Mayor Rama apologizes for ‘culturally insensitive’ Sinulog performance

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.Photo by Lujen Limosnero

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has issued an apology on behalf of the Sinulog organizers and performers for the controversial Sinulog performance by a state university during the Sinulog Festival Opening Salvo on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.

The mayor, who also sits as the overall chairman of the Sinulog activities, expressed his hope that such an incident would not be repeated.

“To the Muslim community, I apologize,” he said in an interview with the local media on Monday, Jan. 15.

The Cebu Technological University’s (CTU) Main Campus dance troupe represented the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during the kickoff of the “Sinulog sa Sugbo Philippines 2024,” despite the event being predominantly Catholic.

CTU was one of the 17 schools in Metro Cebu that participated in the opening salvo, with each school representing a region. CTU, representing BARMM, showcased the Sinulog beat, adorned in Muslim cultural attire during their performance.

The public reacted strongly, condemning the organizers and the university for permitting what they considered a “culturally insensitive” performance, sparking a backlash.

Local and national Muslim organizations, such as the Cebu City Hall’s Office of the Muslim Affairs and Indigenous Cultural Communities and the BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, called out and condemned the performance, which misrepresented the Muslims.

Rama, for his part, said CTU’s dance performance, though lacking precision, likely stemmed from excitement rather than any bad intent.

“Excitement, excitement probably was reigning. The objectivity was not... as much as being precise. It ended up, I think ang akong tan-aw, wa g’yud toy bad intent tingali oy (I believe there really might not have been any bad intent),” he said.

The mayor believes that an investigation is no longer needed over the incident and that it should serve as a learning experience.

“They should learn from it and move on, move on, move on,” Rama said, adding that “there are still more things to do and challenges are mounting.”

Rama said the organizers will have a debriefing session on the day after the Sinulog Grand Parade, which is slated on Jan. 21.

Cebu City Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, executive committee member of the Sinulog organizer, Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), said the production team, under the SFI, collaborated with school choreographers on the concept.

In a separate interview, Onasis Balt, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)-Visayas director, expressed his appreciation for Mayor Rama’s apology.

However, Balt said he also understands the sentiments of his fellow Muslims who might have been offended by the misrepresentation.

He said what was used was the cultural attire, and it should not have been used during the event.

He said dancing with the image of the Sto. Niño is not allowed for any Muslims.

Balt advised the non-Muslim community and universities that if they have events or programs in their schools that cover or represent the Muslim faith, they can always coordinate with the NCMF.

He suggested consulting with their cultural affairs office and division chiefs so they can execute their programs correctly.

CTU apology

The CTU Main Campus apologized last Saturday, Jan. 13, for any offense caused by its Sinulog dance presentation during the festival launch, acknowledging insensitivity towards the Muslim culture.

The university acknowledged the insensitivity in its performance toward the Muslim culture and religion and expressed regret for any “unintended harm.”


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