CELEBRATING SINULOG 2019
Reminder: If you’re not an open-minded person and can’t respect different religious views, then don’t read! Thank you.
I know this is a late post regarding Sinulog, but I wanted to document and share my experience of it this year.
The holidays of Cebuano don’t end in New Year. It continues on until Sinulog, which is on the 3rd Sunday of January. January 1st only marks the start of busier and louder days for the locals. From the start of the Christmas season, which is September 1st in the Philippines, onto Christmas, New Year and Sinulog, that’s how festive Cebuanos are. Sinulog is what people are most excited about. Tourists from all over the world come to Cebu to get a first-hand experience of the grandest festival of the country. Thus, for a well-regulated festival, the local government releases schedules of different activities such as concerts, competitions, masses, and parades. Several announcements about the rerouting of public transportations are also made in public for a peaceful festival.
What do people do during Sinulog?
As you all know, Sinulog is a religious festival held annually in honor of the Child Jesus or of Santo Niño de Cebú. It tells the story of how Christianity started in Cebu and the city’s humble beginnings. We do this dance ritual while holding a statue of Santo Niño after a mass. It’s been a tradition that all priests and bishops who celebrate the mass do this too.
For me, the dance ritual is a sign of celebrating the old and the present times. It’s that time when people give value and reconnect from the past onto the present times of how Christianity has started and grown in Cebu.
As time goes by, the dance ritual has leveled up to become a competition that other provinces have happily joined in. The local government offers incentives to the best dancers.
Since I moved to Cebu, I made it a point to attend Sinulog ever year. I was always with friends doing the same routine of hearing the mass and joining the parade.
For the two years that I was away (I was abroad), Facebook has become my go-to resource for keeping up with the happenings during Sinulog.
One thing I learned while working abroad is that Sinulog has become so popular that overseas Filipino workers celebrate it wherever they are in the globe. Cebuanos abroad have come up with their version of the celebration. I know this because we did something like this in Taiwan. We did a dance ritual after a Sinulog mass in our dormitory. Right now, it’s not only Cebuanos who celebrate Sinulog but most OFWs abroad which is a really great thing.
So after two years of being away and missing Sinulog, I’m back to join in the celebration!
What to expect during Sinulog?
1. The street is loud.
It’s loud but in a fun good way. If your ears aren’t ready for this then stay at home. There’ll be a parade with drums and trumpets playing loudly. People will be shouting and raising their voice to be heard. If you don’t like this tone, there are parts of the city with fewer people, like Plaza Independencia.
2. Most of the time, it rains.
Be prepared to get wet. While my experiences from the past years’ Sinulog were different, there was one thing that stayed the same all throughout. It rains or drizzles but it’s no wonder since January is a rainy season. While other people consider this a misfortune, for Cebuanos it’s a blessing. Always, despite the rain, people continue to march and join the fun even when they’re drenched.
3. Expect the crowd.
It was reported that two million people were present to witness Sinulog this year. These include foreigners from all over the world. If you’re in a very crowded area, like in Fuente Osmena, expect to be pushed around. Avoid these areas at all cost if you’re not comfortable. There were instances of people fainting and having difficulty breathing because of the cramped condition. If you’re not used with a large crowd, then don’t try your luck. You can still enjoy by staying to areas with fewer people.
4. Sinulog is a religious festival.
Other people have this misconception that Sinulog is something that’s just for fun. It is not! It is a celebration of Santo Niño, our patron. Other people go to Sinulog just to see their favorite artists or idols. Part of the Sinulog is the parade of local artists or celebrities but remember, Sinulog is a religious festival. Don’t just join to get head over heels with your crushes in showbiz.
5. Safety first.
It’s hard to admit but Sinulog is also an opportunity for thieves and pickpockets because of the sudden flux of tourist. Always be watchful of your belongings and consider safety first.
TIP: If you can leave your valuables at home or hotel, do so, and bring with you a small amount of money only. Leave gadgets that you won’t be using and use a small bag for your things if you can.
There are police everywhere but they won’t be able to watch over two million people at the same time, so be on your guard while you have fun.
I don’t know with last year’s Sinulog but this year, people with backpacks weren’t allowed to enter the Basilica or the church. We used to bring backpacks with our lunch and big bottles of water or soft drinks in. After each mass, restaurants and fast foods end up having long queues that can take up to an hour of waiting, so we used to bring our lunch with us.
6. Be prepared to walk.
Because of the rerouting of the jeepneys just for the day, there will be little to no available public transportations nearby, so be prepared to walk long distances. If you bring your own car, you won’t be able to park it near the Basilica or near an area where there are people. Either way, you will have to walk.
TIP: Wear comfortable footwear.
I and my friends had to walk in a crowd where people pushed each other around. It was a real struggle. In fact, that’s been a struggle each attendee during Sinulog should overcome. We managed to find a jeepney to Ayala (mall) after some time. From Ayala, we got in on a van to Lapu-Lapu (home) to get home. It was and will always be an energy draining activity, but super fun.
My Sinulog this year ended peacefully. Thank God for it. Kudos to the efforts of police officers who kept the Sinulog 2019 at peace. Next year will surely be a blast again!
I’d be happy to hear about your Sinulog experience.
Till next Sinulog! See you.