THE Balik Cebu Committee expects more balikbayans to join this year’s Sinulog fluvial parade after this religious tradition has attracted the attention of foreign tourists and balikbayan devotees.
“Surprisingly, there is an increasing request from balikbayans to participate in the fluvial parade,” said Alice Queblatin, Tourism Congress vice president for travel and tours, in an interview yesterday. “There is more demand for this activity this year.”
Unlike the foot procession and grand parade, Queblatin said the fluvial parade is something that foreign tourists and the balikbayans rarely get the chance to participate in a local fiesta. For the younger generation who come during Sinulog, the fluvial procession is something new for them.
The Sto. Niño fluvial parade is a significant event during the yearly Sinulog celebration. As part of the tradition, the image of Sto. Niño travels the waters of the Mactan Channel at dawn of Saturday (Jan. 14), which is followed by a solemn foot procession in the afternoon. These activities lead to the Sinulog grand parade, which is celebrated every third Sunday of January.
More than 200 vessels and some 40,000 devotees participated in the two-hour fluvial parade last year. Vessels that joined the fluvial parade carry with them images of the Sto. Niño.
According to Queblatin, who is also the owner of Southwind Travel and Tours, this year has the biggest response for fluvial parade participation among balikbayans compared to the past two years.
“The awareness is already there. It is gaining popularity, as they now understand that the water procession is part of the religious tradition,” she said.
Yesterday, the Balik Cebu Committee unveiled the Balik Cebu booth located at Rotunda 1 beside the concierge of the Ayala Center Cebu.
The booth, which is open from Jan. 4 to 15, will serve as an information center for Sinulog events. It will sell tickets of Balik Cebu homecoming dinner at The Terraces, seats at the Sinulog Grandstand during the grand parade or reserve a slot to tour the province during the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo.
For the past 16 years, Tetta Baad, the chairperson of the Balik Cebu Committee, said they have stuck with the formula that worked well with the Balik Cebu program as this has attracted more overseas Filipinos and foreign tourists to visit Cebu during Sinulog before they proceed to other local destinations.
The Balik Cebu program aims to offer tourists and returnees an “unparalleled Cebu experience.” The program is sponsored by Ayala Center Cebu and Cebu Holdings Inc. in partnership with the Department of Tourism, Sinulog Foundation Inc., and some volunteers from the private sector.
According to Baad, balikbayans and foreign arrivals in Cebu during Sinulog month keep on growing year-on-year. From 200 seats allocated for the annual welcome dinner, the committee now prepares up to 500 seats.
Some guests, she said, arrive during the Christmas season and stay on until Sinulog. Others arrive in time for Sinulog. The committee is set to welcome a group of balikbayans arriving in Cebu on Jan. 11 and 12 at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 05, 2017.
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