Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama described both the cultural and religious aspects of the celebration as “miraculous.”
“We thought that it would be rainy but it was the opposite; it was so sunny,” said Rama.
The mayor also explained that fewer politicians than usual visited but that he expects them to turn up next year, an election year. Handling security for such VIPs is usually a nightmare, Rama added.
This year, the City Government and the Sinulog organizers had invited both President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay, but stayed in Manila for the papal visit and were spotted among the crowd during the mass Pope Francis celebrated in Rizal Park.
There was a bit of the Sinulog in the papal visit. A dancers’ contingent led by Val and Ofelia Sandiego was there to perform, given that the Pope’s concluding Mass in Manila was held on the feast of the Sto. Niño.
In Cebu, large crowds turned up for the dawn mass in the Basilica del Sto. Niño, as well as for the street-dancing parade that began at 9 a.m.
Senior Superintendent Conrado Capa, acting director of the Cebu City Police Office, said the crowd reached some 2.5 million people.
This was lower compared to last year’s estimate of 3.2 million people, but the police said this was a more accurate assessment.
At the command center in the Cebu City Sports Complex, where the contingents put on their best performances, Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak said he expected the crowd would be around 1.5 million people.
Senior Superintendent Capa, for his part, said the crowd swelled in the afternoon after the weather cooled down.
He arrived at his estimate by multiplying the length of the parade route, estimated at 6,000 meters, by the width of the road at 60 meters, and factoring in six persons per square meter.
The estimate does not include the number of people who celebrated on adjacent roads.
Overall, the festivities proceeded smoothly, the police said, but there were some incidents of pickpocketing. About 5,000 police, soldiers and civilian volunteers secured the crowd.
“Problema lang konti yung sa crowd control papunta dito sa grandstand. Malalaki rin kasi yung props ng mga participants na nakaharang sa flow ng crowd (There was a bit of a crowd control problem approaching the grandstand. Some contingents’ props were huge and blocked the flow of the crowd),” Capa told reporters after the grand finale, when asked what difficulties they had to overcome.
Amid the rush, at least nine children, including a one-year-old girl, were separated from their parents. Chief Inspector Wildemar Tiu, head of CCPO’s Police Station 2, said the baby girl was turned over to a policeman by her mother.
“Wala na nakaagwanta ang mama kay hapit na makuyapi. Mao to gihatag nalang sa police (The mother was about to faint, so she handed her child to a policeman, for him to watch over her),” he said in a separate interview.
Mayor Rama also observed some crowd control issues in Fuente Osmeña area and on P. Del Rosario St., where the largest groups were seen.
Rama also announced there will be no classes today, January 19, in both public elementary and secondary schools in Cebu City. He encouraged private schools to do the same.
Performers and tourists who plan to leave Cebu today can look forward to sunny weather.
Visayas Director Oscar Tabada of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said that based on their radar, he expects the weather today to be fair, with only light rains in the afternoon.
Amang, which dumped rain over Tacloban last Thursday and in Manila on Sunday, weakened to a tropical depression and was expected to hover some 65 kilometers east-northeast of Tuguegarao City Monday night. (RVC/DSM/EOB/Sun.Star Cebu)