CEBU City officials and organizers of the Sinulog Festival assured the public that more improvements will be made for next year’s grand parade which will still be held at the South Road Properties (SRP).
During the awarding of winners Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, Mayor Michael Rama announced that they will attempt to make the festival a nationwide event next year.
By this, he meant the City would more aggressively promote the Sinulog, such as by attracting more out-of-town contingents to participate in the grand parade and inviting more spectators from the different parts of the country.
After using the tagline “One Cebu Island Sinulog 2023” for this year’s celebration, the next thrust of the city government is to have it called “Sinulog Philippines,” said Rama.
The mayor explained that revelers who come to Cebu City to experience the festival are not only from Cebu Province but also from neighboring provinces and even other countries.
The term “One Cebu Island” refers to all the local government units of the Province of Cebu and the tri-cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
This was the first year that the term “One Cebu Island” was attached to the name of the Sinulog Festival by the Cebu City Government, organizer of the Sinulog.
Days before the Sinulog Grand Parade on Sunday, Jan. 15, criticism about the readiness of the SRP venue was dominant on social media platforms as the area was still muddy with asphalting not yet completed at the site, the seating for thousands of spectators not yet evident, and the modified container vans intended as restrooms not yet functional as late as Thursday.
Rama said all the criticism gave the organizers insights into making the festival successful after a two-year break because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The SRP, venue for this year’s Sinulog Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown, was criticized for being “not ready” for the festival, prompting Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to withdraw the participation of all the contingents under the Province of Cebu from the grand parade. The Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue City contingents also pulled out of the event for the same reason.
Following the withdrawals, Garcia said this year’s celebration should no longer be called the One Cebu Island Sinulog 2023 but just Sinulog 2023 of Cebu City because “where the Sinulog in the SRP is concerned, there is no longer any participation of the Province of Cebu as well as Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City.”
On Monday, Councilor Phillip Zafra, chairman of the Sinulog Executive Committee, said a month from now, the organizers will already begin their preparation for Sinulog 2024.
For this year’s event at the SRP, the civil works on the stage and grandstand had been started only in the third week of December 2022, while the asphalting of road pavements began only the week before the Sinulog.
Zafra acknowledged that there is more to be improved, especially in providing a better audience area and managing the flow of traffic.
Spectators on Sunday aired their concerns on social media that the humid weather and absence of shade caused them inconvenience.
There were also complaints about the seating be made available for free to other spectators later in the day after some had paid P500 each for their seats, as well as of the use of monobloc chairs which, not being fixed to the ground, were dragged by spectators to different parts of the site, blocking the view of paying spectators.
Zafra said these concerns will not be left unattended as they are already conceptualizing a plan for a better grandstand area for the public during next year’s Sinulog.
The councilor added that gridlocks during Sinulog are not something new, as even if the grand parade will be held in the downtown area, traffic jams will still exist.
In the past, the grand parade was held in the uptown Cebu City area with the end point being the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC).
Zafra explained that last Sunday, most of the roads were occupied by a huge number of revelers which paralyzed the flow of vehicles.
But Zafra assured the public that traffic improvement will always be part of the planning for Sinulog 2024.
Holding the parade at the SRP had meant closing the SRP to traffic from 1 a.m. Sunday, leaving Natalio Bacalso Ave. as the only way for residents in the south of Cebu to enter Cebu City.
Even if the parade was not held there, portions of Osmeña Blvd. were also closed to vehicles starting 1 p.m. Sunday as the Cebu City Transportation Office expected a huge number of people to still flock to the downtown area, especially when the activities at the SRP ended.
These closures caused traffic buildup not only on Natalio Bacalso Ave. but also on M.J. Cuenco Ave. and other major roads.
Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) executive director Elmer “Jojo” Labella was not able to give an exact number, but he said only “a few” people returned their tickets after seeing the audience area at the SRP.
Labella clarified that those who sought the refund had not yet entered the venue and the wristband tickets were not yet used so these were only returned.
Not a single person also went to its office at the CCSC or contacted the SFI to ask for a ticket refund, said Labella.
Labella further said he cannot provide the total number of tickets sold since they are still finalizing all accounting work. (IRT, with CTL)