IT can mean many things, including getting caught in the middle of a milling, enthusiastic, happy, careless crowd. A cab driver told me Fuente Osmeña was finally emptied of people at 3 on Monday morning.

There will always be Sinulog memories for all of us in this city.

As employees of the defunct Dept. of Public Information some years back, many of us in the office over 30 years ago were involved in small ways in the committees which helped realize the first festival parade in 1981.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

With a couple of office mates at DPI, we walked down the road to look at dancers close, an office mate taking pictures of the passing parade for the write-ups after. The roadsides weren’t as full as we now see but the fête in total was a crowd never yet seen in the city during any previous celebratory events.

From the roadsides, we went back to the office, then up to the top floor of the DBP building and from the roof garden, we looked down to the parade below. The crowd filled up spaces on the sides of former Juan Luna St., up to the crossing not far from there, touching Colon St. People and more people were mesmerized by the dancing paraders.

Before this, the feast of the Sto. Niño was a comparatively quiet affair, the feast on this day celebrated in the Sto. Niño Church, now called Basilica del Sto. Niño where, facing the altar, imploring candle vendors danced the prayerful sinulog beat. The procession didn’t go very far and the fireworks at the end of the festivity were held only in the church yard itself, according to Grandma.

Sinulog ‘81 made a difference. A day after the parade, there were the subsequent effects—the plants on the middle of the road on Osmeña Blvd. were stepped on, the city was dirty with festive debris but everybody was happy about it.

The parade was first actually an idea realized by David Odilao, Jr., director of the sports and youth agency in government. He put together students from different local schools in 1980 for a small street dance where young people dressed up in traditional costumes dancing to the beat of drums. It was his group’s idea to have the steps of the traditional prayer dance of the candle vendors enhanced. It was a short parade but it gave Mayor Florentino Solon an idea of a dance parade for the city to celebrate in a bigger way the feast of the Señor Sto. Niño.

The Cebu City historical committee was led by then Kagawad Jesus Garcia, Jr. with the help of enthusiastic organizers like Juan Aquino, Manuel Satorre, Jr., Xavier Ledesma, Robert Grimalt and Antonio Aseniero. Odilao turned over the Sinulog project to the committee and it became a religious and historical performance.

Thus, Sinulog’81 happened.

Some 30 years after, somebody asks, “Nag-Sinulog ka?”

A Cebuano has experienced Sinulog from many aspects—as a dancer in the parade, an audience at the bleachers or by the roadside, a host to Balikbayans, personal tour guide for visitors, and as part of the crowd.

When it’s over and one talks about it, it’s all about the number of people being as fascinating an aspect as the skill and grace of the street dancers, or 8 million people in all last Sunday, according to the news.

Take Ronila’s memory of it this year.

When the Sinulog last Sunday started to move around the city, she had just arrived in Fuente Osmeña from a Sunday work duty when she started to go up the skywalk to cross the street from the Robinson Place side of Fuente Osmeña. But while she was at the bottom of the stairs leading to the skywalk, the crowd tightened. She couldn’t get out, nobody gave way. Minutes passed, she was tired from standing there but she couldn’t move. It was difficult to make even a small turn of the body to any direction. People to her side stepped on her feet, how long could she bear it? The crowd in front of her pulled back while the one behind her pushed forward. She was pulled and pushed into a space which wasn’t there.

But it was just one of Ronila’s unforgettable Sinulog memories.

(ecuizon@gmail.com)