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The people attend masses for the Santo Nio, and benefit dances sponsored by government organizations. The
formal opening mass emphasizes the festivals religious event. The procession begins with a rhythmic drumbeats,
and dances parading along the street. The second day begins at dawn with a rosary procession, which ends with a
community mass, and procession. The phrase "Hala Bira! Pwera Pasma!" is originally associated with the Sto.
Nino Ati-Atihan Festival as the revelers and devotees keep on going with the festivities all over the town from
morning to the wee hours of the next morning, rain or shine, for one week or even more. They believe that the
miraculous Child Jesus will protect them from harm and illness. The highlight of the festival occurs on the last day,
the third Sunday of January, when groups representing different tribes compete for tourists' attention and prizes.
The festival ends with a procession of thousands of people carrying torches and different kinds of images of the
Santo Nio. The contest winners are announced at a masquerade ball which officially ends the festival.

Other festivals held in the region include:

Dinagyang of Iloilo
Halaran of Capiz
Binirayan of Antique
Several nearby towns and villages of Aklan, Antique and Capiz also hold the Ati-Atihan Festival.
Other towns in Aklan with Ati-Atihan Festival: Ibajay, Malinao, Kalibo, Makato, Batan, Altavas, Boracay.
Currently celebrated in honor of the Sto. Nino, the Ati-atihan festival is very lively, colorful and it is a week long
fiesta! The blackened dancers attract tourists from all over the world and when the festivities are done, these
tourists hit the beach on the white sands of a nearby island called Boracay for more parties.

Ati-atihan means "to be like aetas"or "make belive ati's." Aetas were the primary settlers in the islands according to
history books. They too are the earliest settlers of Panay Island where the province of Aklan rests. According to
accepted origin of the festival, in the 13th century, 10 datus from Borneo escaping a tyrant Sultan Makatunaw,
came upon the island after sailing with their slaves, warriors, families and properties aboard "balangays." Headed
by Datu Puti, Makatunaw's chief minister, they sailed for days guided by the stars in unchartered waters. Upon
arrival, the Datu made a trade with the natives and bought the plains for a golden salakot, brass basins and bales of
cloth. For the wife of the Ati chieftain, they gave a very long necklace. Feasting and festivities followed soon after.
It was a pact to be celebrated. A pact between two races and cultures. In effort to show appreciation to the kindness
and hospitality of the Aetas, the Malays smeared themselves with soot from their cooking utensils. Thus the first
Ati-atihan started.

Upon the colonization of the islands, the baptism of a huge number of the natives to Roman Catholicism was
celebrated and the drums were sounded. Coinciding with the Ati-atihan of old, it became a combined celebration.

The Ati-atihan festival, the mother of all festivals in the Philippines, the origin of pinoy festivities. When there was
just farming and warfare on other islands, there was partying on Aklan. For the past 800 years more or less, it has
been a tradition. It will be carried on for generations to come, it will be our original, local Mardi Gras.