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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ibajay, Aklan's Ati-ati Festival: an honor fit for a returning king.


 In a progressive province of Aklan, settles an unassuming town of Ibajay.   Ibajay lies on the Northwest part of the Province of Aklan. It is bounded from the North by Sibuyan Sea; South by the Municipality of Madalag; East by the Municipality of Tangalan, Makato and Malinao; and West by the Municipality of Nabas and on Southwest by the Province of Antique.

Its strategic location (it’s near Kalibo (the capital of Aklan) and Caticlan, a port to overcrowded Boracay Island) carries centuries old tradition of celebrating the feast of the Sto. Nino.  According to Bombi Mobo, the tradition started in 1569. Even though it was considered Legend, the tradition breaths an air of distinction.

The celebration kicked off  on Saturday at 12 noon, when Ibajaynons and visitors (me included) gathered in front of the Rectory bringing our/their own stuff, I settled for a twig while others had crabs and shrimps tied to a pole and gyrating to the drum beats – under the heat of a 10 o’clock sun. Usually, I learned, the town folks carry with them anything – from twigs, flowers, leaves to a pig head to welcome the Sto. Nino. On a personal note, I needed one to be noticed from a throng of believers and revelers. Euphoria – it may seem but the faces of the Ibajaynons beam with faith and piety.   
It became a tradition of the Ibajaynons to persuade the Sto. Nino to stay in the church by dancing the sayaw on his path to the altar, applying sooths to their faces, beating drums and blaring “Viva kay Senior Sto. Nino Viva!” They also danced as if they were playing with him” – Bombi Mobo
And exactly 12:00 noon the Sto. Nino is carried out from the Rectory to the Church altar. From a mere dancing and gyrating, the mood shifted to a spiritual fashion.  The smiles of greeting were no longer apparent as the devotees were in trance.  The drumbeats were almost unheard as the heartbeats almost drowned me to reverie. 
This is the tradition I read from Bombi Mobo.  Right before my eyes were faces painted with sooth from the bottom of pots and kettles. The steps, unpracticed and non-choreographed, denote an impression of playing with the Sto. Nino. Humble painted faces of devotees emit an overwhelming expression of thanksgiving.
After an overpowering experience – all sweat, a broken twig, a charcoal “bruised” shirt, but with a renewed soul, a good lunch with friends made it more engaging and charming. 
The afternoon part was a bit personal after we decided to spend it at the beach called KAYAMA. It is not the usual Bora type – but the landscape is as intriguing as the people of Ibajay.  The place is unassertive but striking. I cannot use the word
“beautiful” because it’s more on captivating.  Truly a haven for artists.
Sunday is the REVELRY day. There is nothing much if you are already used to festivals like in Kalibo, Cebu and Iloilo. But the fun and laughter ebb down (just a bit.  I guess some were a bit drunk) when the church bells ring at 3:00 p.m. signaling the “return” of the Sto. Nino to the Rectory. Euphoria slowly fills the air as devotees are setting up for the “dul-ong” or a send-off.   By 6:00 p.m. the devotees troop back to the church with all their enthusiasm and hope. But this time, they are more assertive hoping to get a last touch/kiss/rub to last for the whole year.
As the child Jesus is slowly brought back to the altar, tears profusely rolled down. I couldn’t grasp my emotions. It was all mixed up. I felt a certain feeling of relief…of happiness…of missing Him again…of bringing me closer to Him.
And this makes the Ati-ati Festival of Ibajay, Aklan distinct from the other festivals. It is more personal.  More intimate.  Theirs is far from the “commercialized” ones.  The Ibajay Ati-Ati Festival is a festival of piety and revelry all for the tradition- “an honor fit for a returning king.” 

1.      Aklan has two (2) airports, Kalibo and Caticlan. To avail of a good rate (even during peak seasons) try on line booking every payday. Airlines offer discounted rates. For Zest Air, try on line booking on Wednesdays and Paydays- the discounted rate is overwhelming.
2.     You can also check the RORO. It’s about P1,800.00 for one way or the Boat via Dumaguit.
3.     Take the bus (either from the two airports) for P40.00 only or the jeepney. Ibajay is located in between Kalibo and Caticlan.
4.     Although  pension houses are scare in Ibajay, Aklan, but you are assured of a nice accommodation.
5.     The food is good and the people too.  Visit the Office of the Tourism.
6.     Best time to see the place is every 3rd  Sunday of January or the Holy Week.  

Don't forget to check the ukay-ukay in the market. there are great finds there at a very low rate.


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"There is no happiness for the person who does not travel. For Indra is the friend of the traveler, therefore wander!" by Brähmann On a personal note, I don't know Brahmann nor Indra, but the lines speak more than they are read. I gave birth to this travel blog, inspite of the fact that there are zillion of travel blogs out there, to share with you all that we can see the world without spending TOO MUCH. This is my Travel-budget-blog.