Another Carnaval


This blog entry about the events of Friday, January 14, 2005 was originally posted on January 20, 2005.

DAY 454:  In Carnaval 2004 in Rio de Janiero, fourteen teams representing the different barrios of the area danced and partied in a competition to a panel of judges and a huge international crowd of inebriated revelers.  Each team had a theme, with costumes, music, and colorful floats.

The Philippines has a similar festival in the Visayas region, known in the city of Kalibo as Ati-atihan, where over forty teams representing the different tribes on the island of Panay dance and party in a competition, also to a panel of judges and an international crowd of inebriated revelers.  Unlike the Brazilian Carnaval, which starts at 10 p.m. and goes until dawn, the self-proclaimed “Mother of All Festivals in the Philippines” started bright and early at 8 a.m.  What better reason to start drinking so early in the morning?

The main street of Kalibo was blocked off for the parade when Tita Josie and I arrived by tricycle.  By eight o’clock, there was already a crowd of spectators on the sidelines, gearing up with their camera-enabled cell phones, to watch their favorite tribe members dance down and give it their all.  By 8:30 the procession began with tribes in different garb street-danced down the aisle, starting with the “Cannibal” tribe (it’s just a name, not a lifestyle) in black full-body make-up, dancing while toting around weapons and plastic severed heads. 

All different colors of the spectrum were represented in the many costumes of the festival — blacks, reds, greens, pinks, oranges, etc. — and with them many different textures — shells, feathers, silks, plastics, wood.  Animal costumes were also a big hit, from chickens to horses, to a crew in green body make-up calling themselves the Snake Men.  They, like many others, didn’t lose focus of the parade’s origin, a celebration of black heritage and the adoration of baby Jesus (who was also seen in Snake Man attire). 

Standing around watching the people simply go by seemed a bit non-interactive, and with the loose security, Tita Josie and I simply weaved in and out of the parade to take photos.  I stepped into the role of pretend press photographer again, shooting paraders left and right with a rather unofficial-looking Ati-atihan press badge around my neck.

Forty minutes went by.  More tribes, more colors, more people, all dancing the rhythms of the day (picture above).  Ati-atihan’s morning procession was a marching rave, all to the infectious melodies of xylophone players chiming out familiar tunes that they might have gotten from ring tones, accompanying the overpowering hard-hitting percussion of full-set drumming bands vibrating everything around them with loud rhythmic thunder.  The drummers set the beat for their dancing counterparts in costume, most dancing to a choreographed routine — although I’m not quite sure the choreography exactly called for drinking during the procession despite what one woman may have thought.

“Let’s get beer,” Tita Josie said.

“Okay.”  It was 9:30 a.m.  Drinking in the morning?  Sure, okay.

The procession lasted only until about eleven in the morning, but the party had just begun.  Each tribe was set loose into town to perform their street-dancing parade wherever they pleased, so that anyone could just join in behind them and partake in the frolicking.  Most of the impromptu processions took place in and around the main plaza, near the main cathedral in town where a brass band played on the front lawn.  As the day worn on, the forty tribes parading around at their own whim were joined by more non-competing tribes, from the groups of the smaller villages, to the ones with corporate sponsors like Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee, to one group waving around a Canadian flag.

IT WASN’T A NON-STOP BEER-FILLED PARTY ALL DAY THOUGH; amidst the madness in the streets, you could still take a break to do normal non-Ati-atihan stuff, like sober up before your next binge, or upload four Blog entries at an internet cafe in town — or, if you were the manager of a shoe/luggage factory like my Tita Josie, go to the local branch of your affiliated distributor and boss people around for perks like shoe discounts and the use of the “C.R.,” or “Comfort Room,” which is what Filipinos call the rest room. 

We went to the local Foot Lucker, which is not a typo; it was a distributor of fake, but just-as-good footwear which spoofed real name brands:  Birkenstone instead of Birkenstock, Dieselite instead of Diesel, and All-American instead of Converse All-Star, for example.  That’s not to say all footwear in the Philippines is a rip-off of the real thing — mind you, most “real” brands are “Made in the Philippines” anyway — and Tita Josie’s shoe and baggage factory has had contracts with Nike, Fila and Samsonite.  Unfortunately for the Philippine economy, most of that business was lost to factories in China, with its increasingly powerhouse of an economy.  (I swear, from what I saw in my time in China, I felt the Chinese will be the next superpower possibly in ten years, so learn Mandarin now.)  Anyway, that’s enough about Philippine economy; let’s go back to talking about drinking at Ati-atihan 2005.

AFTER SOME LAPAZ BATCHOY, we were back in the plaza with more beers for more intermingling with the parading tribes of dancers and drummers.  We continued to weave in and out of the different teams, dancing to each one’s rhythm section, joining in at our will to street-dance behind along with hundreds of others.  Both Tita Josie and I were in agreement which tribe was the best one:  the Kalikasan tribe, dressed in yellow and orange gospel choir gowns and headdresses, whose choreography was this slick very cool-looking step show that was both graceful and funky at the same time, if you can picture that.

The street parades reminded me of my days and night outside the Sambadrome in Rio during Carnaval weekend; whereas in Rio’s street parties there was lots of spray foam going around, in Kalibo, the only thing I could find that was close were bubbles.  I blew them up in the air and at kids faces and almost all the time, their faces immediately lit up. 

