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The Aklanon People of the Philippines: History, Culture and Traditions

Ati-Atihan Festival

Aklanon refers to the people of Aklan province, their language, and culture. The Aklanon pronounce the name of their province as “Akean,” which derives from akaean, a place that boils and bubbles, referring to the river that appears to boil or bubble (akae-akae) in the summer (Ilio 1999, 126; de la Cruz 1993, 7).

Boracay Island
Boracay Island, 2015 (Sidney Po)

Aklan lies on the northern part of Panay Island, which has three other provinces: Capiz, Iloilo, and Antique. It is shaped like a triangle pointing northward, bounded on the north by the Visayan Sea; on the east by the Jintotolo Channel, which is part of the Visayan Sea; on the west by Antique; and on the southeast by Capiz. Its topography is swampy along the coasts and rolling and mountainous inland. Its forestlands are quite depleted and hence have been replaced by open forests and grasslands.

The Aklanon belong to a larger group called Visayan, and their language is a subclassification of the Visayan language. The Aklanon language, called Akeanon or Inakeanon, substitutes the phonetic sound “e” for “l.” Legend has it that this is because Datu Bangkaya, the first ruler of Akean, had a short tongue and therefore could not pronounce the “l” sound.

Aklan was formerly part of Capiz province on the island of Panay in Western Visayas; hence, its history is often connected with that of Capiz. It became a separate province on 8 November 1956 under Republic Act (RA) 1414, with Kalibo as its capital. The province has 17 municipalities: Altavas, Balete, Banga, Batan, Buruanga, Ibajay, Kalibo, Lezo, Libacao, Madalag, Makato, Malay (which includes the island of Boracay), Malinao, Nabas, New Washington, Numancia, and Tangalan.

The 2010 government census reports that there are 487,510 Aklanon persons in Aklan province, thus comprising 91% of the province’s total population of 535,725. The remaining 9% are the Bukidnon, numbering 23,036 or 4.3%; the Ilonggo, 6,429 or 1.2%; the combined populations of Tagalog, Kankanaey, Cebuano, Capiznon, Karay-a, Sulod, and Ati or Aeta making up 1%; and 16,072 Mindanao migrants, comprising 3% of the province’s population. Sapian in Capiz is an Aklanon-speaking town. A few barangays on the boundary of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur also have Aklanon communities (PSO 2002; 2014; Lewis et al. 2015; Torres-Mejia 2000).

History of the Aklanon People

Archaeological findings indicate extensive trade with other Asians from the 10th to 15th centuries. Shipbuilding was an established industry, for the Aklanon engaged in interisland trade. Textiles were being woven out of the fibers of piña (pineapple), sinamay (coarse abaca), cotton, and jusi (abaca silk). Abaca materials were among the primary commodities traded.

According to Maragtas (1907), the historico-mythical account by Pedro Monteclaro, 10 Bornean datus or chieftains purchased Panay from the Aeta, cultivated the land, and renamed the island Madya-as. They divided it into three sakup (districts): Aklan (including Capiz), Irong-irong (now Iloilo), and Hamtik (Antique). These were loosely united under a government called the Confederation of Madya-as, initially headed by Datu Sumakwel of Hamtik. He was succeeded by Datu Bangkaya of Aklan, credited with having adopted the syllabaric form of writing and spreading it to the other provinces.

The Visayan inhabitants that the Spaniards first came upon were beautifully tattooed. Thus, the Spaniards called these islands “Islas de los Pintados” (Islands of the Painted Ones), though the inhabitants already had names for their own islands when the Spaniards arrived, such as Panay, Cuyo, Negros, Cebu, Leyte, Ibabao (southeastern Samar), Samar, Bohol, and the Calamianes (de Morga 1904, 129).

In 1569, four years after Miguel Lopez de Legazpi had established a Spanish settlement in Cebu, native resistance, instigated by the people of Mactan and of a village named Gavi, and intermittent Portuguese blockades forced him to transfer to the island of Panay for want of food. Three years before, his maestre del campo Mateo del Saz had conquered villages on the island of Panay, from which the Spaniards had been collecting tributes. Now the tributes could not get through to the Spaniards. Legazpi sent two advance parties, one led by his grandson Felipe del Salcedo to the village of Panay in Capiz, and the other led by Sergeant-Major Luis de la Haya to Araut, now Dumangas, Iloilo. Shortly thereafter, Legazpi’s other grandson, Juan del Salcedo, replaced his brother Felipe to command the new Spanish settlement in Panay. The datus Mariclong and Macabug received Legazpi in Panay (San Agustin 1998, 425, 524-529).

In January 1570, when Legazpi had settled in Ogtong (now Oton in Iloilo), two datus of the villages of Aklan and Ibajay asked him for help against the pirates of Mindoro, who regularly subjected their villages to slave raids. Legazpi sent another grandson, Juan del Salcedo, 19-year-old brother of Felipe, to lead a company of 30 Spanish soldiers to join forces with Aklan and Ibajay. On his way to Aklan, Salcedo, upon Legazpi’s instructions, subjugated every native village he came upon. Salcedo’s combined force of 30 Spanish soldiers and 500 Aklan and Ibajay warriors then attacked and dispersed the pirate settlement of Mamburao in Mindoro (San Agustin 1998, 531).

Legazpi, as governor general of the archipelago, subsumed the Pintados islands under one province and distributed encomiendas (land grants) to his men. Aklan’s first encomienda was granted on 3 November 1571 to Antonio Flores, one of Legazpi’s officers. This consisted of the six villages of Banga, Polo, Hinsonogan, Anangui, Macato, Tangalan; and the town of Calivo, now Kalibo, meaning “a thousand,” named after the thousand tributes Flores was collecting from his whole encomienda. Each tribute was collected from a household of three to four members (de Loarca 1903, 110; Fernandez [1899] 2006, 178; San Agustin 1998, 839).

In the subsequent centuries of Spanish colonization, chroniclers would attest to the whole archipelago’s dependence on Panay’s wealth of resources. In 1572, it had a “great abundance of rice, swine, fowl, wax, and honey.” In 1618, it “yielded more rice and other provisions than any other province except Manila.” In 1630, it was “the granary of all the islands of the archipelago.” In 1759, Manila’s supply of “rice and other provisions were mainly furnished from the province of Iloilo and Pan-ay [also known as Capiz and Aklan] on account of their fertility.” By 1842, the Aklanon from the island’s north end called Potol Point (presently part of Malay) were cultivating mainly indigo and sugarcane as cash crops, the earnings of which they were each being taxed seven silver reales yearly (San Agustin 1998, 399; Blair & Robertson 1903).

Within five years of the establishment of the encomienda system in Panay, the provincial superior of the Augustinian order, Fray Martin de Rada, would lament that it was nothing more than a means of “injustice, oppression, and extortion.” Although each household could spare only 70 gantas of rice and a piece of cloth, the encomenderos were collecting three times this amount. When thwarted, they would massacre whole village populations, whose houses they razed to the ground. When the datus and timaguas (freemen) failed to collect the required amount of tribute from their subjects, the encomenderos would lock them in stocks (de Rada 1903).

By 1591, a total of 60,000 colonized Panayanon were paying 25,890 tributes. These were in gold, beeswax, cotton and abaca cloth, rice, and chickens. In Aklan, Antonio Flores had passed on his encomienda to his son, whose tribute collection had swelled to 1,300 from 3,200 inhabitants. In Batan, encomendero Miguel Rodriguez was receiving 1,200 tributes from 4,800 inhabitants. Ibajay, Potol Point, Boracay, and its surrounding islets were subsumed under one encomienda, with 8,000 persons paying Captain Pedro Sarmiento 2,000 tributes. Each tribute was coerced from a household of three to four members (Dasmariñas 1903, 129; de la Costa 2014, 142).

Barely 20 years after Spanish colonization, another radical change in the Aklanon’s way of life was manifested in the emergence of a new disease—syphilis. In the 1590s, people stricken with the disease went to Ibajay to bathe in one of its rivers called Panacuya—possibly deriving from “panacea”—because of its curative effect (San Agustin 1998, 930).

Of particular pride among the Aklanon is their involvement in the Katipunan and the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Aklanon Candido Iban of Malinao and Cebuano Francisco del Castillo were inseparable friends who became members of the Katipunan in 1895. They had been plantation workers in Negros and then pearl divers in Australia before settling in Tondo. Here, Andres Bonifacio’s brother, Procopio, recruited them into the Katipunan. A major assignment for Iban and del Castillo was to scour Mount Tapusi in San Mateo, Rizal to identify places of refuge and for initiation rites. Iban and del Castillo donated 400 pesos of their winnings from a Manila lottery for the purchase of a printing press, thus making possible the publication of Kalayaan, the Katipunan’s official newspaper. Tasked by Bonifacio to organize a Katipunan chapter in Panay, Iban and del Castillo arrived in Lagatic, now New Washington, in Aklan, in January 1897. Iban covered the area east of Aklan River, and del Castillo, west. In less than three months, they had recruited a thousand members, initially from the barrios of Kuntang, which is now Ochando; Kawayan; Tambak in Lagatic; and from the municipality of Batan. Membership quickly spread to the rest of the province (Sonza 2001; Presidential Museum 2016).

