- York Digital Journals
- Ati-atihan: Mother of Philippine Festivals, by Patrick Alcedo
Ati-atihan: Mother of Philippine Festivals, by Patrick Alcedo
Every January, thousands of people from far and near dance, play music, and pray for three days in the streets of Kalibo, a town in the province of Aklan in the central Philippines. They are celebrating the Ati-atihan, an annual festival in honor of the Santo Ni–o, the Holy Child Jesus, and in remembrance of the indigenous Atis—commonly known as the Negritos—who are the putative ancestors of the Filipinos. The day before the third Sunday when the Ati-atihan reaches its climax with a grand procession, the local government of Kalibo holds a street dancing competition that tourists and residents await with much anticipation. In January 2009 I collaborated with photographer Nana Buxani, videographer Fruto Corre, and editor Florencito Fernandez to document the Ati-atihan and produce the present multimedia project. As a way of calling additional attention to the idea of social constructivism deeply embedded in the Ati-atihan performance—an artificial construction reiterated by the editing and selection of photos and ambient sounds, I asked my brother Peter Alcedo, Jr., who has played music for the Ati-atihan, to compose an original score for the project. In Ati-atihan: Mother of Philippine Festivals, I focus on five participants to illustrate the Ati-atihan’s ever-changing synthesis of sacred and secular, traditional and modern, local and global, serious and playful. This is part of a collaborative project. As a combination of photos, sounds, narration, and music, this multimedia project offers one model for articulating Ati-atihan’s cultural and historical complexity brought about by colonialism and the porosity of Philippine borders. Like any embodied performance, one could immediately conclude that to experience Ati-atihan one has to go to Kalibo during the festival season. But this multimedia project does not push solely for that kind of travel and experience. Rather, its images and the way they have been arranged to move across the screen challenge the limits of the viewer’s location. To experience a festival such as the Ati-atihan, it has become necessary in the contemporary world to also encounter a cultural phenomenon outside of its physical locale and in the virtual realm, an encounter that adds to and re-affirms the hybrid discourse implicit in the performances of this particular festival.