[ Manila Bulletin Online ] January 20, 2009
By BOY RYAN B. ZABAL
KALIBO, Aklan — Thousands of devotees and merrymakers are looking ahead of next year’s spiritual dancing and religious procession in honor of Señor Sto. Niño de Kalibo.
Tourism Regional Director Edwin Trompeta said the Kalibo Ati-Atihan festival will always be the premier celebration and a major tourist draw of Aklan.
"Ati-Atihan in Aklan is the best as it is sang una, karon kag sa palaabuton," he said.
The week-long festival highlighted the century-old tradition of the peace pact between the Aetas and the Bornean datus led by Datu Puti and the feast of Sto. Niño de Kalibo.
The festivities attracted foreign and local tourists and the Ati tribes that participated in the celebration of the 797th Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival.
A concelebrated pilgrim mass officiated by Kalibo Bishop Jose Romeo Lazo was held last Sunday at the historic Kalibo Pastrana Park.
Aklan Gov. Carlito Marquez, Aklan Rep. Florencio Miraflores, Vice Gov. Gabrielle Calizo, Kalibo Mayor Raymar Rebaldo, Senators Manuel "Manny" Villar, Manuel "Mar" Roxas and Francis Joseph "Chiz" Escudero, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman Efraim Genuino and Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon also graced the festival.
Meanwhile, Aklan police director Senior Supt. Clarence Guinto reported that the peace and order situation was "generally peaceful," except cases of petty crimes such as pickpocketing and snatching. The minor cases were recorded by the nine Community Police Assistance Centers set up at strategic areas by the Kalibo police office.
"The nightly operation helped a lot in providing continuous daily improvement, focus and advocacy of the salient points of the security plan," he said.
Some 850-strong security forces of the PNP, Philippine Army 12th Infantry Battalion and volunteer-civilians helped secure festival venues and the devotees, balikbayans and merrymakers.