Contributed by Jas Mad About Travel
Vibrant colours, amazing music, gorgeous dresses, lively people and mouth-watering street food; The Philippines is gifted with heartwarming fiestas, marked throughout the calendar. Some of these fiestas are locally confined while others are large-scale celebrations. Sinulog is one such colossal event.
What is Sinulog
In honour of the miraculous image of Santo Nino (Child Jesus), Cebu city celebrates Sinulog on the third week of January. Aside from the religious aspect of the festivity, Sinulog is marked with a string of well-coordinated dance performances by different (barangay and Provinces) regions of The Philippines. The participants practice for months and consider it as an honour to be a part of the entourage to represent their respective province.
Their hard work is reflected on the streets of Cebu as they sway on the beats of drums and keep you mesmerised. All the contingents have a common back-and-forth movement incorporated into their performance which reflects the flow of water, known as Sulog in the Visayas.
Hence the name Sinulog.
What to expect
With every passing year, Sinulog is getting bigger and grander. The 2018 Sinulog schedule stated a ten-day festivity (12 to 22 January 2018) that started with musical events, local competitions and cultural shows spread throughout Cebu City. The whole city turns into a big party place and makes it the best time to visit (if the crowd is not an issue for you). Though Manila is the capital city, once every year, all eyes are on Cebu. From Huge Sponsorships to the politician to celebrities, everyone tries to be a part of this grand celebration.
As a tourist with the constrained number of days and limited knowledge of the city, it can become overwhelming and confusing to follow up with the exact Sinulog Schedule (as most of the events spread across the city). To keep it simple, I have broken it into three most important ones.
This happens the early morning of the third Saturday of January (a day before the grand parade). Hundreds of boats leave from different piers in Cebu City to form a procession and pay respect to Sto. Niño de Cebu at the Mactan Channel. The Sto. Niño is placed on Philippine Navy’s BRP Agta. The ship acts as the Spanish Galleon that brought the image of child Jesus in Cebu City for the first time. Though the boats leave the pier around 6am, people flock the piers as early as 3am. The cabs are in high demand during this time. Leave early and make sure you don’t miss the fluvial.
Most of the boats are booked by a group of people or companies (cost may vary from anywhere between ₱15,000 to ₱50,000 for the whole boat). If you are travelling alone, your best bet is to get in touch with one of the local companies and ask them to reserve a seat for you. I was lucky enough that my sister-in-law knew one of the boat owners and we got an easy ride.
The whole event lasts for almost three hours before the boat docks back. It is advisable to carry your own water bottles and food as nothing is available on the boats.
Street procession of Sto. Niño
As the name states, it is a street procession held by Catholic devotees in honour of Señor Sto. Nino. The procession starts at 1pm on the same day as Fluvial. It starts from Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. The procession has a pre-defined route map which anyone can see from Sinulog website.
Despite heavy rains this year, the procession continued with unflinching spirits marching across the streets of Cebu City in harmony. One should try to get to an elevated ground, to get the best view of this beautiful ceremony.
With the winning team taking away ₱1million, all the contingents come prepared and all guns blazing. It’s not just a one-day dance event but livelihoods for many performers. Huge cash prizes and sponsors backing up various contingents make the event even more competitive.
Being a part of this parade not only acts as a stepping stone in the performer’s career but also an opportunity to showcase his or her talent in front of the whole nation.
With such high stakes, each team works its heart out. From flawless dance moves to carefully designed props and dresses, The Grand Parade is the most awaited event of Sinulog.
The entourage starts from the Cebu City Sports Complex and dances its way across the defined route map. A final performance at the Complex marks the end of the Grand Parade, with jury announcing the winners.
To make sure you get the best view, try to get one of those temporary elevated seats lined across the streets.
Things to consider
All communication lines are down temporarily during procession so make sure you have an offline map of the city (in case you plan to visit nearby). Try to take a hotel room near Fuente Circle to get the best view of the whole event (it’s within walking distance) as most of the roads are blocked.
During the parade, the whole street is packed with people on both sides. In case you want to take better pictures, it’s advisable to take part in the Sinulog Photo Contest and get one of those IDs (it acts as a pass to most of the off-limit places). You can take part by paying ₱3,000 to the Sinulog office (I applied for mine two months in advance).
Sinulog is definitely a perfect reason to visit the beautiful city of Cebu. Enjoy the local food and soak yourself into the festivities, Cebuano style.
Viva Pit Señor!