Editorial: Restoring meaning in ritual

BEYOND POMP. Cebuanos must remember the roots that connect the Fiesta of the Señor Sto. Niño and the Sinulog Festival so that the spirituality and communalism are not lost in the pageantry and spectacle.  (SunStar file)
BEYOND POMP. Cebuanos must remember the roots that connect the Fiesta of the Señor Sto. Niño and the Sinulog Festival so that the spirituality and communalism are not lost in the pageantry and spectacle. (SunStar file)(SunStar file)

The move of the Cebu City Government to ban street parties during the Sinulog weekend is a triumph of prudence and sobriety over mania and commercialism.

In the past, street parties create disruptions that aggrieve and even endanger citizens and other visitors whose notions of celebrating the feast of the Sto. Niño are not equated with inebriation, rowdiness, and insensitivity.

It is to be fervently hoped that the Mandaue City Government will be able to regulate the street parties that may be held by those seeking the nearest alternative after Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama announced the ban on street parties and the public drinking of liquor in Cebu City on Jan. 21, 2024, the date of the Sinulog Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown.

According to Honey I. Cotejo’s Jan. 13 report in SunStar Cebu, the Mandaue City Government requires a business establishment to secure a special permit if it will hold a street party, which may entail using public spaces such as car parks to extend the venue beyond its area of operation.

An official of the Mandaue City Government said that securing a special permit will ensure the posting of barangay “tanod” (civilian volunteers) and other personnel to help the security of the bar or entertainment establishment maintain peace and order.

Regulating street parties is also not just about restraining noise and disruptive behavior but also managing solid waste disposal. Even before dawn breaks after the fiesta, street cleaners face the daunting challenge of clearing the streets and other public spaces of gargantuan waste left by the Sinulog crowds.

Broken liquor bottles discarded on the streets pose hazards to street cleaners and citizens who report to work the day after festivities.

These behaviors of boorishness and insensitivity are a travesty of the spirituality and communalism of the Sinulog, whose roots lie in an enduring ritual of venerating through good works the image of the “Batang Balaan (Holy Infant)” whose arrival and later discovery in the islands are turning points in Filipinos’ Christianization.

In the early years of the Sinulog, there was a street trend of wiping soot or black paint on the faces of revelers, usually women and girls. Some floats sported participants who were scantily dressed and acting immodestly.

These acts were not continued in the face of citizens protesting and resisting these acts. Although there is a clear distinction between the Catholic celebration of the Fiesta honoring the Sto. Niño de Cebu and the secular Sinulog Festival, these two events have their roots in the Sto. Niño de Cebu.

Events and activities that disrespect the faith of any Filipino have no place in the Fiesta of Sto. Niño and the Sinulog Festival.

Thus, it is imperative that the Sinulog Foundation Inc. reviews its process of screening participants in the Sinulog sa Sugbo parade after the Cebu Technological University’s (CTU) costumes and performance during the Jan. 12 launching parade angered the Moro community with its misrepresentation of their religion and culture.

The CTU issued a public statement of apology for their faux pas on Jan. 13. In an interview with the Rappler news team, Dr. Ijodin Saripada Mamacol, executive director of the Cebu City Office of the Muslim Affairs and Indigenous Cultural Communities, regretted that the CTU performance betrayed a lack of research in the history and culture of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Filipinos need to be not just familiar with but also educated about our history and culture. We recognize our shared heritage but must also be sensitive to diversity.

Rituals are not just repeated without understanding their meaning. More important than mounting pageantry or capitalizing to turn a communal event into a commercial spectacle is sustaining the spirit of community and inclusion that is the best tribute given to a rite venerating an icon of spirituality and communion.

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