Every December 28, some barangays in Ibajay and Malay, Aklan celebrate the Ninos Inocentes or the Holy Innocents Day, a commemoration of the innocent male infants and boys under two years of age who were killed by order of King Herod of Judea who sought Jesus Christ's death with an traditional Halloween-like cosplay known as Yawa Yawa Festival.
The term “yawa” in Akeanon means devil/demon or someone who is evil. These exclusively male performers re-enact the bible story of King Herod’s massacre of newly born children after learning that a new king is born — Jesus Christ.
In their search for the holy child (Sto. Nino), the “Yawa-Yawa” as they are popularly called, goes to the houses to solicit for palay and money, and can demand a ransom if they seized the Sto Nino.
They resemble the “Yawa” by wearing masks made of “gunot” (coconut husk and palm fiber) – which they paint in red and black. The costumes incorporate thick eyebrows, horns, long tongues and other daunting features. The “Yawa” brings makeshift karit and bolos as weapons (props) to scare young children.
While other barangays re-enact the story, the people of Maloco claims that the original celebration was first performed in their barangay.
Based on oral tradition and interviews from local folks, the celebration has been present since time immemorial. Although the exact date is unknown, what is certain is that the Yawa-Yawa has become an identity and a source of pride for the people.
Photo and text credits: Anthea Redison