(UPDATED) Renowned Cebuano sports organizer and former Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) executive director Ricky Ballesteros passed away on Saturday, July 8, 2023. He was 57.
According to an official from the Cebu City Government, Ballesteros suffered a cardiac arrest while riding an elevator at a mall in Barangay Apas, Cebu City.
Ballesteros, a political science graduate from the University of the Visayas, was manager of the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) from 2001 to 2019. Ballesteros was also executive director of the SFI at the time.
Ballesteros' contributions and leadership elevated the Sinulog Festival to become one of the largest and most prominent in the Philippines and Asia.
In a 2016 interview with SunStar Cebu, Ballesteros emphasized the importance of evaluating each Sinulog event and striving for improvements annually.
Under his guidance, various contests were introduced to enrich the Sinulog celebration, including the festival queen contest, street dancing category, free interpretation category, Sinulog-based category, and competitions such as the Sinulog photo contest, Sinulog Idol, Sinulog dance crew contest, DJ-mixing competition, music video contest, Sinulog documentary and short film festival, as well as the higante and puppeteer contests.
Throughout his tenure, Ballesteros embraced the consistent theme of "one beat, one dance, one vision" for the Sinulog Festival.
His 18-year stint as CCSC manager was marred by the theft of P1.7 million in SFI and CCSC funds from a vault in the sports center's office on January 16, 2012, a day after the Sinulog Grand Parade. The crime remains unsolved.
He was SFI executive director for 15 years until his resignation in 2018, following allegations by then Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña of mishandling of SFI funds, which Ballesteros denied.
Ballesteros cited personal reasons for his resignation from the SFI, saying he was not getting any younger.
Following his resignation, Ballesteros served as the president of the Korea Philippines Festival Cultural Exchange Association.
He brought the Sinulog to other countries, including South Korea, where the Sinulog won multiple times, most notably at the Daegu Powerful Festival.
Ballesteros was also known as a race organizer. (JGS, CTL, FVQ)