Ati-atihan, Sinulog and Dinagyang: 3 Philippine Festivals in honor of Sr. Sto. Niño

While other’s still keep tracking their new year’s resolution, trying to loss all the weight after the holiday season, some prefer to move to the beat of the various festivals up in the month of January.

In honor of the child Sr. Sto.Niño, and to showcase the colourful history of Panay and Cebu, three festivals, Ati-atihan, Sinulog, and Dinagyang are celebrated on January, just in time to start a festive and colourful year ahead.

Viva Sr. Sto. Niño!
Viva Sr. Sto. Niño!

From just mere community events, the three has attracted audiences not only from other parts of the country but also gained growing number of foreign specatators.

On the second week of January, the Ati-atihan festival held in Kalibo, Aklan is celebrated spontaneously with Cebu City’s Sinulog Festival while Dinagyang in Iloilo City is celebrated on the third week.

With the various commemoration of the child Jesus’ feast, people are left with the dilemma of where to go.

But what really makes them different from each other?

Ati-Atihan, the mother of Sto. Niño festivals

The festival is considered the mother of Sto. Niño festivals.

The Ati-Atihan festival was born from a mere tradition of the native and to celebrate the arrival on Panay island of the early Malay settlers and their subsequent purchase of the island from the then native inhabitants the Atis.

Ati-Atihan 2014

Sto.Niño celebration is considered the merriest since tribes compete through spontaneous street dancing without a defined parade route.

Locally known as “sadsad,” revelers can freely dance with the competing tribes whose members were not merely professional dancers but some were members of the community, private companies, towns and schools.


Aside from the merrymaking, what makes the Ati-atihan distinctive is the coal-black colored skin of the warriors as if ready to go in battle while dancing on the streets.

This year’s Ati-Atihan main event is slated on January 17-18.

Cebu Sinulog Festival

Aside from the street dancing, what makes Cebu City’s Sinulog stand-out is the religiosity of their activity.

Every year, the highlight of the festival is the Sinulog Grand Parade, wherein revellers and devotees flock and follows a carousel route.

The first Sinulog parade came to birth in 1980 which was participated by only seven schools and universities.

Also, a street dancing resembling the current or locally known as ‘sinulog’ of the Cebu’s Pahina River, were introduced to the sound of the drums.

From a mere school presentations, the Sinulog Grand Parade continued to grow each year and has already involved other groups and talents from other parts of the country.

Dinagyang, convergence of both festivals

Among the three, what makes Dinagyang brighter is its colourful presentation of devotion to the Holy Child.

Aside from the thundering drums, colourful costumes and enthusiastic tribes, their world class performances are coupled with spirituality.

But the Ilonggos owe the Cebuanos for bringing Señor Sto. Niño in Iloilo.

In 1968. The replica of the image was brought by Fr. SulpicioEnderes, with a delegation of the Cofradia de Cebu in Iloilo.

A year after the image was brought to San Jose Parish Church where it is still enshrined; the first parish feast was celebrated, wherein Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan winners also performed.

The first Ati-atihan contest of Iloilo was held at the Freedom Grandstand in 1970, and until now, this still serves as the first judging area of the activity.

Seven years later, festival organizers changed “Ati-Atihan” to “Dinagyang” from the Hiligaynon word “dagyang” or merrymaking so as not to duplicate Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan.

Aside from the various religious activities, fluvial parade and week-long merrymaking, the two day highlight of the Dinagyang is sometimes not enough.

During its first day, Dinagyang opens with the Kasadyahan festival wherein performances depicting the culture and tradition as well as activities of everyday lives of the Ilonggos.

The Kasadyahan was later transformed into a showcase of major festivals in Western Visayas with the participation of groups and guest performers representing the provinces of Antique, Aklan, Guimaras, Capiz and Negros Occidental.

During the main highlights of the Dinagyang festival, world class performances from different tribe contingents are also expected.

The music, the costumes, the drumbeats plus the charm of the dancers collide on the streets of Iloilo, making it more joyful during Dinagyang.* (KVB)


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