Malilong: Absence, not boycott

The Other Side
Malilong.SunStar file

Given his penchant for colorful language, Mayor Michael Rama would have been forgiven if he had claimed that the 2024 Sinulog festival was a “howling” or “smashing” success.

He did not. Instead, he kept it simple. The Sinulog was a success, he said, crediting it to the “unity of those who contributed to its achievement,” according to a SunStar Cebu story. “We cannot please everybody.”

The tone was defiant. It was as if he was telling the naysayers, “eat your heart out, we pulled it through inspite of you.”

There were many of them, the naysayers. Short of saying that the festival was going to be a disaster, they painted a rough scenario where a multitude of spectators and performers would collapse as a result of the extreme heat, and the attendance would be disappointingly sparse because of the boycott by the contingents from the province and the worry over the venue’s suitability, given its inherent threat to the safety and well-being of anyone who goes there to watch or dance.

The police estimated the attendance to be between 2.5 to 3 million, figures that cannot be sneezed at. Notice is, of course, made of the questions on the accuracy of the police count. This is a perennial problem in making crowd estimates but for whaever it is worth, it must be mentioned that the police are presumed to be neutral and that even if they missed the actual count by one million, a 1.5 to 2 million attendance is definitely not bad.

Speaking of the provincial contingents, this is the second straight time that they refused to join the dancefest organized by the Sinulog Foundation. Last year, they said that the venue was slippery because of the rains and held their own Sinulog in Carmen instead. This year, they said that it was hot and instead performed at their venue of choice, the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) on the Sunday preceding the main Sinulog.

Boycott may be too strong a word to describe their non-participation again in the Sinulog sa Sugbo. Let’s just call it absence. And then maybe, you can include them in the group that Rama said, contributed to the Sinulog’s success.

In fact, a model may have been found from this year’s experience for unifying the commercial/cultural side of the Sinulog observance. Let the province start the Sinulog week by holding its Sinulog sa Lalawigan at the CCSC on Sunday before the main celebration at the South Road Properties (SRP) and a day after the Sinulog sa Dakbayan in the same venue.

Some may view this arrangement as a downgrade of the Sinulog sa Dakbayan and the Sinulog sa Lalawigan as opening acts or if this were boxing as preliminary bouts before the main event. It is not.

What it actually does is give the spectators a choice while maintaining the status quo insofar as the scheduling is concerned. It will also promote a healthy competition among the three versions of the dancefest as the respective organizers will try to make their Sinulog more attractive and more entertaining than the two others.

In the meantime, let’s not complicate matters by dreaming of a Sinulog sa Pilipinas. We cannot talk about expanding until we are able to resolve the unity issues that have hounded the commercial/cultural Sinulog during the last two years.


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