DESPITE several calls to hold the 2024 Sinulog Ritual Showdown Competition at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC), Mayor Michael Rama is resolute.
The ritual showdown, as well as the Sinulog Grand Parade, will all be held at the South Road Properties (SRP).
“As I would like to repeat, my stance has not changed. SRP, we had it last time [there], we should have it [there] again... In God we trust,” the mayor said during his online program “Ingna’ng Mayor” on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.
He also denied claims that the City is not prepared.
Rama, who is spending his vacation leave in Australia, said preparations for the Sinulog, which he dubs Sinulog sa Sugbo Philippines 2024, have been underway since August.
He said those willing to extend help should avoid imposing conditions.
“Those who want to help, just help, help, and help without attaching any conditions, because if we offer help, we should offer it in faith to Señor Sto. Niño,” he said in Cebuano.
Last Dec. 6, during her meeting with Sinulog Foundation Inc. executive director Elmer “Jojo” Labella, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia expressed the Provincial Government’s willingness to support next year’s Sinulog and donate P20 million, but only if the ritual showdown will be held at the CCSC to “bring back the soul of Sinulog.”
Despite Mayor Rama’s stand, City Councilor Jerry Guardo, infrastructure committee chairman, said they will consider bringing the festival back to its traditional venue as “Plan B” after the CCSC and the SRP venue were inspected on Monday, Dec. 11.
Guardo, in a media forum on Tuesday, said the recommendation came from Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, who led the inspections.
Apart from Guardo, the acting mayor was joined by other council members and other stakeholders during the assessment.
Guardo told SunStar Cebu that everything will be finalized once the mayor returns. Rama is expected back on Dec. 20.
However, the councilor admitted that bringing the Sinulog back to the CCSC faces major challenges, especially with the ongoing construction of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project.
He said sidewalks are not yet prepared to welcome both spectators and performers, adding that debris from the construction pose a hazard to public safety.
Acting Mayor Garcia, in an interview on Monday, said the City still needs to conduct a comparative study to determine which location would be more favorable for the contingents and the general public. He said both CCSC and SRP are viable options.
He said he favors the CCSC, considering it is 60 percent near completion, while the City still has to spend “a few hundred millions” to asphalt the SRP venue.
He also said Rama had told them to come up with different options, especially for the Sinulog Grand Parade.
The mayor said the safety of performers and spectators, and cost-effectiveness should be of utmost consideration.
Asked if the comparative study has halted Sinulog preparations, the acting mayor said no. But whatever choice they come up with, he said they need to prepare both venues.
“We will do these simultaneously then we will just choose after,” Garcia said.
He also pointed out that the rubber on the track oval has not yet been installed so it won’t be damaged if the ritual showdown is held there.
“We can use the oval and then they can install the rubber after the Sinulog to prepare for the CVIRAA (Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association) and for the Palarong Pambansa,” he said.
It was earlier reported that civil works for the rubberized track would be completed in February.
Procession on the boulevard
Meanwhile, the acting mayor said if the Penitential Walk with Jesus, Walk with Mary and the Solemn Foot Procession will traverse Osmeña Blvd. next month, despite the ongoing construction of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project, why can’t the Sinulog Grand Parade.
Garcia said he will instruct the contractor to look at what it can do to prepare the thoroughfare not only for the religious processions but also for the cultural parade.
On Tuesday, five more mayors from Cebu Province called for the return of the ritual to the pre-pandemic venue, which is CCSC.
They are Dumanjug Mayor Gungun Gica, Carmen Mayor Carlo Villamor, San Francisco Mayor Alfredo Arquillano, Poro Mayor Gary Rama and Alcantara Mayor Fritz Lastimosa.
They joined Mayors Junard Chong of Lapu-Lapu City, Patrick Barcenas of Carcar City, Jonas Cortes of Mandaue City, Marjorie Perales of Toledo City, Art Despi of Bantayan, Teresa Alegado of Consolacion, Aljew Frasco of Liloan, Mytha Canoy of San Fernando and Moonyeen Durano-Streegan of Sogod who voiced support for the holding of next month’s Sinulog festivities at the CCSC over the SRP.
When the Sinulog Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown Competition were held for the first time at the SRP last January, there were numerous complaints from participants and spectators, including about inadequate shade for protection from the elements, lack of restroom facilities, and muddy grounds.
Despite this, Labella confirmed last Nov. 14 that the venue of the Sinulog 2024 would still be the SRP.
Labella, in follow-up reports, assured the public that “we are better prepared now.” / KJF, AML, EHP