CLOSE to 250,000 local and foreign visitors are expected to arrive in Cebu in the next two weeks to join the Sinulog festival.

With this, the Department of Tourism (DOT) Central Visayas assured that the province remains safe despite the United Kingdom’s issuance of a travel advisory discouraging its nationals from traveling to southern Cebu.

In a forum last Tuesday, Jan. 8, GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. Terminal 1 operations head Neneth Castillon, said that last year, they recorded around 223,000 tourist arrivals for Sinulog.

“For 2019, we are projecting a four-percent increase in domestic and international arrivals. We expect more because of the participation of a contingent from Wonju, South Korea in the grand parade (on Sunday, Jan. 20),” she said.

With the Mactan-Cebu International Airport having seven connecting flights to South Korea daily, Castillano said it is not a surprise that South Koreans remain the top tourists in the province.

“This is why we’re expecting an influx of travelers. We’re ready and we’re preparing a warm welcome for both our local and foreign visitors,” she said.

The airport management is also working closely with the DOT, especially on the Balik Cebu program on Thursday, Jan. 17.

The Balik Cebu program aims to offer tourists and returnees an “unparalleled Cebu experience.”

Judy Gabato, DOT 7 chief tourism operations officer, said they are closely coordinating with the police to keep the festival safe and peaceful.

“We’re actively coordinating, based on our Central Visayas situation. Our local and national law enforcement agencies are fully capable of the updates of our travelers’ safety concerns. We’re very happy with the presentation of our authorities last Monday (Jan. 7) that it’s very clear, there are no recent issues when it comes to terrorism in Central Visayas, specifically in southern Cebu. There are also no cancellations. In fact, there are a lot of inquiries for southern Cebu. This is really positive for us. We’re still monitoring, it doesn’t mean we’re complacent,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) marketing and promotions head Stephanie Villarico said they will start selling tickets for the grand parade on Thursday, Jan. 10.

Tickets ranging from P1,000 to P3,000 are available at the SFI office at the Cebu City Sports Center, the concierge desk at Robinsons Galleria and at the Balik Cebu booth in Ayala Center Cebu.

Online purchase is also available for spectators who can’t physically come to the ticketing booths.

Green and pink tickets will still cost P1,000; yellow tickets, P1,200; blue tickets, P2,500; and red tickets at P3,000.

Villarico said they have prepared around 7,000 tickets for the event.

“We’re pretty okay in terms of preparations. We have not actively invited anyone, except for the President (Rodrigo Duterte). Any politician is welcome to join the festival, but they will not be given speaking parts. Should he grace our invitation, only the President will be given a chance to speak,” she added.

Meanwhile, bigger performances will highlight the Sinulog 2019 grand parade on Jan. 20.

There will be 24 dancing contingents that will compete and there will be five guest performers.

Guest contingents that will perform during the grand parade will include the 12-time grand champion and crowd favorite Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe of Tangub City, Misamis Occidental.

Councilor Dave Tumulak said the contingents will level up their performance during the grand parade based on the costumes and props that each of them has prepared.

“We can expect grander performances from the guest performers and dancing contingents, especially that we give more percentage on the choreography of their presentation and, of course, it will center on their faith in the Sto. Niño as part of the religious aspect of the performance,” Tumulak said.

Tumulak said Tangub City Mayor Philip Tan wrote him to inform the City about their intention to perform during the grand parade.

It is already the second time that Tangub is not joining the Sinulog grand parade as official contingent.

“They will just dance as an offering to Sto. Niño,” Tumulak said.

The Sinanduloy has decided to take a three-year hiatus from joining the grand parade competition since last year and just participate as guest performers.

This year, they will perform inside the Cebu City Sports Center before the grand finale of Sinulog 2019.

Since joining the Sinulog grand parade 20 years ago, the Sinanduloy has won 12 ritual showdowns in the Sinulog-based category, making a name for itself and a place in the hearts of spectators. (RVC, RTF)