October 14 Photo Challenge: Local

A six year old girl’s nightmare…

Ati-Atihan festival is an annual feast celebrated every January in honor of Santo Nino [Holy Child] derived from the Spanish words Santo [holy] and Nino [young boy]. Yey! Looks like my Spanish lessons served me well. Lols. ūüėĀ Itas are the locals of Aklan, Kalibo, [a municipality which was made famous for its nearby paradise island Boracay. Please don’t break my heart and tell me you’ve never heard of this beach before.]

So the festival begins with a parade of indigenous people with primitive weapons and ornaments, black and white face paints, feathered war bonnets and huge drums usually wrapped around their waist. The rest of the¬†tribe dances at the rhythm of the reverberating drum beats. And when I say dance, I don’t mean Whip, nae-nae or harlem shake. I mean ethnic¬†dance that is normally choreographed with intense movements, facial expressions and formations. There are several versions of this feast in different parts of my country. I lived in the city and there’s a similar version of it in my place. I grew up watching these performances every year. And to a six year old girl, the entire spectacle is not something entertaining or fun. It is a nightmare.

Living in a very small community, you can already hear the thundering beat of the drums and the terrifying clamor from a distance. I will come running to my dad as soon as I hear the marching tribe coming. I will swing my hands wildly¬†and desperately upwards, reaching out to his shoulders wanting to be carried and harnessed safely around him. If he doesn’t pick me up, I will lament on the floor and pretend to hyperventilate.

For some reason the drumbeats scare me so much more than face paints. The wide-eyed gay dancers whose eyeballs looked like they were popping out of their dark skin and who often times will stick their red tongues out for their own satisfaction to see me¬†weep, usually¬†comes crawling in my dreams at night. I don’t really know why or how I developed this kind of horror. But I was so glad I managed to face them when I was… twelve? Lols.

It took years to overcome my fear of this festival. And although I like¬†the fact that they open the small community carnival¬†nearby during this time, with roller-coaster rides and Ferris wheel and cotton candy booths and ice cream carts, I still loathe the entire tribal parade¬†– which by the way isn’t a one time big time performance but a whole day affair. Meaning the Ati-atihan wil roam around the entire municipality all throughout the¬†day, torturing innocent¬†six year olds [Okay fine. I’m the only six year old wuss in that area. Most of my childhood friends¬†were having fun, dancing with them. In fact, most of the kids will be waiting at the doorway excitedly while I aim towards the farthest corner of the house to hide.]

So I took these photos from my Nikon D3100 during our trip to Ilo-ilo and luckily we won front seats in the¬†Dinagyang Festival.¬† Looking back, I couldn’t believe I would¬†be surrounded by my greatest childhood fear and would [surprisingly]¬†end up taking photos of Ati-atihans in complete trance.

The¬†Kasadyahan Cultural Competition is one of the Dinagyang Festival highlights, where students from different towns and cities showcase their amazing talents by performing tribal dances [like that of Ati-atihans] with stories, costumes and tremendous props and backdrops that will blow your mind like crazy.¬†It was pure magic when these kids start to perform. Given the fact that most of these kids are not well off, you can see in their faces the enormous¬†tenacity and fervor that builds up¬†as they execute their presentation.¬†The winning team wins a huge amount of money and a trip abroad for another big dance competition. A spear for a spear. We watched about twelve [or so] groups and we were literally dazed with each of them.¬†Don’t forget the fact that they are performing with barefoot under the scorching heat of the sun. It’s not a regular dance competition. It’s a war zone, an arena, a battlefield. ¬†You won’t see high school kids but warriors with deep¬†anguish, revenge, eagerness, fury, rhapsody, hysteria, passion, fire and ecstasy embedded¬†in each stages of their production.

I posted these photos because it somehow reminds me of my childhood. And although it reminds me of my childhood fear, it also reminds me of my childhood relief. The memories I have when I was about six or seven is always a wonderful place to go home to. A part of my heart will always belong to this chapter of my life – where I have a mother and a father who can pick me up from my own make believe demons…

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3rd Magic:  Overcoming my childhood fears


2 thoughts on “Drumbeats

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