Kalibo is the capital of Aklan, Philippines, home of the Ati-Atihan Festival. Its vibrancies and festivities feel like the Mardi Gra with its very own Philippine aesthetics. Found north-west of Panay, its colorful people and its famed mangrove forests have so much to offer every visitor near or far. Here are six things to do when in Kalibo, Philippines.
1. Dance to the Music of the Ati-Atihan Festival
For those needing a festive picker-upper, the Ati-Atihan Festival is one of the best things to experience in the Philippines. The Ati-Atihan Festival is held on the 3rd Sunday of every January to pay to the infant Jesus, locally known as the Sto. Nino. Ati-Atihan means “to be like Atis” or Aetas, who were the primary inhabitants of the Panay shores. Everyone who joins in will jump to their feet with the upbeat indigenous music, while appreciating the artistry and creativity of the people’s colorful costumes. Parading the streets as a religious procession may seem different but this festival has been adapted by a number of regions in the country. The Ati-Atihan is hailed as the Mother of all festivals.
Website: Ati-Atihan Festival
2. Experience the Lagatik River Cruise
To boost tourism in Aklan, the family of a prominent engineer built the MV Mighty Sailor, which was to be the river cruise for the town of New Washington. Ever since that day, appreciating how serene and panoramic the locality is while sailing on a cruise is an experience you don’t see and feel everyday. The cruise starts at the Lagatik River which is found at the southside of New Washington. It will then make its way to the Pinamu-kan River. The cruise also includes sightseeing to spots like the historic Tinagong Dagat of Batan teeming with fish. Oyster farms, as well as mangroves and bird sanctuaries are must-sees. And of course, a trip isn’t worth remembering without the food, right? So it is comforting to know that the river cruise also includes a banquet of freshly cooked seafood.
Lagatik River Cruise
Address: New Washington, Aklan
Website: Lagatik River Cruise
3. Have a blast at the Bakhawan Eco Park
If you love the outdoors, the Bakhawan Eco Park should be part of the itinerary. It is known as Aklan’s premiere tourist destination. In the local dialect, “Bakhawan” means “mangrove.” The reforestation of Kalibo back in the 90s transformed the muddy shoreline into this larger-than-life reserve. It is now known as the country’s most successful reforestation project, operated by the Kalibo Save the Mangroves Association. The 220-hectare (544 acre) mangrove sanctuary in Bakhawan Eco Park is like no other. For that unforgettable moment with nature, be sure to try the Mangrove Eco-Trail Experience.
Aside from that, other activities and sights to see are the watchtower, souvenir shop, canteen, massage area, charcoal briquetting, picnic huts and the Center for International Mangrove Studies. Another interesting thing to see in the Eco Park is how the wood worm, locally known as tamilok, are gathered from trees or eaten straight from the tree bark. According to locals, tamilok—which taste like an oyster—is an aphrodisiac, and gathering them has become a major activity for visitors.
Bakhawan Eco Park
Address: Kalibo, Aklan
Facebook: Mangrove Eco-Trail
4. Let Piña Silk inspire you
Kalibo, Aklan is highly regarded for its prized possession – Piña Silk. Hailed as the Queen of Philippine Fabrics, this Spanish heirloom was historically known to clothe only the rich, and was always the signature fabric for weddings and special occasions. The cloth goes through a tedious and equally delicate process as the fibers from pineapple leaves are woven on a hand loom. Today, the fabric is usually combined with some lightweight material like silk or polyester for that elegant sheer. It is, in all honesty, expensive and is for the elite. One yard of this delicate fabric starts at 20 USD.
Aklan’s Piña Silk
Website: Aklan’s Piña Silk
5. Explore the Kalibo Cathedral
The Kalibo Cathedral is where the image of the Sto. Nino, patron saint of the Ati-Atihan Festival, rests. Officially called the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, this church has been through tough times throughout history. Natural calamities almost put this church to ruins but it still stands strong up to this day. Modern techniques in design and construction allowed this heritage site to be appreciated by generations after. Visitors are welcomed by a gigantic bell that has already turned jade-like in color, due to its oxidation. For anyone needing some alone time, the Kalibo Cathedral may be an enlightening choice.
Website: Cathedral of St.John the Baptist
6. Understand Aklan through the Museo It Akean
Museo It Akean (The Museum of Aklan) is situated on Martelino Street, Kalibo, Aklan. It is housed in what is widely known as the “Eskuylahan I Hari” (School of the King) because it used to be a school building in the 19th-century. Such a theme is reflected through the museum’s historical collection of artifacts, such as jars, religious relics, artifacts from the Spanish period and Piña Silk textiles. The memorabilia of Archbishop Gabriel Reyes is also featured in the curation. The museum is found in between the market and Pastrana Park.
Museo It Akean
Address: Martelino Street, Kalibo, Aklan
Kalibo, Aklan: life in full color
Kalibo, Aklan is hands-down a rich travel destination. The varied options are ideal for a family or group of friends who would like to de-stress and refocus. From fresh seafood, river cruises, cathedrals, mangrove sanctuaries, anyone needing a break from stress will find their remedy here.
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