A CHAMPION of Cebuano arts and culture, one of the pillars of the Sinulog Festival, and a great friend.
This is how some officials in Cebu City described Ricky Ballesteros, a former executive director of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) and renowned sports organizer who passed away on Saturday, July 8, 2023. He was 57.
According to reports, Ballesteros suffered a cardiac arrest while riding an elevator at a mall in Barangay Apas, Cebu City.
City Councilor Joel Garganera said on Sunday, July 9, that Ballesteros’ contributions to Cebu’s culture, arts and sports are well-known to many.
“May he be in office or not, his heart is embedded there,” said Garganera, who considered Ballesteros as a friend.
Garganera recalled that for the last three decades, conversations or meetings with Ballesteros were always “light and fun.”
Promoter of culture
Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, who also chairs the Cebu City Tourism Commission, expressed gratitude for Ballesteros’ efforts in promoting Cebu’s culture to foreign countries, particularly to South Koreans.
“He was so passionate about promoting our culture, especially the Sinulog. We lost one of the people who constantly promote Cebu to the South Koreans,” said Pesquera in a text message to SunStar Cebu.
For his part, incumbent SFI executive director Elmer “Jojo” Labella said he admired Ballesteros and described him as a versatile man, acknowledging his instrumental role in the success of the Sinulog celebrations, including the workshops and seminars.
“He was a very close friend, so supportive of me when I was appointed as the new SFI executive director,” said Labella in a text message.
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 Jan. 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.
Ballesteros’ remains will lie at Our Lady of China Chapel, Sacred Heart Church on D. Jakosalem St. starting at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Interment will take place at the Cebu Memorial Park in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City on Thursday, July 13. (JJL, JGS, CTL, FVQ)