Del Castillo, the provincial head, was killed in battle on 17 March 1897. Two days later, the commander of the Spanish army enticed the Katipuneros (Katipunan members) to surrender with the promise of amnesty. On 22 March, 50 Katipuneros surrendered and were immediately thrown in jail. Twenty of them were chosen for execution. One of them, however, was released through the intercession of his wife, a mestiza. At about midnight of 23 March, the 19 Katipuneros, among them Candido Iban, were executed and their corpses paraded that morning around the plaza. These heroes, now honored as the “19 Martyrs of Aklan,” were Roman Aguirre, Tomas Briones, Valeriano Dalida, Domingo dela Cruz, Claro Delgado, Angelo Fernandez, Benito Iban, Candido Iban, Simeon Inocencio, Isidro Jimenez, Catalino Mangat, Lamberto Mangat, Valeriano Masinda, Maximo Mationg, Simplicio Reyes, Canuto Segovia, Gavino Sucgang, Francisco Villorente, and Gavino Yunsal. The province of Aklan celebrates the date of their martyrdom as a special holiday by virtue of Republic Act 7806 (Zabal 2010).

The surviving Katipuneros took refuge in Vivo, a mountain village of Tangalan. Knowing that Spanish troops would soon follow in pursuit, the residents of Vivo, under the leadership of Valentin Candelario, prepared a festive reception for the enemy. On 15 April 1897, as the Spaniards feasted, the villagers attacked them with their bolos and killed all but one who escaped. A week later, a troop of 45 Spanish soldiers attacked Vivo. The residents, together with their Katipunan allies, fought back but were defeated by the Spaniards’ superior firepower. To this day Vivo still exists as a barangay of Tangalan (Funtecha 2007).

The revolutionary fervor of the Aklanon intensified, and the Spaniards finally evacuated Kalibo in late December 1898. Shortly after the defeat of the Spaniards, however, American troops arrived and bombarded Iloilo on 11 February 1899. General Ananias Diokno, a Tagalog, was sent to Panay by General Emilio Aguinaldo to represent the resistance movement of the Malolos Republic. In March 1901, General Diokno surrendered to the American military government in Kalibo. Civil government was established in Capiz/Aklan on 14 April 1901. In August 1901, American teachers called Thomasites arrived in Aklan: two were assigned at Kalibo and one each at Ibajay and Malinao.

In 1913, Victorino Mapa of Kalibo became a member of the Philippine Commission. He also became the first Panayanon chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. In 1934, six delegates of the Constitutional Convention came from Capiz/Aklan. When the Commonwealth government was established, provincial and municipal leaders pushed for local autonomy. Gabriel K. Hernandez was elected governor of Capiz/Aklan, and the title of presidente municipal was replaced by “municipal mayor.”

World War II came to Panay on 12 April 1942, with Japanese troops landing simultaneously in Capiz/Aklan, Iloilo, and Antique. This led to the formation of the Panay resistance movement, comprising the civil resistance movement and the Panay guerilla force. The war ended in 1945, and the country became politically independent the following year. In 1956, President Ramon Magsaysay finally approved a bill authored by Representative Godofredo P. Ramos for the separation of Aklan.

Political leaders who have achieved national prominence are Commissioner of Civil Service Abelardo Subido, Postmaster-General Enrico Palomar, and Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor Jr. Unsung heroes who persisted in their crusade for justice at the cost of their lives are Alberto Tuason Espinas, died August 1978, buried in Tangalan, political organizer; Fernando Baldomero, 5 July 2010, provincial chairperson of Bayan Muna and councilor of Lezo; Rolando Ureta, 3 January 2001, program director of radio station dyKR of Radio Mindanao Network and host of “Agong Nightwatch”; and Herson “Boy” Hinolan, 15 November 2004, station manager of radio station dyIN Bombo Radyo Philippines, Kalibo and host of “Bombohanay Bigtime” (Bantayog 2016; Ponsaran-Rendon 2010).

The Aklanon Way of Life

In precolonial times, the Aklanon cultivated rice and corn, and the women wove abaca and cotton. They fished and panned for gold in the tributaries of the Aklan River. Amber was collected along the shoreline of the northern villages of Ibajay and Potol Point. By 1844, the Aklanon were cultivating tobacco, coffee, cacao, indigo, and sugarcane as cash crops, out of which the Aklanon paid the Spanish colonial government a tax of seven silver reales. The handloom remained a ubiquitous item of industry in every home, and some women had begun to specialize in beautiful embroidery. The mountain forests had abounded in beeswax before all of it was shipped to Spain, depriving the Aklanon and “leaving the altars without the vigil light” (Fernandez [1899] 2006, 177; Wilkes 1906).

Today, agriculture is still the main occupation, with rice and corn produced in abundance. Root crops are planted primarily for self-subsistence and for some supplementary income. Poultry and swine are raised for commercial purposes. The topography favors the development of the fishpond industry and coconut plantations. Aklan’s 11 coastline municipalities engage in offshore fishing and aquaculture. Fish of various species, seaweed, and oysters abound. Besides milkfish for the local market, prawns and crabs are cultured as major export products. Coconut plantations yield copra, which is another major export commodity. Fruits such as banana, melon, and pineapple are produced and the surplus shipped to Manila. Abaca, also abundant, is used to make slippers, mats, and bags. Other cottage industries are weaving, rattan furniture, woodcraft, and hat making. Kalibo is known for the production of pineapple fiber, which is woven into the cloth called piña, a fabric used for gowns, table cloths, curtains, and the barong tagalog (a collared, long-sleeved shirt, worn untucked). The interlocking relationship among farming, fishing, and upland communities is defined by the weaving industry, especially the mass production of pandan mats and hats, and, to a lesser degree, the making of abaca products and the weaving of piña cloth.

Woman making pottery
Pottery making in Aklan (CCP Collections)

From 1571, when the encomienda system was officially established, handwoven textiles, which the Spaniards called medriñaque, were part of the natives’ tributes. In the next three centuries, as the principalia families themselves became landlords, the wife hired weavers and one or two embroidery women for her own shop. Their woven products were shipped to Europe, where these were further processed into raw materials for hat manufacturers (Rutten 1993, 42-43). In the mid-19th century, the British vice consul Nicholas Loney promoted the importation of cheaper, machine-made textile from his own country; thence began the decline of the local industry.

Fisherfolk of Bay-bay in Makato, Aklan
Fisherfolk of Bay-bay in Makato, Aklan, 2015 (Lowell Yabut Rogan, photo courtesy of Aklan Provincial Tourism Office)

The towns of Aklan survived the changes by specializing in the different aspects of the industry. The women and children of Tangalan, Banga, New Washington, and Batan were the knotters, tying the abaca and the piña fibers into long threads. Out of the abaca threads, the Ibajay and Makato weavers made coarse sinamay fabric, which was used in Kalibo and Manila as the raw material for utility, decorative, and export gift items. Course sinamay fabric was exported to Japan for two kinds of obi sash: macramé and woven. There was also a Japanese market for jusi. Numancia produced abaca mosquito nets and fishnets. Batan women wove strips of buri (raffia) into bags, baskets, hats, and fans for both the local and export market. Pineapple was cultivated in Banga for its leaves, from which piña fiber was processed. The villages of Kalibo wove sheets of sheer piña cloth, which were shipped to Manila and sewn into articles of clothing for the affluent (Rutten 1993, 46; Lunn 2013).

In the 1950s, another drastic slump in the industry occurred when plastic and synthetic fiber replaced natural-grown raw material. Abaca slippers, rope, and fishnets were replaced by plastic slippers and nylon rope; buri bags and sacks were replaced by plastic grocery bags; the piña and jusi gowns as status symbols were replaced by Western fashion. Each town coped by specializing in the manufacture of utility goods for the local market: Nabas had the largest community of hat and mat weavers; Ibajay and Lezo’s red clay made them a pottery center; Banga’s metalsmiths produced machetes; New Washington produced buri sacks and bags; and Malinao made abaca rope, winnowing trays, and famer’s hats (Rutten 1993, 45).

In the 1970s, a boom in the foreign market for shell necklaces spurred thousands of people, especially from the municipalities of Nabas and Malay, to collect puka shells at Boracay Island. Shellcraft workshops sprang up in Kalibo and Nabas. Within a year, the beaches of Aklan had run out of these shells, the government banned its collection, and the shellcraft business ended as quickly as it had started (Rutten 1993, 45).

A colorful and vibrant barometer of the rise and fall of the Aklan market is the tabuan, a makeshift weekly market that, in ancient times, was a place where people of the lowlands and uplands converged to barter their products. Six towns take turns holding the tabuan and thus determine where bulanteros (itinerant traders of native goods), would go everyday except Monday, rest day. The tabuan is in Ibajay on Tuesday, Kalibo on Wednesday, Nabas on Thursday, Pandan (Antique) on Friday, Buruanga on Saturday, and Malay on Sunday (Rutten 1993, 126-27).

Aklan is rich in mineral resources. Gold is found in the areas of Malinao, Madalag, and Buruanga; marble in Nabas; silica in Nabas, Malay, and Ibajay; and limestone in Malay, Madalag, and Buruanga. All in all, approved mining rights have been granted for 1,163 hectares of Aklan’s territory. However, mining has aroused ecological and conservation concerns. The mineral-rich areas of Nabas, Malay, and Buruanga are located within the Northwestern Visayas Peninsula Park (NWPP), which was declared a Natural Park in 2002 by a presidential proclamation. The Park is the natural habitat of such wildlife species as the tarictic hornbill, the Negros bleeding heart pigeon, and the serpent eagle. However, companies that had acquired a mining lease contract before that year were allowed to continue their mining activities in the area. Protest rallies and public hearings have been held by several political organizations and ecological groups against mining activities in the region. On the other hand, a wind farm in Nabas and hydropower projects in Madalag prove to be viable sources of renewable energy (Aklan Government 2016a; Burgos 2011; Joven 2012).

