Mayor Michael Rama’s aversion to street parties during the Sinulog is understandable. It is borne from experience. As Sinulog Foundation chairman, he has overseen many past Sinulog festivals and has witnessed how drunken people misbehave in the guise of celebrating.
The most common complaint was against revelers who smudged other people’s faces without their consent. In some cases, drunken mischief resulted in fistfights. And then there were instances of groping although some of them were not fueled by alcohol but by an over-abundance of testosterone. Simply stated, they were sex maniacs who took advantage of the overcrowded streets.
One wonders, however, if these problems cannot be avoided by good policing. By that I mean not necessarily by the police but by other peacekeepers like the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Reinforcement by soldiers is nothing new, they helped us in the past and I’m sure the AFP will only be too willing to assist again upon the mayor’s request.
Besides, overcrowding shouldn’t be as bad now that the Sinulog has been moved to the South Road Properties (SRP). This is not necessarily because we expect a smaller audience, although that is a possibility, but because the South Coastal Road is as wider as the venue itself, compared to the old route and venue. Mischievous party-goers will therefore have to think twice before giving in to their baser instincts, knowing that they can easily be spotted and arrested. So will the intoxicated ones who should know even in their inebriation, the consequences of doing wrong.
Come on, Mayor. The Sinulog on Sunday, Jan. 21 is our city’s equivalent of the town fiesta and what fiesta is there that does not have alcohol and partying? Your devotion to the Sto. Niño is public knowledge but let not your piety rob your constituents and their guests of their share of fun. The solemn foot procession on Saturday, Jan. 20 and the daily novenas express our spirituality; the grand parade on Sunday displays our human and fun-loving side.
As it is, the (commercial) Sinulog this year is already fraught with controversy so the mayor should be loathe to adding one. As of yesterday, it was still uncertain whether Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia will actively support the Sinulog sa SRP by letting town and city contingents participate. (The Province itself does not have a contingent participating in the Sinulog parade and dance competitions. I don’t think they ever had any although Garcia herself usually dances during the grand finale.)
But Garcia’s wish is law among the town and city mayors where joining the Sinulog is concerned. Last year, Garcia chose to sit out the festival after Rama insisted on holding it at the SRP, ignoring her concerns on the safety and well-being of the participants. When it became clear that the governor’s stand was final, the towns and cities, which had earlier indicated their intention to participate, pulled out their dancers and instead joined the Sinulog sa Carmen that Garcia spearheaded.
Happily, the governor has not scheduled a similar activity this year except for the Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan at the Cebu City Sports Center days before the main Sinulog. Garcia wanted to hold it on January 19 to give time for participants to prepare but Rama put his foot down, sticking to the schedule that he has chosen.
If the denial displeased Garcia, she is not saying. But so far she had kept her peace, which is already a welcome development. The worst thing that could happen to the city now is for the Province to withdraw their offer to donate P20 million to the City (if it has not been released yet) but it is a loss that is less damaging than if the province staged a competing Sinulog.
There was a time when the theme of the Sinulog was “One Beat, One Dance, One Vision.” I hope that it still is today and if it is not, that it be reinstated. The City of Cebu may be the host of the Sinulog but it is a show for and by all Cebuanos, harmonious in their co-existence and united in their aspirations.