What Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan reminds us about rice farming

Photo from Wikipedia (by Bernardo 'Berniemack' Arellano III)

The Ati-Atihan Festival of Kalibo, Aklan is usually one of the most celebrated festivities that kick off the festival season in the country every year. It is also known as the Mother of All Filipino Festivals as it is the oldest public celebration being observed for over 800 years now, long before all other Filipino festivals began.

Up to this day, historians still hold several versions to explain how the festival started. The most believed and convincing version is still that telling the story of how in 1200s, indigenous people known as Aetas from Panay island’s highlands descended to the lowlands because of famine. The Malays, who originally came from Borneo and migrated to Panay Island, were said to have been very generous to share resources to the natives. As a gesture of gratitude, the Aetas were believed to have started staging a festivity—singing and dancing—to convey their appreciation of the help extended to them during their hungry days.


Ati-Atihan’s significance
Most historians agree that during the Spanish colonization in the 1600s, the Ati-Atihan Festival continued but was given a Catholic significance by turning it into a merrymaking to honor the Santo Niño or the image of the Child Jesus. This explains why participants of the festival continue darkening their skin and donning colorful Aeta-inspired costumes during the celebrations.

Today, the Ati-Atihan Festival still serves as a reminder of the importance of bountiful harvests especially in a tropical archipelago like the Philippines. The Aetas, who are believed to be the first inhabitants of the country centuries ago, had been subjected to countless hungry seasons because of famine brought about by drought, destructive typhoons, infestations of farms, and insufficient harvests.

Fortunately, most Filipino farmers these days have embraced new technology and modern approaches to farming. However, their harvests remain susceptible to the impact of natural calamities especially because the country naturally suffers either from a dry spell (during El Niño) or a wet spell (La Niña) every now and then, which could be attributed to climate change.

Advocating bountiful harvests
This is why SeedWorks Philippines, Inc. is continuously advocating the use of hybrid rice varieties for planting in rice fields. One of the exceptional rice varieties from the company is its TH-82, which can yield rice harvest equivalent to about 8 metric tons per hectare (per planting season), twice higher than the estimated current national rice production average of 4 metric tons per hectare. (‘TH’ stands for ‘Tatag Hybrid,’ which fits its features.)

TH-82 could produce the highest yield compared to other hybrid rice varieties, based on the results of a rice derby previously held in Cotabato. It can be cultivated in both wet and dry seasons, making it an ideal variety for continuous rice production.

The exceptional hybrid rice variety is well noted for its medium-length grains and better quality. It also exhibits resilience, surviving most unexpected weather-related calamities like drought, excessive rainfall, or even devastation of typhoons. Moreover, TH-82 can also withstand the common types of pests that hinder growth of rice plants and affect rice production.

Through the years, the company has heavily invested on research and development to come up with its current lineup of exceptional crop varieties that could possibly alleviate food production problems in the country and in neighboring nations.