Niños Inocentes – A unique Halloween-like festival celebrated in Argao, Malay, Aklan

The Niños Inocentes also known as Yawa-yawa Festival is a Catholic tradition with a twist of Halloween. It’s celebrated every last Sunday of December in Argao, Malay, Aklan and in some villages in Ibajay, Aklan. ‘Yawa’ means a demon or a wicked person in Aklanon (but was an empowered female character during pre-colonial times demonized by Spaniards because she portrayed women as equally powerful as men). The celebration is based on the Feast of the Holy Innocents or Innocents’ Day, commemorating the killings of innocent young children in Bethlehem by the wicked King Herod the Great of Judea in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus.

Unlike in Ibajay, the Yawa-yawa in Argao is organized into a street dancing festival instead of them roaming around. Each participant wears a locally-made halloween-like costumes to hide their identities. They gather along the national highway, dancing, stopping every vehicle that is passing by and asking for a donation. The donations that they raise will be used to fund the evening party.

It is believed that the tradition started in the 1900s when men use scary costumes to scare their children to behave, but the tradition evolved into what it is now.

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