HUNDREDS of Cebuanos returning to Cebu for the Sinulog celebration received a grand welcome at the Mactan Cebu International Airport yesterday.
Sinulog dancers performed while rondalla music played as the balikbayans arrived at the airport, carrying bags and boxes.
The first batch arrived past 9 a.m. on board a Philippine Airlines flight.
Larry Arcenal, a 62-year-old retired industrial company machine operator in Los Angeles, said he was surprised by the welcome.
He arrived with his wife, Fay, a retired nurse who taught for 20 years in Cebu before moving to Los Angeles in 1989. They lived in Barangay Banawa, Cebu City before migrating to the United States.
They prayed hard to the Sto. Niño for yesterday’s homecoming, Fay said. “It’s a blessing for us to be here today,” she said.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Cebu Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale welcomed them at the airport.
The Cebu City Tourism Commission, in partnership with the private sector and other agencies, has organized a grand welcome for returning Cebuanos for 12 years.
The Balik-Cebu program was launched to help balikbayans enjoy their stay in Cebu.
It is sponsored by Ayala Center Cebu and Cebu Holdings Inc. in partnership with the Cebu City Tourism Commission, Department of Tourism, Sinulog Foundation Inc. and some volunteers from the private sector.
Balik-Cebu program chair Tetta Baad said not all Cebuanos returned in groups. “Some balikbayans made independent travel arrangements,” she said.
Baad said they are expecting around 600 balikbayans to attend the Balik-Cebu welcome party at The Terraces of the Ayala Center Cebu tonight.
They have set up a booth at the mall where balikbayans can get tickets for some Sinulog events, including passes for the grand parade.
Mary Ann Dimabayao, officer-in-charge of the MCIA Public Affairs Office, said more Cebuanos are returning for the Sinulog celebration every year. The last batch of balikbayans will arrive on Friday, she said.