Among major natural catastrophes besetting the economy of Aklan, typhoons have been the most devastating. All within just the 21st century, the destruction wrought by Typhoons Seniang in 2006, Frank in 2008, and Yolanda in 2013 have caused losses amounting to trillions of pesos. Typhoon Frank alone cost Aklan 2,012,461,435.75 pesos, with agriculture bearing the brunt of it at almost 500 million pesos, not to speak of the lives lost, injured, and rendered homeless (Villanueva 2008).

Earnings by migrant workers, either in the form of dollar remittances or the minimum wage from neighboring regions, alleviate the conditions of some families. In 2010, Aklan’s overseas workers numbered 8,577, employed as domestic helpers, doctors, nurses, marine officers, seafarers, construction workers, and laborers in the oil industry. A few hundred men, particularly from the upland villages, are sacadas (seasonal workers) in the plantations of Capiz and Negros Occidental, or venture to Manila as unskilled workers. In the 1950s, men from Nabas were recruited to construct the naval base in Guam; hence there are a number of migrant families there with ties to Nabas (PSO 2013; Rutten 1993, 50).

The island of Boracay, with its famed powdery white-sand beaches, is Aklan’s largest income earner. In 2014, it earned 27 billion pesos from 1.4 million foreign and local tourists. Because of this, its local residents of more than 10,000, who are descendants of old settlers, have been beleaguered by land claims coming from various sides, including the national government. These old settlers do not include the Ati or Aeta population, who are the original settlers of Boracay and therefore actually have prior rights to it as their ancestral land domain (Balalad 2015, 17-19).

Boracay is under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Malay, which is on the Panay mainland. It consists of three barangays: Manoc-manoc, Balabag, and Yapak. Since 1975, it has been the subject of national government interest and since 2006, of an absentee landlord class cashing in on the island’s soaring business profits. In 1975, a presidential decree declared it a forest reserve, thus banning the sale of any part of it for private ownership. Local residents holding land titles and who had been paying realty taxes since the 1940s were allowed to stay and keep their land. In 2006, under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the island was opened up for sale to private owners. The local residents’ land titles were nullified, and the only way they could keep their land was to buy it again. A flurry of buying and selling of land ensued. Absentee landlords suddenly surfaced to sell their land on their own terms. The local residents had to sell at any price or be evicted. Business permits have been cancelled, the roads leading toward the sitio closed; residents have been threatened with eviction and demolition of their homes. Claims and counter-claims have yet to be resolved by the courts, the local government of Malay, and the Office of the President (Balalad 2015, 17-19).

Despite Boracay’s huge profits, the people’s industry and resourcefulness, and the abundance of the land and sea’s natural resources, 46% of Aklan’s population lives below the poverty line (NSCB 2014).

Aklanon's Political and Sociological System

Late 16th-century accounts, such as Miguel de Loarca’s, and an anonymous manuscript now referred to as the Boxer Codex say that traditional Panayanon government was headed by the datu, who, as head of a sakup, was the judge in matters of dispute, the protector and defender, and a feudal lord. His subjects were called sinakpan, whose property he appropriated when they died. Any of the datu’s sons could claim succession; hence, warfare could erupt among brothers competing for his position. An alternative for a disgruntled brother of a newly installed datu was to start his own sakup.

Aklan Provincial Capitol
Aklan Provincial Capitol, 2015 (Elpidio C. Atanas)

A class of warriors called timawa owed fealty to the datu. Their main function was to protect the datu, including tasting his wine for poison. They accompanied him on raids and were on familiar terms with him. They themselves were descendants of the datu, the first-generation timawa having been the illegitimate sons of the datu and slave women. The rest of the sinakpan were the oripun, who economically and politically supported the datu and the timawa, both of whom did not engage in agricultural or industrial activity.

Legislative decisions by the datu were done publicly and with the guidance of the ponuan, a council of elders knowledgeable in matters of custom law. Although law was handed down by tradition, amendments could be made with the consensus of the other datus. The datu decided on a case after listening to the sworn testimony of the conflicting parties. All crimes, including murder and disobedience to the datu, were punishable by fines, which could be paid for with servitude.

Folk history considers the Maragtas Code, also known as the Sumakwelan Code, as the earliest legal system. It covered aspects of human behavior and relationships such as property rights, inheritance, contracts, and family relations. Village criers, called umalahokan, rang a bell to call the people to a gathering place where the datu’s message was announced. To this day, the system of calling the townspeople to assembly is practiced in the rural areas.

Early Spanish chroniclers observed that the punishment for all crimes—whether these be murder, adultery, or theft—was a system of fines in the form of jewels or gold. A culprit became enslaved as a result of the crime only if he was unable to pay the fine and had to indenture himself to whoever had given him a loan to pay the fine. It was during the Spanish regime that the natives endured extreme forms of punishment from their colonizers. When the villagers abandoned their homes and fled to the hills, the Spanish masters, holding the gobernadorcillo (the village chief, formerly the datu) responsible, would hunt him down, place him in the stocks, and beat him with various instruments such as a club or a dagger (de Loarca 1903, 138-140; de Medina 1904).

In 1618, the island of Panay was administered by three judicial offices: Capiz and Aklan as one; Iloilo; and Negros. In 1663, it was divided into two jurisdictions: the first was the area from Potol Point down, which corresponded to Capiz and Aklan; and the second was the area of Antique, Iloilo, and Guimaras (“Description” 1904; Colin 1906).

Under the Spanish regime, a village’s political identity could shift back and forth between two powerful towns claiming possession of it. In 1590, the town of Batan, which boasted of being home to Aklan’s noble families, was “reduced” or subjugated. In the next few centuries, jurisdiction over it would become a contentious issue between the datus of Kalibo and Batan, and later their principalia, who were descendants of the datus. In 1603, Batan lost the contest when it was annexed to Kalibo. In 1654, the principalia of the two towns took their land disputes before the Panay Governor Francisco de Figueroa. In 1774, the village of Mabilo became the bone of contention as the Kalibo principalia, claiming to be the heirs of Datu Dubdub of Mabilo, demanded reposession of it from the principalia of Batan (Fernandez 2006, 177-180). Today, Mabilo is a barangay of Kalibo.

From the first day of the establishment of the American colonial government, Aklanon leaders doggedly urged the separation of Aklan from Capiz. On 15 April 1901, Aklanon officials Julian de Reyes, Simeon Mobo, Simeon Dadivas, and Natalio Acevedo presented their proposal to Governor-General Howard Taft and Dean C. Worcester at the Jaena Theater, Capiz town, now Roxas City. The proposal was shelved because the Aklan leaders themselves were divided on the matter. A series of attempts followed: in 1920 by Reps Jose Alba Urquiola and Eufrosino Alba; in 1925 by Reps Manuel Laserna and Teodulfo Suner; and in 1930 by Rafael S. Tumbokon. The separation was finally achieved in 1956 by a bill authored by Godofredo P. Ramos. The first governor, albeit appointive, was Jose Raz Meñez. In 1959, Ramos became the first elected governor of Aklan (Meyer 2005, 77-84; Aklan Government 2016).

Today, Aklan is classified as a second-class province according to income (PSO 2014). A governor, vice-governor, and a provincial board administer the province. Aklan has one seat in Congress.

Social Organization and Customs

The traditional social hierarchy consisted of five classes: datu, timawa, oripun, Aeta, and outsiders from across the seas. An origin myth claims these were the classes that made up all of humankind.

The term “datu” referred to both the social class and the headman who belonged to this class. He had a retinue of personal vassals called timawa. The datu class was also called manggaranon (rich), halangdon (held in high respect), and dungganon (honorable). Among the other halangdon and dungganon were the sabiosar (wise) and the babaylan (shaman).

The two upper classes were economically supported by the commoner class called oripun, which was further divided into 12 subclasses, ranging from the bihag (captive slaves) to the tumataban (the most respected) commoner, serving only five days of labor per month. The datu was also the feudal lord and agalon (master) of the timawa and the oripun. Because the present agricultural system remains feudal, these terms are still in current use.

Vertical mobility was possible within this social structure. Slaves could become free after paying off their debts, which might have been the cause of their slavery; or they could be freed by a grateful master. Slaves could also go up the ladder of the 12 subclasses within their class. However, the datu kept the noble line unbroken by marrying only princesses of other sakup, whether by proper arrangement or by abduction. The princesses were binukot, literally “caged” or “wrapped up,” meaning they were reserved for the appropriate marriage. The illegitimate sons of a captive binukot princess and the datu became the timawa. Upon their father’s death, they were set free and called ginoo .

By the 17th century, the noble classes—datu and timawa alike—had been absorbed into the Spanish colonial structure. The timawa, now subjugated by Spanish military might, had to make a living by farming or fabric weaving. “Timawa” currently means “poor” or “destitute.”

The traditional Aklanon kinship system followed the general Philippine pattern, with relationships traced along both paternal and maternal lines, and terms of address for each member of the family. Marriage arrangements were traditional: Parental approval and arrangement were requisite to a ceremony called pamaeayi or pabaeayon. The marriage celebration itself was festive and costly. The newlyweds could stay with the bride’s family for a few days, then moved in with the groom’s family for a longer period until the couple set up residence, usually as decided on by the husband, with his wife’s concurrence. In the past, the groom was expected to serve the bride’s family for the first few months.

Then and now, the father is the head of the family, although household matters—preparing the meals, buying clothing for the family, entertaining visitors and relatives, attending to the children’s needs—are the mother’s responsibilities. Grandparents are respected and cared for, their opinions sought and advice followed. Children inherit property equally.

