The Philippines is popular for its festivals, such as the Maskara festival, Ati-atihan, and Sinulog Festival. Barotuan Ati-Atihan Festival is similar to the famous Ati-Atihan festival in Aklan. This is because the ancestors of most residents of El Nido came from Aklan.
Aklanons celebrate this event every year in January to honor Santo Nino (Infant Jesus). “Ati-Atihan” means “to be like Ati’s or Aetas.” Historians say the Aetas were the dominant dwellers of the Philippines islands. Some say the Aetas also settled for a time on the Island of Panay, where you can find Aklan. Tribal music playing and street dancing are common features of many festivals in the country, including the Ati-atihan. Those joining the festival wear native costumes and parade on the streets. When getting an El Nido tour package in January, make sure stay in town for their version of the Ati-atihan.
According to some, this festival started when 10 Datus (Malay chieftains) fled Borneo and went to Philippine shores. The Ati, an ancient tribe of Panay Island, gave the chieftains a place to settle. When a famine struck the land, the Ati suffered hunger and descended to the Datus’ settlement. The chieftains offered food to the Atis. Out of gratitude, the Ati sang and danced for the Datus. This gesture became a tradition that evolved into the famous festival.
Barotuan and the Migrants from Aklan
Barotuan is a humble farming village you can reach through a one-hour motorcycle ride from El Nido town center. Every third Sunday of January, locals and tourists head to Barotuan to experience the Barotuan Festival. Many visitors book El Nido tour packages during this time to witness the festival. The Barotuan Festival is also related to the Sinulog Festival in Cebu. Locals narrate that Aklanons migrated to Palawan using a boat called Balangay. This wasn’t small enough for the narrow channels of some islands they had to pass through. Realizing this, the migrants built smaller boats called “Barotu.” The Barotu successfully transported the Aklanons to Palawan’s northeastern point. From then on, locals called the docking area and the village near it Barotuan.
Just like the Ati-atihan festivals in Aklan and Cebu, the Barotuan Festival liven up the town with rosary processions and masses. With the irresistible rhythmic drumbeats during the parade, it’s common to see people dancing on the streets. The parade goes on for a week and takes place regardless of the weather.
Experience the way Filipinos celebrate festivals. Book an El Nido tour package in January and participate in the Barotuan Festival.