MANILA, January 30, 2004 (STAR) To complete the Department of Tourism’s (DOT’s) tribute to the Sto. Nino, Aklan’s Barter of Panay will be re-enacted in the WOW Philippines Program in Intramuros, Manila.

Nilo Agustin, a consultant of the DOT’s Office of Special Projects — Visit Philippines Year 2004 WOW Philippines Program, invited the Arts Council of Aklan Foundation Inc. (ACAFI) to present the historical beginnings of the world-famous Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan through the Barter of Panay.

Mrs. Erlinda Fernandez, president and executive producer of the local Arts Council, took the opportunity as a vehicle to further promote the Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival, Aklan’s pride and tourist attraction.

The DOT, through its WOW Philippines Program, started 2004 with the "Viva El Sto. Niño! Viva El Niño Filipino," giving tribute to the highly venerated Sto. Niño.

Conceptualized to examine the beginnings and the growth of the religious devotion to the Sto. Niño in the Philippines, the event also aims to generate a better and intelligent understanding of how the Sto. Niño has become the most popular religious icon that best represents the history of Christianization in the country.

The tribute opened last Jan. 10 and will culminate today. It consisted of a special exhibit of Sto. Niño images in Clamshell I, a showcase of Sto. Niño rituals and festivals from all over the country, an exhibit on the history of the devotion to the Sto. Niño and related activities.

More than 80 members of the Northwestern Visayan Colleges Performing Arts Guild and the Arts Council of Aklan performed the Barter of Panay starting last Friday night at the Plaza San Ignacio in Intramuros, Manila. Other shows followed at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. yesterday, with a grand procession of the Kalibo Sto. Niño image at 4 p.m. The finale will be at 4 p.m. today.

David Shupeck, a US Peace Corps volunteer, is the production consultant, and Marlon Cipriano, the artistic director and choreographer.

For 13 years since the establishment of the Arts Council of Aklan, the Barter of Panay has been a regular feature of the Kalibo Ati-Atihan Nights at the Magsaysay Park with no less than the national artistic directors of the Cultural Center of the Philippines like Lucrecia Urtula, Edna Vida Froilan, Agnes Locsin and Ramon Obusan choreographing the annual re-enactment.

Researches on the history of the Barter of Panay and the Ati-Atihan revealed that the celebration started in 1212 when 10 Bornean datus, led by Datu Puti and their loyal subjects, escaped the tyranny of Sultan Makatunaw by boarding several baeangays to seek peace in a new place. They found it in Aninipay (Island of Panay) which the datus named as the Island of Madyaas ("Paradise") in contrast to the island where they came from.

A peace pact between Ati chieftain Marikudo and Bornean leader Datu Puti was forged after several cordial offerings by the Bornean settlers of bales of cloth, precious jewels, a golden salakot and trinkets for Maniwangtiwang, the wife of Marikudo, and other material things.

Datu Puti and his wife, Pinangpangan, and the nine other datus, namely Sumakwel, Dumangsil, Lubay, Balkasua, Bangkaya, Paiburong, Dumangsul, Dumalugdog and Paduhinog, with their respective wife and subordinates, were then allowed to settle in the lowlands and a glorious celebration followed.

In their efforts to show appreciation and sincerity, the Borneans, who had fairer skin, smeared themselves with soot from their cooking utensils to look like Aetas, a gesture to further befriend their hosts, while spontaneously dancing to the beat and music of the native bagroes (drums), drinking and merrymaking until the wee hours of the morning.

When the Spaniards introduced Christianity in Panay, the natives were converted during the Feast of the Holy Child (Sto. Niño). Merrymaking followed not only with the newly converted natives dancing and singing but also shouting "Viva kay Señor Sto. Niño," meaning "Long live the Holy Child!"

Since then, the celebration has evolved into a festival in Kalibo that has drawn huge crowds, including tourists from all over the world.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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