CEBU CITY -- About 3.5 million persons turned up to watch the Sinulog grand parade on Sunday (January 19, 2014), but police and City Hall organizers reported no major hitches.
“The whole thing was awesome, magnificent and miraculous,” said Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
Overcast skies and a steady breeze cooled dancers who spent up to 10 hours on the streets, but the rains that forecasters had warned about never fell.
After the official parade closed, however, some motorists called for better control over street parties, particularly those on Juana Osmeña and Gen. Maxilom Aves., to decongest traffic and prevent brawls.
A large crowd also turned up for the religious celebration Sunday morning, which Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma saw as a sign of faith despite the calamities that hit the region in late 2013.
Lawyer Rafael Yap, executive director of the City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) office, told Sun.Star Cebu on Twitter around midnight that most of Gen. Maxilom Ave. and D. Jakosalem St. remained closed to vehicles. So did parts of Osmeña Blvd. near Fuente Osmeña rotunda.
“We’re also limiting vehicle access from Redemptorist (Church) to Juana Osmeña,” he tweeted in response to a comment by lawyer Pablo John Garcia. Yap said that police units were standing by on Juana Osmeña “to prevent any untoward incidents.”
Yap also hinted, however, that Citom was finding it challenging to deal with the post-parade traffic. “Lord, let it rain in Mango,” he tweeted. Mango Avenue is the older and more popular name for Gen. Maxilom Ave., which has a strip of bars and clubs that usually attract large weeekend crowds.
But in an interview, Mayor Rama said he was satisfied with the preparations and the handling of the crowds.
“You cannot demand for more when so many things had happened in the country,” he said.
He found the police estimate — at 3.5 million, about half a million persons fewer than last year’s crowd — too conservative.
“There was a deluge of people,” Rama said, after checking the six-kilometer carousel parade route.
Fewer politicians than usual showed up for the parade. Among them was Vice President Jejomar Binay, who viewed some of the performances from the grandstand of the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC).
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon na nakasama ko kayo sa inyong selebrasyon (I thank God for allowing me to join your celebration). My family joins me in greeting you ‘Pit Señor’,” Binay said.
Some first-time local and foreign tourists also enjoyed the Sinulog.
Patty Blomberg came all the way from Seattle, Washington to join the festivities.
“The festival was amazing and the costumes of the contingents were colorful. I was really entertained by the great performances,” Blomberg told Sun.Star Cebu.
If there’s one thing Regional Police Director Danilo Constantino wants to improve, it would be putting up more signs for the entry and exit points at the Cebu City Sports Center.
“Kasi iisa lang yung daanan at labasan. Para malaman ng mga tao in case baka may unexpected incidents na mangyari (There’s only one way in or out. People need to know where to go in case unexpected incidents happen),” he said.
One possible problem that organizers had considered was managing the crowd in case of an aftershock, a common occurrence immediately after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu last Oct. 15.
After all the festivities, classes in Cebu City will resume today (January 20), except in schools that participated in the grand parade and those being used as temporary quarters of the out-of-town contingents.
Rama had tasked Department of Education (DepEd) to decide on the matter.
Dr. Rhea Mar Angtud of DepEd Cebu City said they decided to resume the classes immediately, since they have to meet the number of school days their office had set.
DepEd had cancelled classes for two weeks after the earthquake and for more days after typhoon Yolanda last Nov. 8.
Director Constantino said the calamities may have been among the reasons yesterday’s
crowd was smaller than last year’s. He said that what people had otherwise planned to spend on the trip to Cebu, they probably decided to save instead.
At 35, the number of dancing contingents was also lower compared to last year’s Sinulog.
Overall, the grand parade had 130 participants. Aside from the dancing contingents, there were 41 floats, 31 higante entries and 22 puppeteers.
It was generally peaceful, Constantino added.
“Wala namang kaguluhan. Nag-eenjoy ang mga tao (There was no trouble and the people enjoyed themselves,” he said, adding that tight security preparations also helped.
The police deployed at least 2,000 operatives for the festivities.
Before the grand parade, at least 10,000 people gathered for the pontifical mass held Sunday at the Basilica Minore Del Sto. Niño.
According to the initial police assessment, at least 17 pickpocket incidents were recorded on Sunday.
Chief Insp. Romeo Santander, head of Cebu City Police Office’s intelligence branch, said a man was also arrested after he attempted to rob a passenger jeepney in Barangay Mambaling.
The police found eight children who were separated from their parents on the parade route.