantiwan.

During that time, I would like to emphasize, without any spiritual bias, that there was never mentioned even a bit regarding the spiritual nature or aspect of the occasion chiefly because Christianity was introduced far, far, and very far later. Or to be precise about it, three centuries later with the arrival of Miguel Lopez De Legaspi in 1565 as attested by historians.

Yes, most probably, there were dancing and merry-making during that occasion between the locals and the Bornean datus and their constituents who went to Aklan during that event but there were definitely no religious relics or images of the Senior Sto. Niño. Much more, paying homage to it.

The celebration, again, history tells us, that there was no patron saint to pay homage to when they celebrated the blood compact and their meeting at that time.

But now, and for many years, the Ati-atihan ritual perpetuates more the significance of religion, or better still, the Roman Catholic’s belief on patron saints…but less and less to Aklan’s historical setting.

If that isn’t a twist, how shall we call it then?

* * *

But granting for the sake of argument that there were religious rituals that time and the merrymakers were paying homage to the patron saint Señor Sto. Niño, how come that most people—in celebrating the event nowadays, aside from being drunken and swaying beer and wine bottles, would wear varied kinds of creepy masks and even project themselves like a devil with horns and tail! And others in their bikinis! Is that paying homage to their patron saint? For the Gods?

I’m so sorry but I am really troubled here.

* * *

If the fete of the Ati-Atihan is already displaced, people on Boracay Island has a far more displaced kind of celebration so to speak.

Revelers have made the occasion as the best alibi for them to violate with impunity various rules and laws. And yes, implementing agencies and the police force are turning a blind eye because it is, of course, Boracay Ati-Atihan.

So it is just okay if they leave the shoreline with all kinds of thrash. And it is just okay if the revelers are clutching beverages perfectly placed in plastic jars since clutching bottles is said to be a no-no.

In addition, it is just pretty okay even if they terrorize the entire neighborhood with their loud noises, cause sleep disturbance among babies, and triggers phobia on pets just because they are paying tribute to their Sr. Sto Niño.

Again, it is just okay. Nobody is complaining anyway. And the local officials don’t give a damn.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the capital town of Kalibo, everybody’s agog with the sudden resignation of Apol Zaraspe as president of the KASSAMACO or the Kalibo Sr. Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan Management Council, Inc., an organization earlier authorized through an executive order by Mayor Emerson Lachica to become the partner of the municipality in facilitating the 2020 Ati-Atihan Festival which is barely a month away.

I can only commiserate with Apol because, indeed, Mayor Lachica’s Memorandum of Agreement to create another agency such as the Kalibo Festival Executive Board (KFEB) will only render KASSAMACO useless in the process and him just like someone in the position of leadership but who possesses no power at all.

In actuality, however, the problem of the Kalibo Ati-Atihan is far more complicated than the issue of KASSAMACO and the KFED. It is the issue about income and related stuff that is a good subject for the Ombudsman to should really check on.

You see, for many years now, the Ati-Atihan is handled by an organization apart from the local government of Kalibo. Why entrust the handling of such event to an organization in the first place? Is the local government that weak or incompetent to handle a month-long event? Why don’t you put an ad-hoc committee instead? And for God’s sake, if you will entrust it to an organization, is this organization bonded to handle an event of that magnitude? How about its manpower? What is its ascendancy to deal with corporate personalities in asking for support or financial contribution?

What I really think is that Mayor Lachica himself is currently misplaced in dealing with the situation. Where have all his consultants gone?

I’m saying this because despite the controversy generated by the mess, Mayor Lachica has failed, and continually so, to address the issue which now questions his leadership and management ability over the town. And I’m afraid this would cause a big dent to his possible re-election bid come 2022.

What I’m saying here is that entrusting the management of the Kalibo Ati-Atihan festival to an organization is wrong from the very start. And he, together with those who are supporting or behind the measure, can be liable for charges at the office of the Ombudsman.

What Mayor Lachica failed to consider is the fact that holding and managing a festivity of this kind is as easy as 1-2-3. What he should only do is to bring together all the stakeholders, the business community, all the barangay heads, the academe, the private sector, the NGOs, the media, and all the possible cooperating partners for the event. That’s it and from there you divide the workload under the supervision of an Ad-hoc Committee. But first, he has to impress upon the people that he is assuming responsibility and showing all and sundry that he is on top of the situation not display his weakness and indecision.

You see, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration that the Kalibo-Ati-Atihan is the “Mother of all Festivals in the Philippines” has already assumed some degree of dimension and yet its management is being given to an organization–which doesn’t even show some competence and capacity–is really revolting. Isn’t it right that the former handler of the Ati-Atihan still has some P4 million unliquidated fund to settle with the local government?

Well, it is really unfortunate that while other festivals like the Dinagyang of Iloilo City, Sinulog of Cebu, and the MassKara of Bacolod City, have been preparing for their festivity six or so months before, the Kalibo is in deep shit arguing who would manage the preparations of its Ati-Atihan a month before the celebration.

And this reminds me of an anecdote wherein representatives of Asian countries where grouped during a convention to present their “activity report” and while other countries have already been dividing the task for each member, Philippine representatives are still arguing who would actually be their leader.

PHOTOS CREDITS: Argie N. Zamora, Edgardo Filomeno Trinidad, Jennefer Mabasa Fuentes, Hine Marae Palma Arboleda, and Carl Angelo Suarez

(Comments are welcome at [email protected])

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