This is it and it is going to be Cebu City's Sinulog Festival!
Much have been said about the festival - the city buzzing in excitement, the endless parties, and the colorful and vibrant streetdancing. They call it the festival of all festivals in the Philippines
After last year's Dinagyang Festival, I already had my eye on Sinulog. I was impressed with Iloilo's festival of music and dance that it made me want to experience the different festivals in the Visayas. I get the impression that it is more vibrant in terms of musicality.
And I guess Cebu's Pit Senyor is the way to go for this year!
Cebu City is the Queen City of the South. It has developed into a bustling economic center, much like Metro Manila, while retaining its provincial charm. The bustling metropolis has remarkable mix of both the old and new. It has managed to keep a tab on keeping its history alive amidst modern development. It is one city where you get to see the past, taste the present, and see the future.
The city comes alive every third Sunday of January as the city breaks into a joyous celebration of drumbeats, dance, and colors in honor of its patron saint – the Santo Nino.The celebration takes its roots from earlier years when the Spaniards arrived in the country. The dance is a ritual, believed to be pagan in origin, to honor the miraculous image of the child Jesus. The celebration is also said to be a revelry that links pagan past to that of Christianity.
At present, Sinulog attracts thousands of visitors each year with most of them eager to witness and to participate in the revelry of the Grand Parade held on the Sunday. The Sinulog Grand Parade is the culminating activity of the celebration. Going by the theme “One Beat. One Dance. One Vision”, the Sinulog Festival gathers various groups frrom Cebu and nearby provinces for a grand showdown of dance and music that snakes around the city’s main thoroughfares with a finale performance at the Cebu Sports Complex.
Walking our way through the city center from Plaza Independencia, one could really the feel the pulsating vibe of Sinulog. The people, their smiles, and the excitement is like electricity passing through everybody and you really get to feel it.From the street peddlers to the ear-busting Sinulog theme being played in almost every corner of the city, it was hard not to get to excited. I was so excited that as early as 8am, I already had my hair colored with green and purple temporary paint. First tip for those wanting to experience Sinulog, dress up for the occasion. Get ready to get paint-smudged and get ready to get dirty.
Our first stop was to go for a quick prayer at the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the center of all the celebrations. It is in this church where the miraculous image of the Santo Nino resides. It is amazing how devotees profess their faith and you would see dozens of people holding their own image of the Santo Nino. Well, the celebration’s focal point is the Santo Nino so that should really not come out as a surprise. In the same way that getting inside the church maybe a challenge as it is filled to the rim. In fact, devotees attending the mass already spilled out to the street during the time that we were there.
After offering a short prayer, we then started working our way to the parade route.
Now, most of the roads at the city center are closed to traffic so expect to walk a lot and to weave your way through a mad crowd. At some choke points, you really get to brush up on other people’s shoulder… LITERALLY! Of course, you cannot miss out on the peddlers on the street so you still have got the chance to complete your Sinulog get-up before the actual party.
So what do you need to prepare to join the beat?
You have got to have a whistle for that shrill sound that you need to make at any time that you wish to. You need to dress up comfortably with comfy shoes because you will be doing a lot of walking. Prepare to get painted at and it would be nice if you can get yourself face painted with that fierce fighter look. Make sure that you waterproof your camera or your phones. Remember, anything can happen in the street. And last but not the least, just bring on the fun.
As we weaved through the crowd, we headed up to Pantaleon del Rosario Street where the action begins for the street dance participants. We knew that we were near because you can actually hear the drumbeats rolling and crowds cheering to the rhythmic movements of dancers. From the starting point, the participants would strut their way straight to Imus Avenue then left to Gen. Maxilom Avenue. They will then head straight to Fuente Osmena Circle, go around the rotunda, and head back to the Cebu City Sports Center for their final performance. Strategically located along the parade route are judging stations where participants drum up the crowd’s excitement with their street dance routine.
This year had 32 contigents participating in the street dancing competition and a couple of amazing puppeteers dancing to the same tune. Participating groups come in different themes – from tribal-inspired costumes to the glamorous terno. One thing that is common to all groups is the pretty lass that leads the group in dancing, holding the image of the Santo Nino. You can opt to watch it from the sidelines or get passes that will allow you to get a bit closer to the performers. One thing is for sure, whether you are on the spot or on the sidelines, it was a display of colors from start to finish and it was the most festive atmosphere among all the festivals that I have attended so far.
But the party lives on as the city bursts into a full blown street party just right after the street dancing parade. Everyone greets you a “Pit Senyor!” and, if you are lucky enough, you would probably get your face smudged by face paint or get yourself powdered with colored powder. For the even luckier ones, you would probably get offered a shot of beer or liquor. Just gulp it and keep the fun rolling, never mind the thought as to how many already drank from the cup. It’s Sinulog so keep dancing!
Sinulog aims to unite the locals and their community through a celebration of creativity and ingenuity with music, movement, and colors as their medium. The effective blend of these three elements can spell out a win for a particular delegation and a delight to the thousands who flock to the city to witness the revelry. For this year, hats off to the winning contingent from the Municipality of Tuburan who won the Best in Street Dancing.
The pulsating rhythm still lingers in my mind and, admittedly, I am still going through separation anxiety after experiencing the Sinulog 2016 weekend. I am still in deep contemplation whether to go for another round of Sinulog next year or check out another festival running parallel to it. For the meantime, I would have to contend with listening to the Sinulog theme and enjoy the memories and the rhythm of Sinulog 2016.
Prititit! Prititit! Pit Senyor!
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.