Sinulog festival

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Saturday, January 18, 2014


THE Sinulog festival is “the crowning glory of all festivals in the country” was how former tourism secretary Richard Gordon described Cebu’s indigenous celebration in honor of the Sto. Niño de Cebu. And if the police estimate is to be believed, 4 million people joined in the revelry of dance and percussion-driven music in 2013.

The Wikipedia entry on Sinulog is detailed as to its origin, the beginning of the modern festival, and the people who initiated it. It said that “the concept of the Sinulog Parade was actualized involving not just Cebu but also representatives from other provinces in the Philippines.

Marking its difference from another popular festival, the Ati-Atihan in Aklan, the Sinulog focuses not on the ritual itself but on the historical aspects of the dance, which, as it has been said, represents the link the country's embrace of Christian faith.”

Since its humble beginning in 1980, the Sinulog festival has evolved into what it is because of the Sinulog Foundation, a professionally-run organization, with the full support of the Cebu City Government and business institutions. Participating contingents have become more creative, more confident and more attractive as they compete not just for the cash prizes, but for prestige in this highly contested
festival.

While there is no doubt that the Sinulog has become the mother of all festivals in the Philippines, we ask the question if it has become as renowned as the Rio Carnaval in Brazil, the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Notting Hill Carnival in London.

The Rio Carnaval attracts two million people per day on the streets and was first held in 1823. It is a competition among the nation’s top samba schools with colorful floats and drumming bands called the bacteria. It even has its own venue called the Sambadromo.

While there is much dancing and drum beating, the carnival, which has religious origins, has been associated much with skimpy dressed women gyrating in the streets.

International stars and popular bands are attracted to the event.

Another festival with religious beginning is the Mardi Gras, from the French term, Fat Tuesday, that refers “to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.”

The Mardi Gras is most associated with New Orleans with the first formal parade held in 1856. One article said that the festival attracted “as many as half a million spectators.” The Notting Hill Carnival that formally began in 1966 had two sources, “Caribbean Carnival” and the “hippie” London Free School-inspired festival, and attracts 1 million revelers.

It is therefore commendable that the 34-years old Sinulog has become a major tourist attraction in the Philippines. While the other festivals mentioned have succumbed to the pressures of commercialization, Sinulog has maintained its strong religious roots.

The challenge is how to make Sinulog more interesting to international media, so as to attract more tourists, other than Filipino balikbayans. To one and all, Pit Senyor!

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 18, 2014.

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