How to Travel from Kalibo to Iloilo in time for the Ati-Atihan and Dinagyang

Architect, photographer, and travel advocate Abet Lagula lays the groundwork for catching two of January’s biggest festivals in Kalibo and Iloilo.

By Abet Lagula
January 13, 2012

January marks the beginning of colorful festivities in the Philippines. These festivals, often religious in nature, provide cultural insights on the locale where they are celebrated. Among the famous Festivals in January include the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila held every January 9, and Sinulog Festival in Cebu ─ held every third Sunday of January in honor of the Infant Jesus, or Santo Niño.

Photo by Cea Bacolor

Two more festivals in honor of Santo Niño are held celebrated just a week apart in January: Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan on the 3rd week; Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo on the 4th week. What is interesting is that these two locations are merely 3 hours away by land travel. What better way to spend your vacation but by staying for a week in the Visayas and attending both Festivals from Kalibo to Iloilo!

Getting there

From Manila, there are direct flights by a lot of local carriers to Kalibo, Aklan. Travel time usually lasts for about an hour. Ati-atihan celebrations last for about a week. Just make sure that you are in town before Saturday and Sunday, the last 2 days of the festival where the Grand Street Dance Performances take place. The finale of the Festival, called Pagpadungog, is where Winners of the Ati-atihan Contest receive their awards marking the end of the event.

Visitors may choose to stay for a couple of days in Kalibo and check out the sights in nearby Boracay (approximately an hour away) or in Antique Province, before heading out to Iloilo by midweek. From Kalibo, you may opt to hire a van, or simply board a bus (mostly Ceres Liners) and it will take you directly to Iloilo in 3 hours.

Just like in Kalibo, the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo lasts for about a week, with the street performances culminating by the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). While waiting for the grand celebrations to begin, you may opt to visit the several Spanish colonial churches in Iloilo - try out their mouth-watering dishes like Batchoy and Pansit Molo, or taste the delicious mangoes from Guimaras, which is merely 15 minutes away via ferry from the city.

Ati-atihan and Dinagyang: two festivals in honor of the same patron but have a distinct flavor of their own. Come and visit these two events in a span of a week to know the difference and for the first time, be a part of  the whole Festival experience. Make sure to book early, bring enough money, and charge all your batteries. Because honestly speaking ─ it's more fun in the Philippines!