Sinulog Festival | Cebu City Fiesta Señor
Sinulog Festival is by far the grandest fiesta in the Philippines. Surely, 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” in the Philippines.
Sinulog Festival: Grand, Excessive, Splendid.
Until Covid came.
Every 3rd Sunday of January, all roads used to lead to Cebu City to pay homage to the infant Jesus, Sr. Santo Nino. However, Covid is rewriting the story, much like the rest of the festivals in the world.
But it is always good to remember its story and the spectacle that once wowed us all in the past.
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 glittered as soon as January kicks in. Fringe events like trade fairs, concerts, mall-wide sale, variety shows & beauty contests began to happen.
At the Basilica Minore, candle vendors & devotees would 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 used to flood the streets of Cebu in colors, drumbeats & nonstop dancing. Millions of spectators lined the parade routes in an unimaginable frenzy. The participation was so massive that it began in the morning & ended at night.
Contingents from all over the country would 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 Madness that was Sinulog
During Sinulog Festival, revelers from everywhere flocked to the Queen City of the South to party. For about 2 weeks, events happened 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 challenged it.
Among the inescapable & recurring reality was the mountain-high trash left by fiesta goers. And as the crowd got bigger each year, the amount of trash also doubled. But this year is a different story as mass gatherings are not allowed. Yes, a time to breathe, perhaps.
Also, brawls would easily pop especially in party hubs along Jones Avenue. Traffic was a nightmare but it was nothing different to other festivals. Many regulations were levied but the truth is, the ugly side of Sinulog was still there despite criticisms, at least until 2020.
I have observed Sinulog Festival many times. And in each year I came, the fun always astounded me. There was no shortage of activities & it always sizzled with spectacle. Truly, it is still one epic festival you must attend at least once in your lifetime. And here’s hoping for better days to finally come soon so we could enjoy it in 2022 like how it used to be.