Sinulog Festival | Cebu City Fiesta Senor
Sinulog Festival is by far the grandest fiesta in the Philippines. It is unmatched in terms of pageantry, audience & commercial value. In fact, many fiestas around the country have been inspired or patterned after the spectacle of Sinulog.
Because its popularity is seemingly beyond scale, Sinulog became synonymous to the word “festival”.
Sinulog Festival: Grand, Excessive, Splendid
Every 3rd Sunday of January, all roads lead to Cebu City to pay homage to the infant Jesus, Sr. Santo Nino. Spain brought this religious image to the island in their string of conquests about 500 years back in time.
Venerations to the Child Jesus in the Philippines is so massive that his image is everywhere—-at home, stores & jeepneys. And it is also no surprise to see a Sto. Nino dressed as a police, a doctor or even a basketball player.
But traditionally, he is clothed in imperial regalia replete with a gold crown, a globus cruciger, a scepter & a red cape adorned with crystals.
Fiesta Señor begins with a 9-day novena. On the last day, devotees parade the Holy Mother, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe to the basilica to join the Child Jesus. A procession, called traslacion follows after a few days where the images of the Mother & Child form the Holy Family at the Parish of St. Joseph.
Then a sea of people enshrines back the Holy Virgin & Sr. Sto. Nino to Cebu City on a fluvial parade that ends with the reenactment of the first mass & the baptismal of Hara Amihan.
The Revelries of Sinulog Festival
Cebu glitters as soon as January kicks in. Fringe events like trade fairs, concerts, mall-wide sale, variety shows & beauty contests begin to happen.
At the Basilica Minore, candle vendors & devotees still perform the traditional version of this ritual-dance prayer to the Holy Child. Its forward-backward movements mimic the “sulog” or the waves of the sea.
This dance step is so popular that it became the movement of many street-dancing parades in the Philippines. Not only its dance steps are copied in other festivals but also some festal elements like costumes, music & parties.
Thousands of performers flood the streets of Cebu in colors, drumbeats & nonstop dancing. Millions of spectators line the parade routes in an unimaginable frenzy. The participation is so massive that it begins in the morning & ends at night.
Contingents from all over the country come to compete in the Grand Street Parade. In fact, winning in the Sinulog is somehow a badge of honour for all street-dancing groups.
The Other Side of Sinulog Festival
During Sinulog Festival, revelers from everywhere flock to the Queen City of the South to party. For about 2 weeks, events happen in major entertainment hubs bringing the biggest names in showbiz & music industries.
Sinulog Festival is fun & exciting. But a lot of serious problems despite the regulations imposed by the church, the city & the festival organizers also challenge it.
Among the inescapable & recurring reality is the mountain-high trash left by fiesta goers. And as the crowd gets bigger each year, the amount of trash also doubles.
It’s also a security nightmare where brawls, theft & crime ignite easily especially in party hubs along Jones Avenue. Flat-out drunks sleeping on the streets are sadly a common sight. Many regulations were levied but the truth is, the ugly side of Sinulog is still there despite criticisms.
I have observed Sinulog Festival many times. And each year I come, the fun always astounds me. There’s no shortage of activities & always sizzles with spectacle. Truly, it’s one epic festival you must attend at least once in your lifetime.