Cabaero: Balloon ban, signal jam

THE streaming of Sinulog activities live over the internet is the popular way for those outside of Cebu to take part in the celebration, albeit in a virtual manner.

But live streaming became problematic last year when telecommunications firms heeded calls of government security officers for them to cut mobile phone service to prevent an explosive device from being triggered remotely. The celebration last year indeed turned out to be terror-free, thanks to the Señor Sto. Niño.

So far, no such concern has been aired by government or local officials except for the report of a bomb threat in Cebu City. No details were released on that threat. In turn, no advice to the public has been given about the possible suspension of mobile phone service.

Public safety, without a doubt, outweighs the benefit of watching the Sinulog abroad when deciding on safety measures. Let’s hope no one forces government’s hand into cutting connections as the absence of live streaming takes away the fun for those outside Cebu.

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The ban on alcohol and fireworks during the Sinulog is understandable and not new. But balloons are now being placed in the same category as the two items to be prohibited.

Alcohol and fireworks can harm persons, balloons that end up in the sea can endanger marine life and indirectly humans. Banned are street parties and the sale of alcohol within specific boundaries in the city, indiscriminate use of firecrackers, and the selling or releasing of balloons in any Sinulog activity.

Organizers of the 453rd Fiesta Señor celebration agreed on something new this year, the total ban on balloons inside the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. There was no explanation given except that organizers called on devotees to focus on the religious aspect of the Sinulog.

Past Sinulog celebrations saw devotees release balloons with their petitions as their way of sending prayers to the Sto. Niño. The releasing of balloons is now discouraged because when these deflate, some of them end up in sea, threatening the life of marine animals.

There’s also the startling sound of a balloon bursting and the scare it may cause in a sea of devotees.

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The SunStar website at www.sunstar.com.ph pioneered the live streaming of Sinulog activities since 2009.

This year, it will continue to report on the festival through live streaming, social media and website updates, photo and video contributions from the public and real-time interviews with people on the streets.

The streaming may be viewed at www.sunstar.com.ph and on the YouTube and Facebook accounts of SunStar Philippines. Aired live are the novena masses, processions and the grand parade next Sunday.

SunStar partners for this coverage are PLDT, Smart Communications, Needs and Solutions and the Sinulog Foundation.

If government orders providers to jam phone signals, video replays will be available to viewers.
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