A favorite occupation of the Panayanon, it would seem, is bathing. Chroniclers over the centuries have marveled at the people’s propensity for washing. A Spanish missionary in the 1600s observes that a jar of water is always placed outside near the door so that anyone who enters the house can pour water over their feet, “rubbing one foot with the other.” A French traveler in the 1840s describes the Filipinos’ daily bathing ritual as “indispensable,” and done with “the greatest care.” Bathing in the river is done everyday, besides twice weekly at home (Chirino 1904; Mallat [1846] 1983, 289, 302-303).

Religious Beliefs and Practices

The early Panayanon believed in many gods. Bululakaw lived in the island’s sacred mountain called Madya-as. A chief goddess was believed to reside in the mountain of the nearby island of Negros Occidental. She was called Laon, after whom Mount Kanlaon is named. There were mediators to the gods, also said to be the first priests: Bangutbanwa, who prayed for good harvest and an orderly universe; Mangindalon, who interceded for sick persons and prayed for the punishment of enemies; and Soliran and Solian, who performed marriage ceremonies. Manunubo was the good spirit of the sea. Although the majority of the Aklanon population is now Christian, belief in the power of the babaylan has not completely disappeared in spite of their dwindling numbers.

In pre-Christian times, the babaylan played an important political, social, religious, and cultural role. They advised the datu and were the spiritual and physical healers of the community. They officiated in ceremonies that marked the life cycle of each villager. The babaylan were most resistant to Spanish rule. They tried to maintain their influence over the Christianized villagers, sometimes succeeding in winning them back to the worship of their anito, and at times leading popular revolts.

Child touching the Santo Niño de Kalibo during the Ati-Atihan Festival, Aklan
Child touching the Santo Niño de Kalibo during the Ati-Atihan Festival, Aklan, 2015 (Ahmad Syukaery)

Reverence for patron saints has not completely replaced the belief that engkanto (supernatural beings) reside in places called mari-it, such as cliffs, bamboo groves, boulders, and earth mounds. The palhi may refer either to evil spirits or their dwelling place. Aswang (flesh-eating ghouls) come in different forms: the tiktik is a bird that eats human liver; the bagat, usually in the form of a huge dog or some grotesque creature, preys on lone travelers; the sigbin, also a dog, preys on people at noontime; the bawa looks like a big hen, but it can easily snap its victim’s neck. The amaeanhig is a zombielike creature.

The kama-kama are lazy and fun-loving dwarfs living in earth mounds. The tamawo are either friendly or evil spirits, and live in resplendent palaces that look like mere boulders to the human eye. Through a peculiar act of courtship called yanggaw, they entice humans who attract them. Hiwit or barang is a ritual that gives one the power to inflict pain on an enemy.

In pre-Spanish times, a significant religious ceremony was held every seven years to pray for the strengthening of the universe. The people of Irong-irong, Hamtik, and Aklan convened near a spring whose waters flowed back to the mountains, and they made sacrifices and offerings for seven days.

The folk belief is that sickness is caused either by spirits of ancestors feeling neglected or by environmental spirits dwelling in the palhi, especially the nunok (banyan) tree. The environmental spirits are offended when one trespasses on their property. The aggrieved spirits must then be appeased with the taos and kiyaw-kiyaw ritual. In the taos ritual, incense is placed in a coconut shell, and its smoke wafted around the sick person. A ball of rice is wrapped in black cloth, and then hung over the patient. In the morning, native cakes like pinais, binudbod, and hilaw-hilaw are prepared. These are made of maeagkit (glutinous rice), young coconut, and sugar. Each type of rice cake is divided into seven pairs and wrapped in banana leaves. At 3:00 or 4:00 pm, a rooster and a pullet are butchered and dressed without the use of a knife. The entrails of both fowl are taken out, cleaned and returned, along with their blood, back into their bowels. The feathers are wrapped in paper and hung above the doorway. The chickens are boiled without salt. At 6:00 pm, a winnowing tray is laid on the floor of the living room; placed upon it are the seven pairs of each rice cake and the fowl, plus a plate of cooked rice and seven slices of boiled egg. On the floor beside the winnower are a pot of tuba (coconut wine), a glass of water, a bundle of clothes, a saucer holding seven pairs of tilad (betel chew), and slim cigars.

The pot of tuba is covered with a payaw leaf through which two small bamboo tubes are inserted and used as drinking straws. A coconut shell with embers is prepared for incense smoking later. Desinario, the praying of the rosary for this particular occasion, then commences. The albularyo, also called medico and babaylan, joins the rosary while performing the sagda. Holding the coconut shell from which incense smoke emanates and muttering prayers, the babaylan circles around the offerings seven times and then reverses direction another seven times. He or she invites the spirits to come, takes the glass of water, and washes the hands of the invisible beings who are believed to be sitting around the food. The spirits having eaten, the babaylan takes bits of each offering to toss out the door for all the other spirits outside the house. He or she then offers the clothes and the tilad to the spirits and distributes the cigars around the floor. This ends the ceremony, and guests partake of the pataw, the feast prepared by the host family.

Another healing ritual is the panghatud, an offering brought to the palhi tree. It consists of lechon (roasted pig); a red rooster that has been cooked without salt; fist-sized, unsweetened rice cakes; miniature replicas of a bow-and-arrow and a spear; one meter of kundiman (red cloth); and coins. Before the babaylan and the relatives of the sick person leave the house for the palhi tree, the babaylan takes a piece of ginger and marks a cross on the forehead of each household member. Everyone is strictly enjoined to stay inside the house, and the ladder is removed to ensure that no evil spirit enters the house. The offering is laid on a table placed by the tree, and the babaylan addresses his or her prayer to the spirit in the tree. After some time, during which the spirit is believed to have finished the meal, everyone is invited to eat. This is done in all solemnity, for it is not an occasion for revelry.

The coastline of Aklan, as are most islands of the Philippine archipelago, is rugged and irregular, with crags and promontories. Voyagers used to climb up promontories to lay offerings for the spirit-dwellers there; these offerings were placed on plates and in clay pots. One such promontory laden with offerings was Nasso at Potol Point (Chirino 1904).

Kalibo Cathedral
Kalibo Cathedral, 2015 (Say Bernardo,

The first Catholic mission in Aklan was of the Augustinian Order, which was established in the district of Aklan in 1581; Potol Point, now in Malay, was missionized in 1611 (de Medina 1904). Today most Aklanon have been Christianized, but the animistic practices continue, sometimes integrating Catholic rituals as seen in the January celebrations for the Santo Niño (Child Jesus). The Aklanon’s devotion to the Santo Niño began in the town of Ibajay in the mid-19th century and was appropriated by Kalibo into a lavish festival merging religious rites and merrymaking. In Ibajay, the religious activities reenact the victory of Christians over Muslims as well as the conversion of the natives into Catholicism (Barrios 2014, 199-218).

Two Archbishops of Manila who are from Aklan are Gabriel M. Reyes of Kalibo, the first Filipino archbishop, and Jaime Cardinal Sin of New Washington. Roman Catholics compose 91.6% of Aklan’s population, the Muslims 3%, Iglesia ni Cristo 1.3%, Filipinas Independiente or Independents, also known as Aglipay, 1.3%, Evangelicals 1.2%, and Seventh-Day Adventists 1.1% (PSA 2013).

Community and Traditional Houses

The traditional house of the Aklanon is basically identical to the Visayan house, although it has distinctive features. The Visayan house is square, with one or two rooms. The roof, which is either pyramid- or hip-shaped, is thatched with either cogon or nipa leaves. The main posts are made of agoho timber; the smaller posts, roof beams, and rafters, of dried bamboo. Rope and vine are used to tie beams and rafters. Instead of nails, which may split the bamboo, wooden pegs and mortise-and-tenon are used. The walls are of woven bamboo slats, amakan (bamboo matting) or woven bamboo splints or flattened bamboo nodes. The floor, about 1.5 meters above the ground, is of bamboo slats that may be laid in such a way that the nodes form a design. Interior partitions, such as those between the living room and kitchen, are made of woven amakan. There must be at least one window facing the east, for good luck. Also for good luck, the owner determines the number of steps by reciting the words “oro, plata, mata” (gold, silver, death), and the builder must make sure that the steps do not end on the word “death.”

Motag Living Museum in Boracay, Aklan
Motag Living Museum in Boracay, Aklan, 2014 (Marsh Baron Bernabe, photo courtesy of Aklan Provincial Tourism Office)

The Aklan house is generally more austere looking than the houses of Iloilo and Capiz. The nipa roof is neatly trimmed, making it look very compact. Each of the four walls may consist entirely of split bamboo uniformly lined to form a continuous expanse. A decorative undertone may be achieved with a gable consisting of similarly lined bamboo, cut at the bottom to form scallops. If the roof is of nipa, the shingles are neatly flattened with narrow bands of bamboo running horizontally across. An Aklan house with several rooms may have a corresponding number of small roofs that “cluster tightly together to form a single mountainous mass” (Perez et al. 1989).

A departure from the basic post-and-lintel structure of the doorway may be the archway over which lie horizontal bands to break the monotony of the walls’ vertical bamboo lines. Decorative accents are further created by the windows, which have relatively “fanciful latticework,” even if these consist merely of “sober rows of X’s” (Perez et al. 1989). In the rural areas, the bamboo or nipa house stands squarely in the middle of the field, overlooking the various stages of the agricultural cycle.

City or town planning, on the other hand, reveals traces of Spanish influence. The town center is a huge, open square called the plaza, from which streets and houses radiate. The plaza is surrounded by the cathedral, government buildings, and stone houses of the traditionally affluent. In 1898, Kalibo’s plaza complex consisted of a “municipal hall of wood, with ground floors made of stone; schools; a spacious church of dark brick, a good parochial house [convento], and a group of houses.” From Potol Point down along the coastline of Aklan and Capiz, watchtowers of wood and bamboo stood at regular intervals for lookouts to warn of pirate attacks. These towers also functioned as lighthouses, which prevented wayward ships from crashing onto the shores. The formation of these towers along the coastline was a measure of the large number of settlements on the island (Fernandez 2006, 177-178; Wilkes 1906; Dampier 1906, 84).

