From the myriad ways it was celebrated, the Sinulog must’ve meant different things to different people. Hard to tell if the feast was Christian ritual with pagan undertones or pagan ritual with Christian undertones.
For dancers at the parade or in church, for those who attended the novena masses, lighted candles and had religious images blessed, it was an occasion to ask the Sto. Niño for a big favor or thank him for one. That is authentic. Yet asking and thanking God for a favor is hardly a core Christian act.
For big businesses along the South Road Properties (SRP) the Sinulog simply meant more sales and more profits. Never mind that small-time seasonal vendors lost their shirts and their pants because of high rental costs and lower sales as fewer people dared endure the heat at the sunbaked venue.
For Mayor Michael Rama, it was more of a political event. He again forced the Sinulog parade to be done at the SRP, somewhere at the intersection of his hardheadedness and hardheartedness. He probably thought otherwise, but this could cost him the mayor’s office in the next elections as people think the only way to bring the Sinulog back to its original convenient venue is to replace the mayor.
For some national politicians, the Sinulog was a platform from which to shamelessly make a pitch for votes in the coming election, in the not-too-subtle guise of greeting and wishing the fiesta crowd well.
For Church personalities, the Sinulog was one big-time retreat to their religious ritual castle, away from hardcore Christian action of helping the victims of the city government’s abuse of power. The feast cared little for small-time vendors who lost their already meager livelihood and for informal settlers in river easement zones whose houses have been demolished without compensation and relocation. I could not help but wonder how Christ would have looked at how his feast was celebrated, all pomp and ritual but empty of genuine Christian meaning.
It was clear that nobody bothered to ask what Christ wants highlighted on his feast day. Every year around this time, I write to suggest that Christ might want us to help children through the Sinulog. How? By raising a children’s fund with contributions from businesses, big and small, from stall fees, and from the collection basket that got passed around during all the novena masses. So much money was generated on the feast day itself and on days leading to it. But nobody knows where it is all going.
Wouldn’t it give a deeper and more Christian meaning to the feast if we made it a yearly fund-raising event for a children’s foundation? Wouldn’t this make us a truly Christian community that one fruit of the Sinulog is disadvantaged children are fed, clothed, treated and otherwise helped with their problems? Wouldn’t this put God at the center of our lives as Archbishop Jose Palma asked of devotees? We owe it to the God-child we say we love but who truly loves us even more.