A few more days and we have to bid December and the year 2010 goodbye. Enter 2011, specifically the month of January. In the Philippines, January is a month full of merry-making with cities and towns celebrating different festivals.

When you speak of Philippine festivals, those that occur every January are the most famous. They all happen in the Visayas region of the country namely Aklan, Iloilo and Cebu. These festivals are Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan, Iloilo’s Dinagyang and the world famous Sinulog de Cebu. They are held in honour of the Santo Niño. Hence, these three happen every third and fourth Sunday of the month which is the feast day of the Infant Child Jesus.


Ati Atihan Festival

The quiet little town of Kalibo in Aklan awakens as they celebrate one of the pioneering festivals in the country. Low-key but still a lot of fun with its colourful costumes and distinct black appearance of its dancers ( and even spectators), everyone should experience Ati-Atihan. Known as the “Mother of Philippine Festivals”, Ati- Atihan has been around for more than 700 years.  The word Ati Atihan means ” to be like an Ati” referring to the At’s, one of the Philippine’s indigenous people.

A bonus to those who wish to participate is a chance to have fun in the most famous island-resort of the Philippines – Boracay. The island of Boracay is just 2 hours away from Kalibo.

Sinulog

Cebu’s Sinulog festival is one of the major festivals in the country with millions of pilgrims and tourists flocking to the Queen City of the South every thrid Sunday of January. Held purely in honour of the Blessed Holy Child of Cebu or the Santo Niño, some critics mark this festival as too commercialised and losing the real essence of paying homage to the Child Jesus. Still, the Sinulog is Cebu and Cebuano’s pride as a world-class legacy and bearer of Cebuano’s culture and traditions. Highlight of this festival is the street dancing competitions from different cities and towns all over the country.

Dinagyang

Lastly, Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival. The Ilonggo word “dagyang” means “to be happy” and it is seen in its street dancing in their tribal costumes. Held a week after Ati Atihan and the Sinulog, Iloilo’s festival is an offspring to the Sinulog. The first Dingayang was held when the statue of the Santo Niño from Cebu came to Iloilo. And as a welcome to the Holy Child, Ilonggos danced similar to that of the Sinulog with a little twist of local Ilonggo tradition – that is in tribal costumes with dancers covered in soot. If you analyze the Dingayang, it is the perfect combination of Ati Atihan and Sinulog but there is of course something that is genuinely Ilonggo.

There are plenty of festivals in the country with every town celebrating their own festival. Every month, you can pick a destination if you wish to experience Philippine festivals. But these three festivals in the Visayas is a must- experience and a perfect start for you to jive into the trance of street dancing.