The residential stone houses of the Spanish period, some of which still stand today, derive their basic structure from the traditional rural house. The steep roof is hip-shaped, originally of nipa but now replaced by galvanized iron; its living quarters are elevated. The stone wall has a wooden frame that still makes use of the post-and-lintel structure, identical to that of the nipa house. The stone ground floor is used as an office, storage space, a stable, or a garage. On the upper floor are a vestibule, living room, bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, toilet, and bathroom.

The Heritage Conservation Society keeps a watchful eye on the Church of San Juan Bautista, also known as Kalibo Cathedral, because of the history that it represents. The original parish church was built in 1680 at Barrio Laguinbanwa in Numancia, two kilometers away from its present site. Since then, the church has required reconstruction and rehabilitation caused by the transfer of the site in 1826, a fire in 1885, World War II, and an earthquake in 1990. The Kalibo Cathedral is treasured by lay people and the religious alike because it houses Aklan’s revered image of the Santo Niño, which is the center of the annual Ati-atihan Festival (Panublion/Heritage 2008).

Museo it Akean
Museo it Akean (Alex de Vera Dizon)

The Museo it Akean is a late 19th-century, one-story schoolbuilding called the “Eskuylahan it Hari” (School of the King). Its austere, neoclassical character is relieved by a row of curved balusters running over the building’s façade and arched windows flanking an arched doorway (Panublion/Heritage 2008).

The Golden Sarok Rotonda—also known as Rotunda Sarok, Golden Sarok Shrine, and Sarok—is a roundabout built in 1973 at the intersection of Toting Reyes Street, Osmeña Avenue, Jaime Cardinal L. Sin (formerly Quezon) Avenue, and Desposorio Maagma Sr Street. Daily commuters call this intersection “Crossing Banga and New Washington.” The landmark, which is a giant image of a farmer’s salakot (cone-shaped, wide-brimmed hat), is both a monument to Aklan’s farmers and a memorial to an episode in Panayanon folk history called the “Barter of Panay.” Oral tradition has it that 10 datus of Borneo purchased the island from the Aeta chief for several gold items, the centerpiece of which was the golden sarok. Since 2015, conservationists have protested the local government’s plan to replace the sarok with a golden sarok welcome arch and traffic lights (“Preserve” 2016).

Visual Arts

Piña weaver in Kalibo, Aklan
Piña weaver in Kalibo, Aklan, 2012 (Ray Caulin,

The traditional weaving method of piña is called pili or sinuksuk .This is a floating weft technique for embellishing piña fabric, accomplished after the cloth weaving and before it is cut and sewn into a gown. A typical design is a cluster of five-petalled flowers surrounding a butterfly. This is repeated in a series along the borders of the cloth. The pili or sinuksuk tradition continues to live because of weavers like Magdalena Marte, who was conferred the Manlilikha ng Bayan Award in 1990. Her niece, Sosima de la Cruz Marte, continues the tradition.

Embroidered piña doily
Embroidered piña doily (The Philippine Craftsman, Bureau of Education, 1912)

Tam-o (Fil. pusô) is the art of weaving palm leaves into sculptured shapes. The woven figures are named after the objects they resemble, such as the eaki tam-o, the masculine rice pouch, which is esquinado (with angular corners), and the bayi tam-o, the female rice pouch, which resembles a pair of hands clasped together. In Barangay Gibon, mat weavers embroider floral patterns into their mats with strips of white buri leaf (Nocheseda 2011, 262; Rutten 1993, 76).

An Aklanon visual artist who became prominent was Telesforo Sucgang, painter, sculptor, and a contemporary of Jose Rizal, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, and Juan Luna. Born in Banga, Sucgang was sent to Manila to study at the Colegio de San Jose and Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He then studied art at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura. In 1879, in the literary-artistic contest sponsored by the Liceo Artistico-Literario, Sucgang won in the sculpture category an award for his entry of Cardinal Cisneros’s bust, while Rizal won in the poetry category for “A la Juventud Filipina” (To the Filipino Youth). In 1884, Sucgang won an art scholarship to Madrid, where he did El Desembarco de Magellanes (The Disembarcation of Magallanes), 1888, also known as the First Mass in the Philippines, and La llegada de Legazpi y Urdaneta (The Arrival of Legaspi and Urdaneta). The latter was used as the model for the Legazpi monument at the Luneta. Sucgang was a portraitist of such prominent people as the Young King Alfonso XIII, Victor Balaguer, Marquez de Soller, and General Corte. His works in sculpture were generally religious, although one piece, Un Centimo Señorito (Small Change Boy), represented a street boy of Madrid. Upon his return to the Philippines in 1893, he taught modeling and engraving at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Iloilo. During the Propaganda Movement, Sucgang wrote for a paper called Revolucion, published in Jaro, Iloilo; and during the Revolution he rose to the rank of major under General Martin Delgado. With the American civil government established, he founded the Instituto de Visayas in 1900 in Jaro, the Instituto Aklan, and another school in Capiz. In 1912, he founded the Colegio de Minerva in Manila. He also continued with his portraits and easel paintings, and was a favorite of the affluent, who commissioned him to paint the walls and ceilings of their houses. Some favorite subjects of his genre works were fruits, wild game, and rustic scenes.

Contemporary visual artists include Sumra I. de la Cruz-Rojo, curator of the Museo it Akean, who organizes regular exhibits of works of Aklanon artists, and Anna India de la Cruz-Legaspi, who paints with the use of piña cloth as canvas. On 15 January 1991, Rojo and Legaspi, together with artists Vellyzarius I. de la Cruz, Cipiriano Lachica, Ellis B. Cruz, Felix Yamog, and Piologo Tabernilla, formed Pinta Grasya, later renamed the Aklan Visual Artists Association (AVAA). The AVAA has organized more than a dozen group exhibits of Aklanon sculptors and visual artists using various media: watercolors, acrylic, oil, and mixed media. Artists who have participated in these exhibits are Pedro Bustamante, Nina Candelario, Wilfredo Custodio, Anna India dela Cruz-Legaspi, Jose Dureza, John Heap, Aldrian Indiano Igmasin, Liza Ann Acevedo-Ilagan, Stephen Isagan, Patrick Lachica, Carmen Lao-Ang, Eilleen D. Losaria, Ramil Imperial Repil, Marcela Reyes-Tinagan, Kevin Sabino, Fuji Teodosio, Marie Grace L. Villanueva, John Recel L. Villanueva, Junette Villanueva, and Angie Villegas-Estrella (Madyaas Pen 2009; Zabal 2014).

Literary Arts

The Aklanon have maxims called bilisad-on and proverbs called hueobaton, which use images from everyday life, as seen in the following:

Rong eangka indimagbunga it rima.

(The jackfruit will never bear breadfruit.)

Wa it dangae nga sanduko sa gina hugda’t pag ba-id.

(There is no dull blade to one who diligently

sharpens it.)

Wa’t maka puling nga bato kundi ro baeas.

(Not stone but sand can blind.)

Bisan rong matig-a nga bato kon matun-ogan,

sarang makupkopan it gamut.

(There is no hard rock that will not hold root,

if there is always the evening dew.)

Rong kapait kung sampaliya, manananam

sa nakaka-uyon.

(The taste of bitter melon is sweet to those

who like it.)

Hampakon mo ring anwang, ring alima

man lang rong eabdan.

(You beat your carabao and the welt will be

on your own palms.)

Aguanta, maeabago, matingting nga paeaknuton;

alinon si maeabago kon nagagabuk eon? pilit

nga pagabugtu-on.

(Stretch on, maeabago; strongest of all plant fibers;

but what can maeabago do if its strength begins

to fail? There is no other way left but to break.)

Riddles contain metaphors and images that are part of the Aklanon’s natural environment and material culture:

Sang uhay nga paeay,

Nakaeu-ob it baeay. (Iwag)

(A grain of palay [unhusked rice]

Fills the whole house to capacity. [Lamp])

Owa pa ro gira,

Gisi eon ro bandira. (Dahon it saging)

(War is yet to come

But the flag is already in shreds. [Banana leaf])

Nagabuka owa’t baba,


matsa may sikreto. (Bueak)

(It opens though it has no mouth

It smiles quietly

As if it holds a secret. [Flower])

Naligos si Kapitan,

Owa mabunak ro tiyan. (Gutaw)

(Captain took a bath

His stomach didn’t get wet. [Gabi leaf])

Folk poetry includes ritualistic verses; songs of the sea, of war, and of love; field or work songs; and children’s songs. Ritual prayers chanted by the babaylan abound with metaphor and symbol. At a house blessing, the presiding priest or priestess buries an old used comb in a small hole while chanting the following, which has no original version available:

Old comb, old comb

Brush fine the tangled thoughts

Of the people who will dwell here

Just as you have brushed my hair

Dirty with mud and hay

Which has made it heavy and black.

May those stepping on this threshold

Take in thoughts free from anger,

Their faces wearing no frowns,

So that there shall be harmony and silence

Which will flow in peace.

The prayer continues with the babaylan asking the water in a jar to “wash the tongue of all that is vile” and to make the occupants’ thoughts “fluent and tranquil and receptive to katarungan (reason).” A wax lamp is requested to “whip back the shadows so that ugly thoughts will not crowd the minds” of the occupants.

