EVERY January, Cebu transforms for the influx of devotees and tourists dedicated and avid in observing the feast of the Sto. Niño and the Sinulog, a festival initiated in 1980.

Piety and popularity coalesce to attract residents and transients streaming into Cebu City, particularly the downtown area, site of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu, parish of the 500-year-old relic that draws like a magnet the petitioners for miracles and seekers of cultural and historical lore.

Following the recent two years of suspension of face-to-face activities at the height of the coronavirus disease pandemic, authorities anticipate a resurgence of fervor from pilgrims and tourists.

Seemingly, one of the steps to decongest the downtown area is the movement of the venue for the Sinulog festivities to the South Road Properties (SRP).

Anticipating that the change of festival venue will not significantly whittle the crowds in the downtown area, the authorities will again close certain access to Cebu City to vehicles from 6 a.m. on Jan. 15 to 6 a.m. on Jan. 16.

On Jan. 8, Ivan Rey R. Tan of SunStar Cebu reported that the portion of Osmeña Blvd. from Fuente Osmeña to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu will be closed to vehicular traffic.

Longtime participants of the novena masses and other rites held for the feast of the Sto. Niño know the rerouting of vehicle traffic during the fiesta stretches out the inconveniences of yearend bottlenecks.

Yet, with early traffic advisories, Cebu residents and visitors make the necessary adjustments, particularly in planning trips around Cebu City and walking around the downtown area where hourly novena masses at the Basilica ensure that there is a steady ebb and flow of people around the perimeters of the Basilica, the Magellan’s Cross, and the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral during the festivities.

The discipline and order underlining these January adjustments in traffic create a vibrant but harmonious atmosphere in the downtown area that, historically, culturally, and religiously, is at the core of the Cebuano.

For a precious interregnum, the din, pollution and toxicity of daily traffic lifts from certain streets, leaving some areas open and hospitable to a walking exploration of the downtown sites that witnessed the planting of a wooden cross to mark the natives’ acceptance of the Roman Catholic faith (the kiosk of the Magellan’s Cross) or represents the ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Cebu (the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, exemplar of baroque architecture).

Whether one is a resident or a tourist, walking around an area invites different perspectives and a mindset that is more sensitive to observing up close and relating with the people, structures, and objects surrounding a person who is not enclosed in a vehicle and too rushed, detached from, or distracted by the world.

Will closing a portion of downtown Cebu to all but vehicular traffic even beyond the Sinulog week reinvigorate downtown economic activities, especially of social entrepreneurs, micro-entrepreneurs, artisans, cooperatives and local crafts workers?

In 2011, a Road Revolution was organized by the nongovernment organization Law of Nature and the Cebu City Government to keep Osmeña Blvd. closed to motorized vehicles during an alternative celebration of Independence Day.

For 16 hours, the main thoroughfare underwent not just a physical makeover but a transformation in energy and spirit, with families, youths and the elderly using the thoroughfare to walk, run, bike, skateboard and push strollers.

That road-sharing social experiment has yet to be repeated. These times, though, reawaken the desire to be more conscious of and daring in taking alternatives that do not harm the environment, stimulate local sustainable growth and preserve a deep awareness of and appreciation of our shared past and heritage.