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Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Lynda B. Valencia
Date: 2003-01-13
Panay can boast of having the most number of festivities which have caught the fancy of the world. They include the famous Ati-Atihan and Dinagyang – whose overwhelming revelry are balanced by idyllic beaches, coral reefs, caves, falls, springs, hills, farms and campsites.

Panay is a Visayan Island divided into four provinces: Antique, Capiz, Iloilo and Aklan. Aklan is considered to be the oldest province in the Philippines having been organized by Bornean settlers in 1213 A.D.

It was this land that inspired the Malays to father two great cultural contributions, the Code of Kalantiaw which is the best known among the country’s ancient codes of laws, and the r

otous Ati Festival.

A historical theory says that the first grand Ati celebration happened some 300 years ago. The Malays under Datu Puti purchased the island of Panay from its aborigines, the Ati (also called Negritos).

Then both tribes celebrated the occasion by dancing for three days. The Spaniards who came later introduced a Christian element into the ethnic exercise. They made to coin

cide with the January fiesta of the Sto. Niño.

Today, when authentic Atis are hard to find, modernday participants paint their bodies black and wear exotic exaggeratedly-colored costumes.

The affair is now called “Ati-atihan”, literally meaning “Faking Atis” although spirit remains as exuberant as it has always been.

In the late 60s, Iloilo borrowed the Ati-atihan concept and called it

“Dinagyang”. Celebrated every fourth week of January, Dinagyang features a fluvial procession in honor of Sto. Niño and a costume parade that transforms the city into a vast arena of gaiety – of organized dancing.

With this, one will be tempted to join the locals who passionately chant “Viva Señor Sto. Niño! Hala Bira!”. And who prance and dance unhibitedly to drumbeats.

Dinagyang may not be as ancient as Aklan’s Ati-atihan but it is equally reflective of local artistry, and said to be more impressive in choreography.

The other New Year’s sparklers at Iloilo are the Pasungay and the Fireworks Contest. Pasungay held every second Saturday of January, consists of carabao one-on-ones. Nothing gory really because these tame animals got instincts that tell them when to stop showing off “combative skills”.

The Fireworks Contest, on the other hand, is held every third Sunday of January and sets off dazzling pyrotechnic effects seen within a radius of several kilometers.

On Feb. 2, also in Iloilo, visitors will witness a special parade of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. The second Sunday of February will be the time for Iloilo City’s Paraw Regatta which is a thrilling exhibition and race of showy, sleek native sailboats.

Guimaras Island, a sub-province of Iloilo, observes Lent via the “Pagtaltal” or what is considered as the Visayan counterpart of Germany’s Oberammergau Passion Play. It is a colorful blending of faith and folklore.

The period from last week of April to first week of May makes Antique province celebrate the Binayaran Festival. This folk ritual that runs from these days commemorates the arrival of the Ten Bornean Datus who came in the 13th century.

Capiz province holds a similar affair but calls it “Halaran”.

May-time in Iloilo showcases the Pavia Carabao-Carroza Race. In this festivity, the national beast of burden become “king” (or queen as the case maybe). The best cast and muse are decked with flowers, fruits, leaves and even perfume!

A cultural vignette in Panay is the Mundo Dance of the mountain tribesmen of Capiz’s Tupaz town. These people are vanishing remnants of the pre-Malaya-Indonesia immigration.

With regards to destinations, Panay is a natural. One can take respite at the famous Boracay Island in Aklan. The same province has at least three waterfalls including Jamiuli, a seven-tiered attraction.

Antiques own list of cascades is topped by Pula Falls which got its name from its reddish water.

The provinces of Panay are a passage to the mysterious world of caves. Besang Cave in Aklan stretches for 20 kilometers and is known to be the longest in the Philippines.

The Pilar Caves of Capiz are scented by orchids and other flowering plants that thrive abundantly around.

Panay is a practical obsession with sea, sun and sand. Taguimtim Beach in Antique is adorned with rocks and coral stones. Capiz’ Tucad Reef is a submarine outlet rich in seashells and corals. Scuba divers in Olotayan Island, also in Capiz are fascinated by multi-colored fishes.

Speaking of spring water, there is the Suhot Caves or the spring-fed swimming pool in Antique’s Moroboro Resort.

In order to enhance some of the province’s natural wonders, Capiz has built a seven-hectare lake, Punta Hagdan, a solid rock splintered by a road. On top of that rock, Antiqueños erected the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

The hands of Panay can also be credited for the construction of ageless monuments. These include the centuries-old Pan-ay Church in Capiz. This imposing edifice is made from marble and white coral stones.

Another one is the Sta. Monica Church, which is reputed to have the largest bell still lodged in the belfry.

For a historical tour, one can visit the Museo Iloilo. With pre-historic fossils and pre-hispanic jewelry among its treasures, Museo Iloilo is known to be the best museum outside Manila.

A stay in Panay is literally “Panay kasaysayan” meaning “full of fun.” (PNA)

[ National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima Wiki ]

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