WITH her reign about to end, Sinulog Festival Queen 2018 Shaila Mae Rebortera wants her successor to enjoy the journey as she did.

“It’s a bit sad, but also happy because someone else will be able to experience the same experience that I’ve had. One thing I’ve learned is that you could either win or lose, but there are lessons. I only wish the Festival Queen 2019 to be able to enjoy her reign and to fulfill her duties and responsibilities,” she said during the presentation of Sinulog Festival Queen 2019 candidates at the SM Seaside City Cebu on Jan. 16, Wednesday.

Sinulog Festival Queen production manager Marti Ybañez said not everyone has what it takes to be a Sinulog festival queen.

“Basically, the Sinulog Festival Queen is the best lead dancer among the contingents. She has to be graceful aside from having a beautiful face and figure, and is also expected to fulfill her role as the ambassadress of the Sinulog festival,” Ybañez explained. The Sinulog festival queen will also promote the festival on international and local tours.

The search for the Sinulog Festival Queen is an annual competition among the female lead dancers of Sinulog contingents and is usually held every Friday before the Sinulog grand parade and Sinulog ritual showdown on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the 16 candidates proved they had grace under pressure during the question and answer portion with the media.

Ciairha Monsanto, 22, festival queen of Tribu Malipayon, justified the double pronged nature of Sinulog as both a cultural and spiritual activity.

“Sinulog Festival is both cultural and spiritual. Cultural because we have steps, we have routines, costumes and props, and designs that have been passed on from a generation. Spiritual in the aspect that, ever since, we have prayed the nine-day novena masses for Señor Sto. Niño,” she said.

Phoebe Godinez, 19, festival queen of Talisay City Division, emphasized the importance of placing the child Jesus at the center of the Sinulog celebration.

“Sto. Niño is the highlight of the event. That Sto. Niño is someone we should not forget in the course of our lives, even with the pain that we go through as dancers of the street or dancers on stage,” she said.

Sapphire Garton, 17, of Tribu Kandaya of Daanbantayan said she is dedicating her efforts to the main celebrant of this season, the child Jesus.

“It’s very important to be mentally prepared because it’s tiring. But I’m sure that when I’m in front of all those people, being tired is not an option because it is all about our devotion to Señor Sto. Niño.”