KALIBO, Aklan–Better safe than sorry.
This seems to be the prevailing sentiment among festival organizers in the country as it is in Ibajay, Aklan, where it has just been announced the annual Ibajay Ati-Ati in honor of Señor Santo Niño is no longer happening in 2021.
“Merrymakers will have to wait for another year to celebrate one of the iconic and unique Ati-Atihan festivals in Aklan,” Ibajay town mayor Jose Enrique Miraflores said, adding, “It is a logical decision, and a prudent one to cancel.”
Originally scheduled for a week from January 18, the festival is the latest to be withdrawn due to the continuing threat of COVID-19 and the fact that current health guidelines do not allow outdoor gatherings.
Among the most anticipated events of the festival is the Search for Ibajay Ati-Ati festival queen along with Sinadsad sa Kalye, Float and Ati-Ati competition, municipal day parade, DepEd night, Barangay night, and Ibajaynon night.
“The health and safety of our community need to come first. We have to obey social distancing restrictions,” Miraflores said in a radio interview. “Rather than allocate a budget for Ati-Ati, we will use our available funds to respond to the impact of the coronavirus disease.”
For his part, Rev. Fr. Cesar Echegaray of the Parish of St. Peter the Apostle believes the cancellation of Ibajay Ati-Ati events is “definitely the right thing to do to mitigate the spread of the virus.”
“For sure, the devotees of Señor Sto. Niño de Ibajay will keep their faith especially in this time of uncertainties,” he said.
Echegaray, however, made it clear that the religious activities will proceed as planned but will be conducted with the utmost concern for everyone’s well-being./(Boy Ryan Zabal/INews-Aklan/Boracay Bureau)