Exploring Juana’s significance in Sinulog festival through art

Exploring Juana’s significance in Sinulog festival through art

One doesn't need to be a history buff to recognize that the Sinulog Queen competitions, eagerly awaited by Cebuanos for their magnificence and cultural importance, draw inspiration from Queen Juana in 1521.

Truly, it's a visual spectacle to behold as contestants don their elaborate, opulent gowns, flowing gracefully as they execute the intricate backward-forward steps during Sinulog's prayer-ritual. This event profoundly symbolizes the Cebuanos' dual commitment to both fashion and their devotion to the Holy Child Jesus, Sto. Niño.

This is precisely what captured the interest of artist Steven Mari Luspo, prompting him to delve into the narrative of Queen Juana through his visual art.

The outcome of his artistic storytelling was so captivating that it gained widespread attention on the internet and was quickly embraced by advertising agencies.

“This artwork was initially created for the Sinulog event for Mactan-Cebu International Airport back in 2019. It was only Queen Juana I submitted for them but I began exploring the concept further by adding details and scenery,”

said Steven in a digital interview.  

What began in 2019 continues to resonate even today, gaining applause for its fun and joyous portrayal of Sinulog – two words that encapsulate the essence of the grand celebration each Sinulog season.

“When I posted this artwork on social media, I didn’t expect any particular reaction and emotion from the viewers. However, when I reposted it on Twitter, it unexpectedly gained a lot of attention. I received thousands of shares. With people captioning it with expressions like ‘I MISS SINULOG!’ ‘I MISS CEBU!’ and ‘PIT SENYOR!’. I realized my artworks evoked a sense of nostalgia and festivity among them,” Steven recounts.

And this is what matters most for the artist, that when people view his Queen Juana art, they find strength in their faith no matter the distance and continue to evoke the feeling of excitement each time the Sinulog festival comes up.

It's quite fascinating that Queen Juana is rarely mentioned in Cebuano discussions about Sinulog. Steven Luspo’s art reminds devotees of the pivotal role that Queen Juana played. Through symbolism, Steven cleverly draws parallels between the faith of Cebuanos and Queen Juana to the Holy Image.

His piece comprises three distinct elements: first, Queen Juana cradling Sr. Sto Nino, symbolizing profound devotion; second, a girl holding two candles, representing the cherished tradition among Cebuanos and devotees; and third, the depiction of a church and its surrounding scenery, capturing the essence of festivity, culture, and simplicity.

“I think it's the 'wave' hand movement. I always notice it in every Sinulog Street dance and even in the Sto. Nino church, especially when Queen Juana is carrying Sto. Nino. That's why in my artwork, Queen Juana is either waving or praising,”

said Steven.

This hand gesture holds a special significance for the artist, never failing to evoke goosebumps. He believes that Queen Juana's wave serves as a unique way to either greet or bid farewell to Sr. Sto Niño.

“Queen Juana, in my personal opinion, is the perfect representation of Sinulog in Cebu. She stands as a symbol of Sinulog and Cebu itself!” added Steven.

His visual art is centered around vibrancy and sunshine, with orange and yellow being among his favorite colors. 

“Every year, I tried to push boundaries and challenge my capabilities. Until I'm satisfied but still always hungry for more progress in the future. On the other hand, I'm very grateful that it gained a lot of recognition. They also express their admiration about the artwork,” said Steven.

Despite being born in Bohol, Steven's art and devotion eloquently capture the transcendent love of Sr. Sto Niño to bestow blessings upon the people, Cebuanos or not.

Steven himself saw the abundance he received from this art with people recognizing his style and knowing already that he was the artist behind. To him, Sinulog has extra gifts for everyone who show their devotion to the holy child Jesus.

When people are asked what comes to mind in connection with Sinulog, the responses often revolve around the vibrant street parties, the religious procession, or rightfully so, the veneration of the Holy Child Jesus. 

It can be recalled that the story of the Santo Niño de Cebu traces back to the 1521 baptism of Cebu chieftain Datu Humabon, Queen Juana and 800 of their subjects by the chaplain of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition, Pedro de Valderrama. The  image was then gifted to Queen Juana by Antonio Pigafetta. In honor of Queen Juana's acceptance of Sr. Sto Nino, the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), organized an event that pays tribute to this significant historical moment. 

Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) had to sit down in many meetings with anthropologists, historians and experts that led to discovery that Queen Juana had to beg for the Sto. Niño statue and danced joyfully upon receiving it.

“We found out that apparently, the Sto. Niño wasn’t readily given to Hara Humamay, who later became Queen Juana. She had to beg for it. The moment she set sight on the statue of the Holy Child, she really felt the love for the miraculous child,”

Vince Escario, founding chairman of the Search for the Sinulog Festival Queen said.

“It took three days of begging before the statue was given to her. And out of sheer joy and grateful love, she was said to cradle the statue of the Holy Child and dance around the village of Zubu, now Cebu,” he added. 

The Sinulog Festival Queen competition then was launched in 2004 to honor Queen Juana, with the first edition won by a representative from San Carlos City's Pintaflores Festival.

The Sinulog Festival Queen 2023 was held at the Cebu City Sports Center last January 13, 2023, where Kiara Liane Wellington was crowned the Sinulog Festival Queen. Meanwhile, for this year 2024, the coronation of the Sinulog Festival Queen will be held at SRP grounds on January 19. S


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