Cebu’s Sinulog Festival and Fiesta Señor: What sets them apart?

CEBU. The image of the Holy Child used for the Solemn Foot Procession.
CEBU. The image of the Holy Child used for the Solemn Foot Procession. Photo by Wenilyn Sabalo

LOCALS and visitors look forward to the Sinulog Festival, hailed as the “grandest in the country,” held every January. Yet, amid the excitement, confusion persists, especially for the first-timers.

Is the Sinulog Festival just another name for Fiesta Señor?

“It is true that most people do not know the difference or that there are separate names being used. Devotees or even most of the people are more familiar with (the) Sinulog Festival than the Fiesta Señor,” said Fr. Genesis Labana, OSA, director of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño (BMSN) Media Center.

Labana pointed out that the only obvious difference between the two is the group of organizers. The Sinulog Festival is spearheaded by the Sinulog Foundation Inc., while the Fiesta Señor is led by the Augustinian priests.

The Sinulog refers to the cultural aspect of the devotion to the Holy Child, while the Fiesta Señor pertains to the religious activities of the BMSN led by the Augustinian friars.

CEBU. The image of the Holy Child used for the Solemn Foot Procession.
Where to see the original Sto. Niño de Cebu?

The Sinulog Festival

The Sinulog Festival covers various competitions in honor of the Holy Child.

These range from the grand parade and the ritual showdown participated by contingents nationwide.

It also features preview events, namely, the Sinulog sa Dakbayan and the Sinulog sa Lalawigan, scheduled on the weekend (January 13 and 14, respectively) at the Cebu City Sports Center, before the Sinulog Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown at the South Road Properties.

The Sinulog is considered a ritual dance (dance prayer) performed to pay homage to the miraculous image of Señor Sto. Niño.

An account published by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) and which was also published in SunStar on January 27, 2018 titled “Sinug to Sinulog: 3 versions of a dance” quoted choreographer Ceasar Nimor explaining the early practice of the dance prayer.

He said that even “before the arrival of Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in Sugbo (now Cebu Island) on April 7, 1521, the “sinug” was already danced by the natives “as supplication to deities and nature spirits called diwata.”

There are also three versions of the dance, including the one that originated in Barangay Mabolo.

A unique characteristic of this version is the altar of Sto. Niño, which is positioned in front of the performers symbolizing the act of offering to a higher being.

The second version is more popular among candle vendors at the church.

“This ‘votive sinug’ involves minimal footwork but punctuated with the graceful waving of the arms and the flicking of the wrist in rotation while holding the candles for lighting later,” Rafi wrote.

The third version is the one popular today, which borrows the kinampilan step of the combative version and the double close step of the prayer dance.

It also has a female lead dancer carrying the holy image.

The Fiesta Señor

The Fiesta Señor, whose essence dates back from the arrival of the image of the Sto. Niño in 1521, refers to the religious activities during the nine-day novena, the visperas, and the feast day held every third Sunday of January in honor of the Holy Child.

Among the anticipated religious activities of the Fiesta Señor are the foot processions, seaborne procession, reenactment of the first baptism and first wedding, and the “Hubo” mass.

The opening salvo for the Fiesta Señor 2024 is scheduled on January 11 after the holding of a Penitential Walk with Jesus (one of the foot processions).

During the opening salvo, the rector of the BMSN will install the Hermano and Hermana Mayorees, whose primary role is to help the Augustinian priests spread the devotion to the Holy Child.

Fr. John Ion Miranda, secretariat for safety, security, peace and order for the Fiesta Señor 2024, said the Sandiego couple, Val and Ofelia, has been chosen by the Augustinians to be this year’s Hermano and Hermana Mayorees.

“The San Diegos are very known not only for the Sinulog dance but for their devotion to Sto. Niño,” Miranda said.

Meanwhile, devotees also look forward to joining and witnessing the annual seaborne procession of the images of Sto. Niño and the Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The seaborne procession, held on the visperas and which follows a route encompassing the waters off the coasts of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, and Cebu cities, typically involves more than a hundred registered vessels.

This year, the official galleon or vessel that will carry the image of the Holy Child during the seaborne procession is the LCT Martin 8 of the Maayo Shipping Inc.

The celebration of the fiesta at the BMSN is extended to the Friday right after the feast day with the traditional “Hubo” mass as a culminating activity for the celebration in the BMSN.

The “Hubo” (which means undress) features the stripping off and the changing of the garment of the replica of the Holy Child from a grandiose one to a simpler one, marking the end of the celebration of the Fiesta Señor.

There may be confusion between the Sinulog Festival and Fiesta Señor, but a fact can be agreed on: without the Sto. Niño, neither of these two festivities would be possible. (WBS)


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