History and Culture
3 Must-Visit Historical Sites in Aklan: Proof of Its Glorious Past
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Belle Piccio | Jan 13, 2016
Aklan is considered to be the oldest province of the Philippines. Its story brings us to as early as the middle of the 13th century even though it was officially declared as a province on April 25, 1956.
Legend or not, Aklan’s history started when 10 Bornean datus landed on the shore of Sirwakan River in circa 1250 with their families in search for new lands and to escape the tyranny of Sultan Makatunaw, the Bornean king.
The expedition’s leader, Datu Puti, met with the Atis inhabiting the land. The Atis are the aboriginal inhabitant of Panay Island and is characterized with its black-skin.
The 10 Bornean datus namely: Datu Puti, Datu Sumakwel, Datu Bangkaya, Datu Paiborong, Datu Paduhinogan, Datu Dumangsol, Datu Libay, Datue Dumangsil, Datu Domalogdog and Datu Balensuela were welcomed by Ati King Marikudo and Queen Maniwang-tiwang.
Datu Puti and Marikudo came into an agreement that the Atis will leave the land and move to the hinterlands to give way to the families of the datus. The land was sold for a price of a gold wide-brimmed hat called saduk, a long-chained pure gold necklace and gifts such as clothes in fine fabric, jewelries and many other useful things like armaments. The selling of the land was known in history as the “Barter of Panay.” The agreement was sealed with a grand feast by both Atis and Borneans. It was a grand celebration with lots of dancing, singing and extravagant banquet. It was believed that the celebration came to be known as the Ati-atihan Festival.
The island was divided into 3 districts which was called “sakups":
- Under Datu Paiburong was Irong-irong which is now Iloilo
- Under Datu Sumakwel was Hantik which is now Antique
- Under Datu Bangkaya was Aklan what was then Aklan and Capiz combined.
The sakups were unified into one through the “Confederation of Madyaas” under Datu Sumakwel for communal security and protection against attacks.
We’ve learned of the brief history of Panay Island. But what are the historical sites and landmarks in Aklan that is still preserved and worth your visit? Check our list below.
1) Aklan Freedom Shrine and The 19 Martyrs
The shrine is dedicated to the 19 brave martyrs of the province who cooperated with Katipunan during the Philippine Revolution against Spain. The martyrs were: Roman Aguirre, Tomas Briones, Valeriano Dalida, Domingo dela Cruz, Claro Delgado, Angelo Fernandez, Benito Iban, Candido Iban, Simeon Inocencio, Isidro Jimenez, Catalino Mangat, Lamberto Mangat, Valeriano Masinda, Maximo Mationg, Simplicio Reyes, Canuto Segovia, Gavino Sucgang Francisco Villorente and Gavino Yunsal. They were executed on March 23, 1897. Thus, March 23 is a special public holiday in Aklan Province in commemoration of their death anniversary. Marking the shrine is a statue of Aklan’s Katipunan leader, Gen. Francisco Del Castillo.
The Aklan Freedom Shrine where the 19 martyrs and WWII martyred soldiers were buried is located along D. Maagma and Veterans’ Avenues. While, the 19 Martyrs is located at Acevedo Bldg., XIX Martyrs St., Kalibo, Aklan.
2) Kalibo Cathedral
The Kalibo Cathedral is the St. John the Baptist Cathedral. The cathedral is the oldest structure of worship in Aklan. The parish was originally built in 1581 with Fr. Andres de Ibarra, O.S.A. as its first priest. The church was built in 1804 and again was made into a bigger and sturdier structure sometime in the late 1940s. After the 1990 earthquake, the church was renovated immediately after it was damaged slightly.
Then in 1993-1997, the church was again renovated with the financial support of Aklanons. The architectural design was done by national artist Leandro V. Locsin. The cathedral is Kalibo’s center of faith and its patron saint is St. John the Baptist. Though the cathedral has been renovated and reconstructed several times, original parts are still found within the edifice. The popular image of the Sto. Niño that is different from that of Cebu is enshrined in the cathedral.
Kalibo Cathedral is just in front Plaza Pastrana, the center of Ati-aithan Festival celebrations. It is located at G.M.Reyes corner Martelino St., Kalibo, Aklan.
3) Museo It Akean
The Museo It Akean or Aklan’s Museum is a repository of antiques and age-old artifacts found in Aklan. The museum is inside a building built in 1882 during the Spanish colonial period. It also exhibits Aklan’s rich cultural and historical past through the famous art exhibits and memorabilia that highlights different eras from prehistoric up to the present Aklan.
The museum is open daily between 8:00am to 5:00pm. A minimal fee upon entrance is collected. The Museo It Akean is just beside the Kalibo Cathedral located at Corner S. Martelino and Archbishop G. Reyes Sts., Kalibo, Aklan.
There are many historical places to explore in the province. This January, make the Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan Festival your jump-off point to explore Aklan Province.
What else to see in Aklan? Explore the province with our Choose Philippines Aklan Map.
VIEW MAP: AKLAN: White Sands & Wild Streetdancing!
How to Get There
From Manila, you can fly to Kalibo (estimated cost of Php3,000++, round trip, one hour). From Kalibo Airport, you can ride a tricycle and ask to be dropped off at your destination. If coming from Boracay/Caticlan, ride a van to Kalibo (estimated cost of Php100-200, two hours).
For inquiries, contact the Provincial Tourism Office of Aklan at (036) 262-4692.
More of Aklan