Atienza: The opening skirmish


COULD the Sinulog Governing Board-Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) issue be the opening skirmish of an all-out clash for city control between Mayor Labella and Vice Mayor Rama?

It certainly has many of the elements for political intrigue. First of all, this is a clash between an incumbent mayor and an incumbent vice-mayor, both of who are qualified to run for mayor three years from now. Then, there is the money involved. Lots of money. From Cebu City’s multi-million-peso donation to SFI and millions more from big sponsors like Globe, Smart, Asia Brewery, San Miguel, and so forth. There’s a lot of political cache in it too–barangays asking for donations in order to participate in the dance competitions, dealing with large corporations, entertaining VIPs and political bigwigs, and coordinating with small to medium-size businesses requesting for permits to ply their wares during Sinulog.

The Sinulog is undoubtedly a gargantuan task and I salute Vice Mayor Rama for having handled the job so superbly thus far. But considering the enormity of the undertaking and the exponential growth that Sinulog has experienced over the years, Mayor Labella is right in wanting some sort of inter-agency check and balance on the event.

Which is why I think Labella signing a Sinulog related Executive Order on the eve of his departure for Bangkok, without first consulting his own vice-mayor who happens to be chair of the event, was incredibly “irresponsible,” and Rama, immediately calling for a press conference to express political dismay, was doing a bit of an “overkill.”

Unless, of course, it was truly the opening skirmish of a future political fall out to come.

I sincerely hope not!

Using the Sinulog as a political platform makes a mockery of the feast of our revered Senyor Santo Niño, and of the Sinulog, which is the most beloved religious festival in this community. While the Sinulog parade and carnival have become massive commercial successes, it has done so on the premise of our Savior’s love for His devotees. It behooves both the mayor and vice-mayor to think seriously about that.

Moreover, the dilemma on whether the SFI as a private foundation should continue to run the Sinulog must be addressed and properly resolved. Let the Cebuano community openly debate on which is the best approach to take for the benefit of our community.

The best argument for letting an inter-agency group run the festival is that the Sinulog has grown into a tourism event of colossal proportions. It requires managing huge sums of money, massive security preparations, and coordination with different groups, including the Catholic Church, the provincial cities and municipalities, and even the Historical Commission in order to assure the Cebuano authenticity of the festival. As Cebuanos, we need to preserve our own beat and our signature style of dressing.

I dread to see Sinulog deteriorate into some kind of Caribbean cum Samba cum French Quarter mardi gras mishmash!

On that note, let us study how other festivals in the world are managed! Think of the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, which attracts three million visitors a year; the Mardi Gras of New Orleans which accommodates 250,000 tourists a day for two weeks; and the more exotic Carnevale de Venezia of Italy. Are they managed by a foundation or by the city or by a combination of both? How is responsibility apportioned?

In honor of Senyor Santo Niño, let us give both Mayor Labella and Vice Mayor Rama a pass on this current SFI-Sinulog Governing Board conflict. Better yet, let’s ask them to look to the best carnivals of the world, and keep an open mind on the best move to make with regards to the Sinulog. For love of Cebu and the Santo Niño. Skirmishes notwithstanding.


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