THREATS to arrest drunk revelers in Sinulog after-parties failed to stop these parties from filling two of Cebu City’s major streets last night.
Reports of a stampede near the corner of Gen. Maxilom Ave. and Juana Osmeña Ext., as well as traffic gridlocks in Mambaling and streets near Osmeña Blvd. and Gen. Maxilom Ave. marred an otherwise successful event. Revelers filled the latter two roads, the longest stretches of the parade route, long after the parade ended.
As of 11 p.m., the authorities were still trying to confirm how many suffered injuries and whether or not these were serious. But social media posts zeroed in on an area near a bookstore on Juana Osmeña, where an unconfirmed number fainted because of the congestion. One witness described it as “a life and death situation.”
The parade itself, which lasted about 12 hours, was “the best, so far,” organizers said.
Crowd control was the one area that needed improvements, said suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
“They passed, but we need to keep improving,” Rama said.
Days before the grand parade, Rama, as chairman of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), ordered that all obstructions on the parade route be removed.
Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella formed a group that inspected the carousel route from time to time yesterday, to make sure those instructions were followed.
Before complaints about the post-parade traffic and parties surfaced, SFI Executive Director Ricky Ballesteros said he found the flow of the parade “very smooth and organized”, except for those huge floats.
Overall, Ballesteros said he was satisfied. He observed that while the parade started on time, at 9 a.m., there were still delays when contingents ran into trouble trying to wheel large props into the Cebu City Sports Center.
“It’s overwhelming, contingents prepare grander props every year,” he added.
The crowd that witnessed the Sinulog grand parade swelled to some 3.2 million persons as of 6 p.m., according to the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7.
That figure overshadowed the estimated 2.5 million revelers who joined in the festivities last year.
Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, the PRO 7 director, said that the estimate was based on observations of nine sector commanders and the assumption of four persons for every square meter of the parade route and surrounding streets.
“Isinama natin ang mga tao sa labas kahit wala sila sa Sinulog grand parade route kasi kasali pa rin sila sa mga spectators sa Sinulog fiesta (We included the people outside the Sinulog grand parade route because they are still spectators),” said Gaerlan.
In a briefing about six hours before the parade ended, he said that there was no major security problem, but that some petty crimes like pickpocketing were reported.
“I would say the celebration of Sinulog 2016 is very peaceful and orderly,” he said. “The revelers were very orderly. They listened to the commands of the security marshals.”
Since there were Sinulog parties organized last night by some business establishments, Mayor Rama asked the police to continue guarding several places after the parade ended past 9 p.m.
He also advised the traffic group not to reopen Osmeña Blvd. for as long as there were parties.
On Gen. Maxilom Ave., however, some revelers pounded on the windows and hoods of vehicles that tried to make their way through the crowd.1
“Nganong diri man sad mo nangagi? Kahibawong dasok gyud ni diri basta Sinulog sa gabii (Why did you pass here? You know this road gets jampacked every Sinulog)!” one of the men drumming on a taxi cab shouted at the driver.
An ambulance on Gen. Maxilom Ave. in Cebu City past 9 last night, but made slow progress as it tried to reach those injured.
Swat team sent
“Nganong ila man ning gi-open? Dili man ni ingon ani sa una, mga tawo ra man to’y magbinanggaay (Why did they open this street to vehicles? This is unlike before, when only people would fill the streets),” said Mayliza Alipio, 20.
A fireworks display helped ease the tension, as the revelers’ attention shifted to the sky. They clapped, screamed and jumped, chanting in chorus.
Then a Kaoshiung bus arrived on Gen. Maxilom Ave. at 9:30 p.m., followed by a team from the Special Weapons and Tactics of the Cebu City Police Office.
The police tried to ease the tension by standing against the vehicles, especially motorcycles and bicycles, to protect these from the crowd.
As of 10 last night, the first five Kaohsiung buses were still empty. These would serve as temporary holding centers for those caught violating the city ordinance against drunkenness in public.
PO2 Jocelyn Rabaca of the CCPO told Sun.Star Cebu the buses would be guarded by the police and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel.
In the midst of the crowd, some men raised cartolina signs offering free hugs.