Tell it to SunStar: Sinulog ‘sa bata’

SINULOG, I am reminded, is derived from the word ‘sulog’ meaning current. Raised by a religious woman, I was told that the Sinulog only had something to do with the Infant Niño and not with water, or its undercurrents. It was my husband who explained to me again why the dance is always forwards and backwards like the waves. Sinulog would thus mean carried by the current, or as one may have it, dancing with the wave.

Pregnancy taught me that water, rhythms, and current have everything to do with the child. I am 12 weeks pregnant and experiencing for the first time the power of the human body. My doctor and I see through moving fluids over TVS or transvaginal sonogram how the womb can bring, aside from the embryo, other new organs –an amniotic sac, a corpus luteum, a developing placenta- needed to sustain what first appears to be a motionless speck.

At 38 years old, my first pregnancy is classified as high-risk. I seem to be a candidate for pre-eclampsia, diabetes and yes, even miscarriage. Just perhaps as the waves that led Spanish ships to the shores of Cebu brought with them both the faith and colonialism, my own undercurrents with pregnancy bring with them both the beautiful and dangerous.

Praying to the Santo Niño, especially around this time of the Feast, is a natural to-do for me. As a child, my mom made sure to bring me along to the Patron of Children. As an adult, I go there because in the sea of prayer, I often find myself helpless and slowly picking up faith. I find myself drowning with the cries of the crowd, and raising my arms in song, I begin to acknowledge my humanity.

My husband and I have been TTC (trying to conceive) for a few years now. It is no secret that we’ve petitioned the Santo Niño for a child. My OB-Gyn warned me that “God’s time” for us to bear an offspring might not be available five years down the road. She had asked me to consult a fertility expert. Well-meaning family and friends have also referred us to fertility centers in Cebu and Manila.

In mid-2017, we saw a specialist, who explained to us the numerous (costly) processes and tests to undergo. My husband and I, unconvinced with the procedure, decided to put it off for yet another year. So a little more than a month ago, it surprised us when I tested positive on a u-stick. We rejoiced.

This year on bed rest, Sinulog takes me to a different celebration: one that is bodily, and at the same time, completely spiritual –calling me to a leap of faith unto the deep uncertainties of how life unfolds. With each worded plea to shape me to be the bearer of new life, is the unspoken prayer to un-shape me, But always with each prayer is the greater need to just trust.

Outside while the drums beat and the streets come alive, I listen to the new rhythms of the body: sometimes of pain, round ligament shifts, making, resizing, or re-arranging of the organs maybe–and sometimes, I sleep soundly at the rhythm of delight: the picture of this tiny fetus on the ultrasound, kicking, waving whatever extremities it has, as if to say “I’m here, I’m here.”

My initial thought that the Sinulog always has something to do with the infant remains. On pregnancy bedrest, my own translation of Sinulog is, “the Child carries me.”--Margaret Labella-Alejandro
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