Aklan Day is the founding anniversary in the province of Aklan, Philippines every April 25. The date is a special non-working holiday pursuant to Republic Act No. 6722 that was signed by President Corazon Aquino on May 29, 1989.
An annual trade fair called Piña and Fiber Festival has been simultaneously organized since 1999, and the Talibong Festival was launched in 2014.
Aklan Day celebrates the creation of the province in 1956, the traditional piña weaving industry that has made Aklan the Piña Fiber Capital of the Philippines, and the making of talibong, the traditional Aklanon sword.
History of Aklan
Aklan is located in the northwestern portion of the Panay island and part to the Western Visayas Region, which also consists of the provinces of Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental. Its history is closely intertwined with the history of the province of Capiz, to which it belonged until 1956.
It is not certain how Aklan came to be called by its name. One theory suggests it may have come from the Akean river where the ancestors built their habitats. They and their descendants speak a distinct language called Aklanon, which is grouped generally under Visayan languages.
The aborigines called Aeta or Atis were the first to arrive in the island of Panay. According to Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro’s Maragtas, a book of legends and oral history published in the 19th century, they retreated to remote lands with the coming of the Malays in the 13th century.
These Malays were ten datus from Borneo and their families who fled from a despotic ruler and to find new lands where they could live. They came to the island and purchased the flat plains from the Atis in what is known as the Barter of Panay, an origin story that is the basis of several festivals in Western Visayas including Ati-Atihan Festival, Bayluhay Festival, Binirayan Festival, and CAPIZtahan. The datus divided the island into three districts: Aklan, Irong-irong, and Hamtik. In Aklan, Datu Bangkayan became the chieftain.
Aklan was renamed Capiz, and back then the two were considered one entity. The Spaniards, led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, arrived in Capiz in 1569 and they came upon a number of settlements by the native populations. The next year, it was organized into a town.
Afterwards, Capiz became a part of Oton, Iloilo. It was created into a politico-military province by 1716 and remained so until the end of the Spanish conquista. It was Ananias Diokno who led the revolution in Capiz against the Spanish rule. During the American occupation, the provincial government of Capiz was established by virtue of Act No. 115 on April 15, 1901.
Political leaders of Aklan pursued the division of Capiz as early as 1901. Natalio B. Acevedo put forward such a proposal to Commissioner Dean C. Worcester. It was followed by similar actions in the 1920s. Later, a proposal submitted by Dr. Rafael S. Tumbokon acquired approval from the Committee on Provincial and Municipal Government but did not prosper.
Aklan successfully separated from Capiz when it became an independent province by virtue of Republic Act No. 1414, otherwise known as “An Act to Create the Province of Aklan”, that was approved on April 25, 1956. This is the date that is commemorated every Aklan Day. The law was authored by representative Godofredo Ramos, who is known as the Father of Aklan, and signed by President Ramon Magsaysay.
Aklan Piña and Fiber Festival
Another event during Aklan’s founding anniversary is the Aklan Piña and Fiber Festival. The festival is held to promote crafts, clothes, and accessories made from pineapple fiber, as well as other products of the province.
First launched in 1999, it is organized by the Department of Tourism in partnership with the Provincial Government and various manufacturers and trade associations such as Aklan Piña and Indigenous Fibers Manufacturers and Traders Association, Aklan Horticultural Society, Hugod Aklanon Producers Association Inc., and Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority.
Piña is a Spanish word for pineapple. Fibers from pineapples have been extracted and hand-woven into fabric by the people of Aklan since the Spanish colonial era. The Spaniards, particularly the religious missionaries, promoted the craft including the art of embroidery. The weaving industry reached its golden era sometime in the 19th century.
Skills in fiber extraction, weaving, and embroidery were handed down from generations. However, these were considered almost a “dying art” in the 1970s and 1980s. There was a resurgence of interest of pineapple as raw material for production of fashion items through the efforts advocated by concerned groups to breathe new life to the centuries-old tradition of pina-weaving.
The industry provides a livelihood for many in Aklan, with students and even male weavers contributing to the family income. Their products are exported to various parts of the world, including North America and Europe.
The pina fiber is called the Queen of Philippine Fabric. Taken from the red Spanish pineapple variety, it has shiny ivory-white color and the cloths that it can produced are fine and soft. It is often combined with other fabrics such as abaca and silk to create new, interesting materials.
It is often the raw material used for the making of barong tagalog and baro’t saya, the national costume for Filipino men and women respectively. Nowadays, its use can be found in the making of gowns, bags, curtains, handicrafts, fashion items, accessories, and many others.
Another aspect of Aklan Day is the Talibong Festival. Its name comes from talibong, the name of a fighting sword worn as a weapon and a status symbol.
It is one of the several swords produced in the island of Panay which go by many names that are used interchangeably depending on the location: binakoko, ginunting, kalis, sanduko, siantong, sundang, and utak; all of the above-mentioned are referred to by the general term, binangon.
In Panay, smithies are found in Aklan, Capiz, and Iloilo.
Talibong is the word used among people living in the uplands of Panay. They may be seen in public wearing one. According to some accounts, it was utilized as a bladed weapon by the people against the Moro raiders during Spanish colonization, revolutionaries, and freedom fighters involved in guerilla warfare during the war. Additionally, it is used as a farm tool in times of peace.
The sword is made of iron and steel, and decorative pieces may be made out of precious metals like silver. Artistry are manifested in the making of the sword, expressed particularly through the shape of the blade and the different styles, design, and embellishments found in its scabbard and hilt.
The scabbard is made from local hardwood and bound by the blade with braids of native fibers like abaca. The hilt meanwhile is created from horns of water buffalo or wood.
Talibong Festival was proposed by Emmanuel Soviet Russia dela Cruz and launched in 2014 in time for the 58th Aklan Day. It was organized to spread awareness of the artistry, craftsmanship, and heritage of talibong; to keep the cultural and historical tradition of Aklanon sword-making alive; and market the products made by the local forges.
The festival includes a competition of the best talibong by contemporary smiths. It also has an exhibit that puts talibong on display, the different variants of the weapon, and the items produced by smithies.
Aklan Day Activities
Activities for Aklan Day may include sports fest, exhibits, entertainment, awarding ceremony, jobs fair, various skills and livelihood demos and workshops, fashion show, competitions, talent contests, parade, live band, concerts, awards and recognition, garden show, etc.
In 2023, ‘Hinuguran It Akeanon’ trade fair was launched that highlighted the Piña and Fiber Festival, Talibong Festival, and Ati-Atihan Festival.
How to reach Aklan
Aklan can be reached via two airports, one in Caticlan and another in Kalibo. Land-based trips are also available from different starting points in the country. It is also accessible by water through its seaports such as in Batan and New Washington.
- Venus Villanueva. Aklan to hold Piña, Fiber festival 2022. Philippine Information Agency. March 21, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2023
- Holidays–Aklan (Province). Legislative Digital Resources. Senate of the Philippines. Retrieved April 17, 2023
- Republic Act No. 6722. Legislative Digital Resources. Senate of the Philippines. Retrieved April 17, 2023
- REPUBLIC ACT NO. 1414, April 25, 1956. Supreme Court of the Philippines E-Library. Retrieved April 17, 2023
- Historical background. Provincial Government of Aklan. Retrieved April 17, 2023
- Census of the Philippine Islands taken under the direction of the Philippine Legislature in the year 1918. University of Connecticut Libraries. Archive.org. Retrieved April 18, 2023
- Act No. 115, April 15, 1901. Supreme Court E-Library. Retrieved April 18, 2023
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