Press Room


17 September 2011 | Ati-atihan Opening Performance
Rugby World Cup 2011 | Festival of Carnavale
Wellington, New Zealand

“It was an amazing performance… the choreography was fantastic… the coor dination was perfect… the costumes were awesome,” were just some of the exub erant feedback received from the audience after their performance.


The Ati-atihan dance festival is one of the oldest in the Philippines that are thought to have started in 1212 AD after the arrival of several Malay chieftains and their retinue from Borneo who were granted settlement by the Ati – the indi genous people of Panay Island.


It is a colourful happening with celebrants who paint their faces in many different ways and are dressed in the most exceptional and outlandish costumes. Dancing on the rhythms of the drumbeats along streets makes this annual festival comp arable with carnival in Rio in Brazil!


And as the dance festival has evolved to incorporate various cultures that have inhabited the Philippines through the centuries, the Ati-atihan carries a feeling of the exotic and the familiar at the same time.


It is marked by drumbeats which are extremely rhythmic and highly intoxica ting. This is not a festival for sitting back and watching, but rather one for getting in amidst it all and getting carried away by the incessant beat of the drums and repeated shouts of “Hala Bira!’ or ‘let’s get it on!’


The Filipino Community in Wellington is one with the whole nation in ensuring that Rugby World Cup 2011 fans and visitors are welcomed and entertained. Through the leadership of the Filipino Artists in New Zealand, Inc., Bulwagan Foundation Trust, the ARIZE Dance Crew and Filipino-Kiwi volunteers of all ages, the Philippines’ Ati-atihan was showcased last Saturday, 17 September.


The performing group wowed their audience at their Street Parade that started from the Rugby Village FANZONE all the way to the Westpac Stadium to kick-off the scheduled Fiji vs. South Africa game. A multitude of people cheered and ve hicles honked their sirens in appreciation.


Everyone wore huge smiles in the friendly chaos of the festival. As they got inched closer to the Stadium, the drums and glockenspiels became louder and more infectious as the Ati-atihan dancers bounced their choreographed steps randomly.


Then again, the crowd were entertained when the Ati-atihan dancer performed their heart-pumping and synchronised moves to the beat of drums and music on stage at the Rugby Village FANZONE.


Matilde Tayawa-Figuracion, the organiser of the Ati-atihan festival dance perfor mance narrates the story behind it noting that it very well portrays the friend ship between Filipinos who have settled in their host country of New Zealand. She narrates:


A great story of friendship, the Ati-atihan festival has originated in the 13th century when 10 Malay chieftains called Datus fled Borneo and reached the island of Panay in the Philippines. They were granted settlement by Atis – the local inhabitants of the island. At one point, the Atis had a bad harvest and went down from the mountains where they lived and asked for food from the Bornean Datus, which the latter gladly provided.


As a sign of appreciation, the Atis danced to the beat of drums and the Bornean Datus joined in and painted their faces black to be one with the Atis, hence the term Ati-atihan – meaning, to be one with the Atis.


The event is celebrated annually and more than anywhere else but in the city of Kalibo, Aklan. It was originally a pagan festival of the upland tribes practicing Animism and their worshiping of the ‘anito’ or spirit gods. Spanish missionaries who eventually came in the 1600s gradually added a Christian meaning. Today, the Ati-Atihan is celebrated as a religious festival in the Philippines”.


“It is the Mother of all Philippine Festivals and it is only apt that we showcase it to the world”, she added.


If you missed out on the first performance of the Ati-atihan last Saturday, 17 September, the dance troupe will exhibit two more performances this weekend:


24 September (Saturday), 2.00-2.30 at the Wellington TOWNHALL during the World Food Festival; and,


25 September (Sunday), 1.00-2.00pm again at the Rugby Village FAN ZONE.


These performances are all part of the larger Festival of Carnivale organised by the Wellington City Council to coincide with the Rugby World Cup festivities from 9 September-9 October 2011.


Contact Person:
Matilde Tayawa-Figuracion
Filipino Artists in New Zealand