The banug, a bird of prey
The banug, a bird of prey (Illustration by Leo Kempis Ang)

Here is one song which children use to chant, to drive away banug (birds of prey):

Tikwi! Abaw, rong banug

Nga nagbalik sa ginpukanan,

Siniba ni Bukbulilaw

Nga batadbataran.

(Tikwi! Oh would that the sweet hawk

Who returns where it seized my precious one,

Be taken by Bukbulilaw

Whose wings are sharp and spare.)

A boat song can also be a fisher’s work song, as in the following:

Iboy, salya, butong,

Paibabaw, paidalum.

Itueod eon ro tukon.

Madasig nga magpadayon.

(Throw, heave and pull!

Go up, go under

Push the pole against the river bottom now

As we speedily go our way.)

Animal songs reveal the farming culture of the people:

Hambae kung manok nga munga

Sa sueog nga nagatangda,

“Indi ka magsaka-saka,

Ay rang itlog magakaeabuka.”

Sabat kung manok nga sueog,

Sa munga nga nagasu-ob,

“Indi ka magpueopanaog,

Ay rang itlog gabilinaog.”

“Una eang ikaw sa silong,”

Tugda kung munga’ng nagaeumeom,

“Sa unahan ka magduhong-duhong,

Ag idto ka magtukturuok.”

(Said the young hen

To the rooster looking up at her

“Don’t you dare come up here

Or these eggs will break.”

Replied the rooster

To the hen sitting on her eggs:

“Don’t you come down

Or else those eggs will rot.”

“Stay there on the ground,”

Replied the hen as she sat on her eggs.

“Go find yourself some grain to peck,

And there chant loud your doodle-doo!”)

The following excerpt is from a panawagon, which is a plaintive love song:

Yeyeng, Yeyeng kong pinalangga

Gawaha man anay

Rayang tawo nga may kagha

Nagabatas sang tun-og

Ku rayang kagab-ihon

Yeyeng, maeuoy ka,

Imo anay nga gawahon.

(Yeyeng, Yeyeng, my dearest love

Look out of your window

Upon this sorrowful man

Who endures

The evening dew;

Yeyeng, take pity

Grace me with a look from your window.)

Narrative types are origin myths, legends, fables, and folktales. There is a group of trickster tales with a central character named Bonifacio Bautista or Payo, said to have “lived somewhere in western Aklan.” These are thinly disguised protest stories against Spanish rule. In one of these stories, Payo is instructed by the gobernadorcillo of lbajay to find a boat for visitors coming from across the river. Payo finds one, turns it upside down, and sleeps underneath it. The visitors across the river keep calling for the boat and finally fire their guns to call attention. Hearing the shots, the gobernadorcillo goes to the riverbank and finds Payo still asleep under the boat. Upon being reprimanded, Payo replies that the gobernadorcillo merely instructed him to find the boat, and not to ferry the visitors. Another Payo tale has him gobbling down crabmeat after the gobernadorcillo instructs him to hide the crabs where they cannot be seen. In another story, Payo stuffs the gobernadorcillo’s bag with horse dung as they travel by horse. This is because the official, after having dropped and lost his pipe, had instructed Payo to pick up everything that drops from the horse.

Makagagahum, the powerful creator according to an Aklanon myth
Makagagahum, the powerful creator according to an Aklanon myth (Illustration by Leo Kempis Ang)

One origin myth says that the great Makagagahum (Powerful One), feeling all alone, cast his staff on the ground, and it grew and became the first plant. Makagagahum scattered its seeds on the ground, and living things sprang from them. Those that fell upon the trees became the birds and monkeys; those that dropped into the sea became the fish and other sea animals; those that fell into the cracks on the ground became fairies and evil spirits. The seeds that rolled down the valley and lowlands enjoyed sunlight and became human beings. One seed fell into a very deep hole in the earth and was trapped between two huge stones. It soon became a large, white ape whose movements created an earthquake.

Legends are tales with ancient origins. These may be based on true events, the details of which may have blurred with time; hence, these are embellished with the storyteller’s contemporary interpretation. It is said that the first Spanish crew arrived on the shores of Panay and, driven by hunger, disembarked to explore the island in search of food. After a while, they came running back to their ship’s captain, exclaiming joyously: “Pan hay en esta isla!” (There is bread on this island!). This legend is apparently based on a historical account about the Spaniards’ first expedition to Panay in 1569, led by Miguel de Legazpi’s grandson, Captain Felipe del Salcedo. He had been sent to explore Panay because Spanish attempts to conquer Cebu since 1565 had proven futile. Salcedo’s expedition in Panay resulted in Legazpi’s report to the King of Spain that Panay was an island “very populous and fertile, and yielded a great abundance of rice, swine, fowl, wax, and honey” (Blair & Robertson 1903, vol 3, 150). This episode in the history of Panay has come down through the generations as a popular legend explaining the etymology of the island’s name from the colonialist viewpoint. It merges a historical account, revealing the materialist motives for Spanish colonization and the erroneous colonialist view that the islands had no name until the Spaniards arrived.

Aklanon folk literature has a ballad form called komposo, often based on an actual historical event or on some village incident. It may also be fictional. One komposo, on the resistance at Tina, narrates the heroic stand of Aklanon revolutionaries against American forces at barrios Tina, Pudyot, and Kalimbahan in Makato, Aklan:

Trinchera sa Tina

Nga nagkaeapukan,

Einupok sang baril

Ang pinamati-an

Bumaeos ang Filipino

Daw sa ginlinti-an

Ang Tina, Pudyot, ag Kaalimbahan.

Suminggit si Tan Juan, “Carga y descarga,”

Sumabat si Bagyo, “Senyor, retirada kita,”

Sumunod si Simon, “Manong Laki, dagaya sanda,

Laloy! Laloy! Sang fuego ro ana.”

Ro nailaan ku gid

Sa tanang valiente

Imaw si Tente Ondoy,

But-anan nga Jefe,

But-anan sa tanan

Nga mga eaeaki,

Indi magtalikod

Mientras nagaataki.

(The trenches at Tina

Had already surrendered.

The frenzied firing of guns

Was all one could hear;

The Filipinos retaliated

Lightning streaks flashed

At Tina, Pudyot, and Kalimbahan.

Captain Juan shouted to his men, “Continue

the charge!”

Bagyo answered aloud, “Sir, let us retreat.”

Simon echoed, “Manong Laki, we are outnumbered.

Laloy! Laloy! He’s been shot dead.”

The man I admired most

Of all the valiants that day

Was the young Tenant Ondoy,

A good and true leader,

The best and truest

Of all men,

He refused to back down

While the assault lasted.)

The Aklanon balitaw is an extemporaneous poetical joust between a suitor and his lady. It is not to be confused with the Ilonggo balitaw, which is a plaintive and sentimental song. Here is a translated excerpt from an Aklanon balitaw:


You may wish to know of this solitary vine

Which never did branch nor ever did leaf;

It sprang from roots buried deep in my heart,

And stopped in its growth in your benign bosom.


I did not know you loved

A fair maiden like me

But first you must make

A strong bed of water from the stream,

And when you have finished

Let a holy man bless it

So you will own forever

This body of Nene.

In the 1930s, Aklanon writers found an outlet in the literary sections of the newspapers, Ro Akeanon, La Vanguardia, Ro Announcer, and Banhaw. Jose Tansinko Manyas of Kalibo, editor of Ro Announcer, wrote satirical columns in the tradition of the bilisadon (maxim), such as:

Ro sueod ku imong tiyan isibu-sibu sa

sueod ku imong taeagbasan.

(What you should put in your stomach

should not be more than what you

have in your rice bin).

Manyas’s Tagiposuon nga Hueowaran (Exemplary Heart), 1926, is the first known collection of poems in Aklanon. Reputedly the best lyricist was Mariano Baltazar Estrada, who wrote under the pen name “Yona.” His themes were about the sweetness of Filipino maidens, the beauty of the Philippine landscape, and religious fervor. Every year he was chosen to write the eulogy to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Marian procession. Unfortunately, all of his poems were destroyed in World War II.

Ramon L. Concepcion, also known as Iluminado P. Racon, wrote satirical verses in La Vanguardia. Desposorio Maagma y Macabales, also known as Riodesma, wrote poems about idyllic barrio life and the virtues of the poor, such as their honesty and diligence. Juan Melchor of Ibajay, in his verses, satirized the abuses of politicians and championed the oppressed. Rosendo Militar y Legaspi, also known as Ratilim, wrote romantic stories before he became a Catholic priest. Jose M. Enriquez won first prize for the short story in Banhaw, 1931.

The weekly news magazine Aklan Reporter, edited by Roman A. de la Cruz, started circulation in 1972. It featured a poetry page for Aklanon poets. Dominador I. Ilio, author of The Diplomat and Other Poems and Collected Poems, came from the town of Malinao. Roman A. dela Cruz of Kalibo, also known as the “Patriarch of Aklanon Writers,” wrote “Song of the Ati-Ati,” 1974, a long poem on the celebration and origin of the Ati-atihan Festival, and Alone along a Lonely Road, 1973, which includes stories on rural life as well the Aklanon experience during World War II. His son, the late Vellyzarius I. de la Cruz, has five volumes of poetry and an Aklanon translation of The New Testament. US-based poet, fictionist, playwright, and essayist in Filipino Joi Barrios hails from New Washington town. Although National Artist for Literature N. V. M. Gonzalez’s hometown is Romblon, Aklan lays claim to him through his father, who migrated to Romblon from Ibajay town.