The procession of tribes was soon joined by a float of “homecoming king and queen,” along with their masqueraded entourage, as well as the everyday citizens, just having a good time, boozing it up until nightfall, after of which they’d just continue the party.  Not everyone dressed up was part of a tribe though; the other competition in town was a costume contest for individuals, and guys and girls went all out to try and win prize money, from psycho clown cigarette vendors, to thin and portly drag queens, to fat fairies

My favorite superheroes were also represented in the costume contest, in some sort of capacity, from more-bat-than-man Batman, to cigarette-smokin’, beer-drinkin’, diaper-wearin’ Superman, to a rather portly Spider-Man, whom I was convinced was actually Michael Moore in disguise.

THE DAY WAS A FUN, but tiring one.  “I’m going out to get a Pepsi X [energy drink],” I informed Tita Josie.

“Pepsi?  It’s nighttime.  You drink beer,” Tita Josie replied.  “You’re not a baby anymore.”

What is this?  It’s like high school peer pressure all over again.  I got the beers anyway of course — Drinking at night?  Sure, okay. — more SMB Strong Ices for the rest of the festivities:  watching the fireworks, the “Singing Idol” contest at one outdoor venue and the rock concert at another, and of course, the parade of teams that was still going around the plaza.  Ultimately, we followed our favorite one, the Kalikasan Tribe, the ones that did the really gracefully funky step show in the yellow and orange gospel choir gowns.  They were out of their gowns that night, but had dressed up in matching uniforms anyway, to wow the crowd again in a step show procession out of the main plaza to their base.  Tita Josie and I stepped with them for as long as we could, before hopping on a trike back to her friend’s house at the end of the night.

THE NEXT MORNING, the partying and parading continued after a big morning mass at the main cathedral, but the festivities got a little out of hand; underneath the sounds of pounding drums, there was a shootout that made national news involving rivalries within the local police department.  Six officers were shot to death (by other officers), including the chief of police.  A young girl was caught in the crossfire and died as well. 

As they say, it’s all fun and games until someone looses an eye — or a life for that matter.  If Spider-Man, Superman or Batman were sober enough, they might have saved the day, but after experiencing the first day of Ati-atihan 2005, I knew that that was just not going to happen.


Next entry: Delusions Of Grandeur

Previous entry: Black Baby Jesus

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Comments for “Another Carnaval”

  • GREETINGS FROM BACK IN MANILA… I’ve spent over an hour trying to connect via dial-up in the Greenhills house and gave up; now I’m at the CyberZone at SM MegaMall again to serve YOU!

    Anyway, I’ll be leaving the Philippines tomorrow (22nd), and should have a couple of those hard-working days on Blog duties.


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  06:23 AM

  • First!  Finally….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  12:29 PM

  • ok, the Diapered Superman gave me the willies!

    I love the fat-fairy….my artist/sculptor friend makes fat-fairies for the garden, and this looks like a life-sized version of what she does…...creepy!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  12:31 PM

  • The Superman made me laugh - Superman hits rock bottom.  LOL

    Posted by Liz  on  01/20  at  01:18 PM

  • love the costumes!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  01:20 PM

  • More great posts and pics!! -You do look like your gaining weight there. The “everyday citizen just having a good time, boozing it up until nightfall” and the Superman in diapers dude cracked me up!

    Erik, question, what camera are you using for your pics, btw?

    Stay Safe out there!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  02:14 PM

  • Perhaps you found the superheros that inspired “The Incredibles”?

    Diapered superman is too much!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  04:52 PM

  • SBR finally coming out of the dark!! I realized how addicted to the blog I was when there weren’t postings for a few days. Must….read….blog…haha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  05:23 PM

  • Hey Leah! You must have been reading for a while… you’re even up on the TGTBA (The Global Trip Blog Abbreviations).

    I love the pic of the old man in the thick black glasses drinking a beer!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  07:42 PM

  • Yay!!! Glad you are back! Going through withdrawal over here…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  02:12 AM

  • Erik;
    Glad to have met up with you in Boracay, I hope to do so again back home in Vancouver, eh!

    Happy Travels until then,

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  04:06 AM

  • HARRY:  I’m using the ultra small Sony DSC-U30, the “spy camera.”  The best feature is not it’s size; it’s the mirror mounted on the front that simulates what the lens sees so you can always take a photo of yourself!

    I saw an even smaller camera at the Sony Showroom in Ginza, Tokyo…  It was just a little bit bigger than a MemoryStick with detachable optical lenses.  $4000 though.  (The DSC-U30 is only about $180.  You can get it at Target even.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  09:13 AM

  • LEAH:  Ah, another SBR turned TGTG.  Feels good when you speak up, huh?  Welcome aboard.  Now get addicted to COMMENTING!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  09:16 AM

  • MICHELLE:  Looks like I’m traveling for the both of us now, huh?  Stay tuned for more!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  09:19 AM

  • ERIK VK:  Glad to meet you too!  Your guest-starring episodes are on deck and will be up next!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  09:21 AM

  • carnavals with public boozing rocks… ahhh the joy of international festivals…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  07:15 PM

  • Nothin says Jesus like snake man costumes and beer. 

    mmmmmm, beer.

    And you are never going to readjust to regular life again.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/22  at  03:18 PM

  • I second that, he’ll never bounce back. Erik, you are so screwed. Life in a cube farm will be like an unedureable prison sentence.

    Great pics. I love a parade!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  09:34 PM

  • photos of ati-atihan 2005 are superb
    my last ati-atihan was 1995,we also celebrate ati-atihan in Seattle.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  10:53 AM

  • photos of ati-atihan 2005 are superb
    my last ati-atihan was 1995,we also celebrate ati-atihan in Seattle.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  10:54 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Delusions Of Grandeur

Previous entry:
Black Baby Jesus


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