KALIBO, Aklan – In a surprise move in December, Albert Meñez – chairman of the Kalibo Santo Niño Ati-Atihan Foundation, Inc. (Kasafi) – announced that the volunteer group would no longer be in-charge of one of the most sought-after festivals in the Philippines next year.
With the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Kasafi and the local government unit of Kalibo expiring this year, Meñez said the 2019 Ati-Atihan Festival will be their “last dance.”
The three-year MOA was first signed in 2010 and has been renewed two times since.
“We are a big part of Ati-Atihan. It is with a heavy heart to leave but it is absolutely fulfilling to look back at our nine incredible years [organizing the festival],” said Meñez.
He added: “We could not do it without the ongoing support, interest, trust, and confidence of the people and the communities.”
Kasafi has been promoting Ati-Atihan as a “world-class” festival since it was given the role to organize the celebration.
Even with a limited budget for such a big event, Kasafi officials and volunteers managed to make Ati-Atihan remain true to being the “Mother of All Philippine Festivals.”
Kasafi members and their dedication to outsource funds and build partnerships for Ati-Atihan have made the local celebration vibrant enough to stay in the hearts of revelers.
“The volunteers here have been the key players. They are phenomenal,” said Meñez. “They have always played a crucial part in the festival. Nothing would be achieved without them.”
He added that Kasafi has made “unique collaborations” with artists and other organizations in its nine-year long stint of hosting the festival. These efforts paid off as Ati-Atihan attracted more devotees, balikbayans and revelers each year, Meñez said.
“We know the festival will flourish without us. The show must go on. This is maybe the last time that we will handle the Ati-Atihan Festival but I assure you this is not the last time you will see Kasafi,” Meñez concluded. (With reports from Boy Ryan Zabal of Aklan Forum Journal/PN)