The 1990s saw the reemergence of written Aklanon literature, with the encouragement of Ilonggo writer Leoncio P. Deriada. He conducted poetry workshops in Kalibo in 1991, the year the Akeanon Literary Circle (ALC) was subsequently created. Deriada’s writing workshops produced the first two Aklanon grantees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP): Melchor F. Cichon for poetry, 1994, and John E. Barrios for short fiction, 1995. After the dearth of Aklanon literature since the 1920s, anthologies have started to be published again: Ani 21: Aklanon, 1993, Patubas, 1995, and The 35 Best Aklanon Poets, 2009. The magazine Madyaas Pen published stories in the late 1990s about the supernatural by Ambrosio Villorente and stories for children by Erlinda Belayro, and has an online blog version, also named Madyaas Pen. The literary works of the new generation of Aklanon writers incorporate the old Aklanon literary tradition into their own contemporary works.

Melchor F. Cichon, writing in Aklanon, is a recipient of the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas and has published Ham-at Madueom ro Gabii and Other Poems (Why Is the Night Dark and Other Poems). He promotes the Aklanon luwa and other traditional forms through the Internet. Nynn Arwena G. Tamayo’s poem, “Haead kay Arsenia” (Offering to Arsenia), is a standard piece at poetry readings. John E. Barrios’s short-story collection, Engkan(taw)o ag Iba Pang Mapig-od nga Istorya (Supernatural Beings and Other Short Stories), is about the supernatural and real experiences of the Aklanon. It is the first collection of stories in Aklanon. Other poets in Aklanon are Rommel Constantino, June Mijares, George Calaor, Alexander de Juan, Ex Junior Osorio, Ronel Advincula, Mila de la Rosa, and Chary Lou Navarro Defante.

Performing Arts

The toltog palanog, a clay flute, was the earliest musical instrument in Panay; it had three holes at one end and two at the sides. There were several kinds of tulali (bamboo flutes). A child’s flute was the pasyok, made of stiff rice straw. The dios sios was a set of reeds of different lengths, tied side by side. The budyong, which sounded like the cornet, was a shell with the pointed tip cut off. The tan-ag, made of two pieces of light wood, was the earliest percussion instrument. A set of these was called the dalutang. The bunkaka, or takup, was a section of bamboo with a split end. It was held in the right hand and struck against a pole in the left hand. Rhythmic variations were achieved through different ways of striking.

The bulibaw was a drum made of hollowed-out wood topped by animal skin. The ludang was a smaller drum held on the lap. The lipakpak was a clapper made of a narrow section of bamboo, two nodes long, split in two down to one node, the lower half being the handle. It was also used as a matraca (clapper) during Holy Week. The native guitar was variously called the culating, pasing (to strike), and buktot (hunchback), this third name referring to the shape of the coconut shell of which it was made. The strings were made of fibers or any twine. There was a guitar with six strings made of hemp or banana fiber (lukmo). It is now called the sista, from the Spanish word sexta (six). The buting was a thin bamboo tube whose two ends were strung with hemp or any fiber so that it bent like a bow. The kudyapi was a violin made of thin, light wood and strung with hemp or banana fibers. The subing (mouth harp) was made of seasoned bamboo.

Gayong-gayong performed by Philippine Folk Dance Society members
Gayong-gayong performed by Philippine Folk Dance Society members, 2012 (Philippine Folk Dance Society)

Aklan dances can tell a story, imitate a children’s game, or—because of Spanish influence—be choreographed for the ballroom. Gayong-gayong tells a comic story about Gayong, the nickname for Leodegario. According to legend and the words of the song, Gayong and Masiong (nickname for Dalmacio) once attended a feast commemorating the death of a town mate. While eating, Masiong choked on a piece of adobo (braised meat cooked with vinegar, garlic, and soy sauce). Masiong’s love for feasts and the consequences of his voraciousness are held up to playful ridicule by this dance that is part of the merrymaking in rural gatherings.

Pukoe, or pukol in other parts of Panay, is adapted from one of the oldest native games of the children and means “to strike or bump against each other.” The children play this game at the riverside or seashore while bathing or after. The dancers use coconut shells, which are struck together rhythmically in time with the music. The male dancers roll on the ground to show their agility and suppleness. Pahid, meanwhile, is a lively ballroom dance that originated in Madalag and Libacao. It is very popular in all the 17 towns of Aklan and is accompanied by a song:

Tukad akoy bukid

sa anday Colas

bagyo madanlog ro daean

uean pilang bato.

Tukad akoy bukid

eangkoy namaeayi

batunon it sa indi

daea pilit ro babayi.

(I will go up the mountain

to the house of braggart Colas

the road is slippery with raindrops

as large as fists.

I will go up the mountain

to ask for the hand of a woman

whether she accepts me or not

I shall take her home with me.)

Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan
Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan, 2014 (Emil Marañon III)

The Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo is celebrated every third Sunday of January. However, having become a hodgepodge of Catholic ritual, social activity, and indigenous drama, and a tourist attraction, the celebration now stretches over several days. Days before the festival itself, the people attend novena masses for the Santo Niño (Holy Child) and benefit dances sponsored by civic organizations. The formal opening Mass emphasizes the festival’s religious intent. The start of the revelry is signaled by rhythmic, insistent, intoxicating drumbeats, as the streets explode with the tumult of dancing people. The second day begins at dawn with a rosary procession, which ends with a community mass. The merrymaking is then resumed. The highlight of the festival occurs on the last day, when groups representing different tribes compete. Costumes, including the headdress, are made of abaca fibers, shells, feathers, bamboo, plant leaves, cogon, and sugarcane flowers (see logo of this article). All the contestants cover themselves with soot. The day ends with a procession of parishioners carrying bamboo torches and different images of the Santo Niño. The contest winners are announced at a masquerade ball that officially ends the festival.

Mother and child offering crabs and shrimps to Santo Niño de Ibajay during the Ati-Ati Festival
Mother and child offering crabs and shrimps to Santo Niño de Ibajay during the Ati-Ati Festival, 1990 (CCP Collections)

The origins of the Ati-atihan are buried in myth and legend; hence, there are several versions. According to Maragtas (1907), there were occasional skirmishes that occurred between the Malays and the Aeta or Ati even after the barter of Panay. The strife was ended by a peace pact, which the two formerly warring groups celebrated. To emphasize their unity of spirit with the Ati, the Malays covered themselves with soot so as to look like them. And so began the first Ati-ati (to pretend to be Ati), which translates into the Tagalog word “Ati-atihan,” now the more popular term for it.

Another version, dating back to the Spanish period, says that the festival began with the Aeta’s practice every Christmas of descending from their forest habitat and going from house to house in Ibajay town in northwestern Aklan, about 35 km from Kalibo. The men played their gongs or bamboo flutes while the women danced. They were given food and drink, old clothes, beads, knives, and odds and ends. When the Aeta stopped coming, the Ibajay townsfolk, who realized they had begun to look forward to this yearly practice, blackened themselves with soot, put on colorful headdresses and loincloths just as the Aeta had done, and danced from house to house for alms or gifts. Through the years it became a rowdy and spectacular show performed on a grand scale by everyone in the town. They wore masks and costumes; beat cans, bamboo tubes, and boards; blew on whistles and trumpets; and paraded through the main streets until they wore themselves out. Every household was open to guests who were offered sumptuous food. The celebration spread to other towns and became a regional festival.

The Spaniards virtually ignored the festival but incorporated Catholic elements into the feast. This was a practice often resorted to by the Spanish friars whenever an indigenous practice persisted despite Catholic influence. In the 18th century, a priest moved the date of the festival to coincide with the feast day of the Santo Niño. Pilgrims then traveled to the town to fulfill a religious vow, and the street dancing imitated the playful pranks of the Santo Niño. Up to the 1940s, it was just a local affair. But today it is the Mardi Gras of the country, and local and foreign tourists flood the streets of Kalibo to join in the revelry. Many areas in the country have begun to imitate it. In 1983, it was chosen by the United Nations Committee on Tourism as Asia’s best tourist attraction.

Sayaw or moros y cristianos in Ibajay, Aklan
Sayaw or moros y cristianos in Ibajay, Aklan, 1990 (CCP Collections)

Another performance held in Ibajay town on the third or fourth Sunday of every January is the sayaw, a playlet depicting the fight between the Moro and the Visayan. Legend claims that the celebration began with the appearance of a wooden image of the Santo Niño to a childless couple in Sitio Boboc-on, Naile. The couple regularly prayed to their god for a child. One evening, Hangoe took his bamboo basket and net to go fishing in Ibajay River. Twice he threw his net into the river whenever he saw a school of fish; but each time, the net came up with nothing but a piece of driftwood, which he would throw back into the water. The third time, he placed the piece of wood in his basket, and then his net was finally filled with fish. That night, the couple was awakened by strange noises, which they realized were coming from the piece of wood. They discerned the features of the Santo Niño crudely marked on it. From then on, the image performed miracles for them. For instance, the image guarded the couple’s rice from birds and other animals. Word about the miraculous image spread, and pilgrims came to worship it. Several times the town priest moved it to the parish church, but the image always disappeared and was found in the couple’s hut again. The priest then explained this strange event by recalling the Biblical story of the city of Nineveh. Upon learning from the prophet Jonah that God would destroy the city within 40 days, the people, in sackcloth and ashes, repented. The people of Boboc-on then did the same thing, and since then, the image has remained in the parish church.

The most important miracle attributed to the Santo Niño is that it warded off Muslim invaders centuries ago. Every time an attack was imminent, a small boy walked up and down the seashore, brandishing a shining sword. Henceforth, the townspeople would place the image of the Santo Niño and a sword on the seashore whenever they sighted the Muslim boats. The sayaw is therefore an act of appeasement to God and thanksgiving for the Holy Child’s blessings.

The sayaw is a war-dance-verse-drama resembling the moro-moro in its dramatization of the victory of the Christians over the Muslim invaders. The text is said to have been written by Marianito Dalisay Calizo in the mid-19th century. The Christian chieftain and his men, in black costume and colorful accessories, gather in front of the church. He exhorts them to remain steadfast in their devotion to the Santo Niño, and the men chorus their vows of faithfulness. Across the field, the Muslim leader and his men, dressed in red, vow to attack the Christian settlement and take the Santo Niño image as hostage. Two ambassadors are sent by the Muslim chieftain to the Christian settlement with the message that the people’s lives would be spared in exchange for the image. The Christian chief refuses and a stylized battle takes place, followed by a series of duels, each one preceded by the combatants’ boasting of their fighting prowess. All Muslim combatants are defeated and, finally, baptized. The sayaw is performed by one group of adults, but it can also be replicated on other streets by costumed youths.

For one week before the presentation of the sayaw, the people, dressed in tribal costume and blackened with soot, dance and celebrate. The presence of the Ati-atihan component may be explained by Hangeo’s having been an Ati and this was how the Ati villagers celebrated the return of the image to Boboc-on.

Friday is the municipal fiesta as well as the commemoration of the liberation of Ibajay from the Spaniards, who surrendered to the revolutionary forces led by General Ananias Diokno on 21 November 1898. Vespers, held on Saturday evening, end with the reenactment of the transfer of the Santo Niño image from Hangoe’s hut in Boboc-on to the parish church. The Ati-atihan groups summon the image and have it enthroned in the church altar. It is believed that typhoons will occur if this rite is not held. All the festival participants converge at the door of the rectory, bringing palm leaves and inasae (roasted seafood or meat) in an act of reverence and gratitude for a good harvest and other blessings. In Ibajay, the sayaw is followed by the Ati-atihan parade, a unique feature of which is that each tribal group has a float filled with harvest products representing their main industries. Costumes are of seaweeds, shells, fishnets, buri, coconut leaves, sinamay or hemp, and other products found in their environment. The participants carry bamboo and wooden spears, shields, and bolo, and standards made of various types of fish and shrimps, as well as roasted chicken.

Jose Trinidad Roxas of Kalibo has been described as Aklan’s “foremost dramatist and only professional short-story writer” (de la Cruz 1958). He wrote about 36 plays and was also a poet of note. Using the pen name “Saxor” in Ro Announcer and Banhaw, Roxas wrote stories about the folly of young people in love, invariably ending with the character realizing the error of his ways. In Badlit it Kapaearan (Destined by Fate), a fortune-teller tells a rich man’s son that he will marry the torch singer he has been dating. To prevent this fate, he kills the singer. He goes to the city to study, becomes a successful lawyer, and marries a beautiful woman, the adopted daughter of a rich couple. On their wedding night, he notices a scar on her back, and she tells him how she was assaulted and stabbed several years back. He realizes that his bride is the former torch singer and begs her forgiveness.

Manuel Laserna wrote poetry and drama, his favorite themes being the value of education and love of country. Rogelio Torres of Banga, the editor of Ro Akeanon, wrote plays about marital strife and love triangles. The plays of Cleto Trinidad Ureta were staged in Makato, Banga, Kalibo, including Manok nga Bukay (The White Hen) and Nagnganga sa Hangin (One Who Gaped).

In the 1980s, Aklan College, now Aklan Catholic College (ACC), became the province’s center of theater activities. It staged an original play, The 20th Martyr, written by Ellis B. Cruz and directed by Manolita Q. Acevedo. In 1993 the school formed the Aklan College Theater, which initially produced Tagalog plays by Manila-based playwrights. Its original productions include John Barrios’s Gahum at Himaya (Power and Glory), 2003, directed by Joeffrey L. Ricafuente for the Western Visayas Theater Festival and the AC Foundation Day.

Realizing the need to showcase Aklan’s history and culture, ACC formed the Teatrong Akeanon in 2010. It produced dance dramas about Aklan’s historical personages, mythical places, and significant events. Among the plays produced were Sto. Niño it Ibajay (Sto. Niño of Ibajay), 2010; Dalagsaan (Drift Place), 2011; C + Iban (C + Others), 2012; Sin: Santo it New Washington (Sin: Saint of New Washington), 2013; Vivo, 2014; and Engkanto it Tigayon (Fairies of Tigayon), 2016. Aklanon culture was best represented in Teatrong Akeanon’s production of Dalagsaan, in which the cast reenacted a curing ritual by a babaylan and the ubusan ng lahi (genocide), a long-running war waged between two clans in the mountain town of Libacao since the 1970s (Constantino 2016).

Siyens’yatro (a pormanteau of siyensya and teatro), organized in 1991, was the theater group of the Science Development High School of Aklan, now Regional Science High School for Region VI. Its productions, directed by John Barrios, included Alexander de Juan’s play in Filipino, Sobra/Kulang (Excess/Lack), 1992, about four high school students torn between fealty to their parents and peer pressure; and Karoling (Caroling), 1993, John Barrios’s Aklanon adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Siyens’yatro’s poetry-in-motion production, Eugaeog sa Eugan-eugan Euman (Wallowing in the Mud Again,1995), directed by de Juan, used poems by Aklanon poets as theater material.

The Performing Arts Guild of the Northwestern Visayan Colleges, active in the 1990s and 2000s, mounted an original dance drama, Diwata it Tigayon (Spirit-Guardian of Tigayon),directed by Arthur Piracollo. Kalibo Mayor Raymar Rebaldo organized the Kalibo Performing Arts Group, which staged Beato A. dela Cruz’s Barter of Panay during the Ati-atihan Festival, choreographed and directed by Mary Anne Lopez (Legaspi 2016).

Summer theater workshops became a trend in Kalibo in the 1990s and 2000s. The annual workshops offered by the Nortwestern Visayan Colleges presented a showcase at the end of each, which was shown on the local cable channel. Artsperience, a summer arts program of the Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes Memorial Foundation Inc., offered an integrative theater arts workshop patterned after that of Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA). Its resource person was Ricky Mijares, a PETA-trained actor and talent manager for ABS-CBN.

Media Arts

Broadcast and social media have kept the Aklanon folk tradition alive and encouraged the Aklanon’s appropriation of transnational forms of performance art. In the 1970s and 1980s, RMN DYKR’s amateur singing contest, Daean sa Kadungganan (Way to Fame), hosted by station manager Ben Torre, was every pop singer’s hope for local stardom. It was held every week at the Kalibo town plaza. DYRG’s Sugilanon ni Tita Linda (Stories of Tita Linda) was Linda Belayro’s bedtime storytelling session for children. Since the 1990s, RGMA DYRU Super Radyo Kalibo has aired the morning program Ieitsahan (Throw and Catch), which is a combination of news, features, opinion, and feedback by phone or text messages. It is anchored by Butz J. Maquinto. The Hiligaynon-speaking station, dyIN Bombo Radyo Philippines, was best known for its frontal and combative opinions (dela Cruz 2016). Developmental broadcasting was practiced by the radio station of the Municipality of Kalibo, DYYM HOT FM Katribu Radio. IBC DYRG’s radio program Komposo airs recordings of Aklanon folk song, such as Ricardo Inojales’s “Programa it Anti-Drug Addiction,” winner of the 2007 songwriting contest sponsored by the Asosasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-Aawit for overseas workers in Saudi Arabia. Radio Station of Makatang Aklanon on the Anoomi website plays rap and reggae songs in Aklanon. Fliptop and rap battles are performed in Kalibo by Aklanon youths, such as EJO and the groups Saint Clement Rappers and Kalibo Rappers. Through the video streaming website YouTube, these have gained popularity in and beyond their home province. The Buhawi Aklan Dance Crew, founded in 2004, has performed in local shows and contests; in 2010 they performed in Manila on the noontime television program Showtime (Buhawi 2010).

In June 2015, a group of Aklanon indie filmmakers formed the Tuesdaywhat Productions, with the aim of expressing and enriching Aklanon culture through the medium of film. Its first production was Romart Malapad Martesano’s short film in Aklanon, Sa Pagtunod it Adlaw (Upon the Setting of the Sun), which represented Aklan in the 2015 CineKasimanwa: The Western Visayas Film Festival. The storyline follows Kiko (Johanz Mercurio) as he embarks on a quest for Lyka (Giulia Cavallari), with whom he has fallen in love at first sight. Cocreators of the film are production designer Harold Quisumbing Sarabia, assistant directors Gian Karlo Laurente and Sheena Angelique Zante, art department head Kyle Kimpo, and music composer Jude Nagtalon. In October 2015, the Tuesdaywhat Productions organized CineKali Film Screenings, where award-winning Cinemalaya films, as well as Sa Pagtunod it Adlaw, were shown to audiences in Boracay.

Film editor Glen Ituriaga of Malinao, Aklan, won an award at the Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival and was nominated for a Gawad Urian for his work on the “mockumentary” Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, 2011, directed by Antoinette Jadaone, starring Cuntapay herself. Ituriaga earned nominations for best editing at the Famas, Star, and Golden Screen Awards on the indie film Ekstra (The Bit Player), 2013, directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, starring Vilma Santos (Bombo Kalibo 2016; Null 2011; IMDb 2014).

In 2010, Patrick Alcedo came out with two documentaries on the ati-atihan of his native Kalibo. Ati-Atihan: Mother of All Philippine Fiestas presents the main artists and organizations of the Kalibo festival, while Panaad: A Promise to the Santo Niño focuses on the meaning of the festival to those who made a vow to participate in it: a local teacher, a balikbayan, and a businessman.



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This article is from the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition.


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