WITH the spirit of Sinulog making its way through the streets and people of Cebu, the historic Cebuano festival has attracted travelers from around the world, rebuilding tourism after facing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Through their individual journeys in Cebu, some tourists have taken their time to understand the cultural and religious significance of Sinulog.
“I have been living [in Cebu] because of the war in Russia and Ukraine,” says Ivan, a 22-year-old Ukranian volunteer at a hostel. “Sinulog is my favorite celebration. Last Sinulog, I met amazing people... This Sinulog will be even better.”
Despite the celebratory character that is typically tied to Sinulog, other tourists have put in the effort to understand the focus of Sinulog—Sto. Niño and how celebrations have strongly continued for centuries since Ferdinand Magellan gifted Rajah Humabon, later baptized as Don Carlos Valderrama, with the statue of the Child Jesus in 1521.
“I did some research because it’s my first Sinulog... on the Sto. Niño and how [Spain] brought Christianity over in the 1500s,” says Anthony Winningham, a 27-year-old professional basketball player from Kansas City, Missouri who periodically resides in Cebu, as he plans on celebrating Sinulog by attending mass and experiencing the festival in the South Road Properties (SRP) and Gen. Maxilom Ave.
“[Sinulog] shows the culture... You walk around and see the Sto. Niño everywhere, everybody saying “Pit Senyor!” You hear the songs... It’s amazing that you guys all come together. It’s amazing energy.”
For other visitors, such as 30-year-old Katja Mer from Berlin, Germany, who traveled to Cebu this January, she was surprised to find out about the magnitude of the annual festival and the liveliness that sways Cebu City during this time.
“The way that I understood it, people come from all over the Philippines to ask Him for stuff like help for the sick, family members... For me, what I see on the streets is a lot of people playing the song... all these beautiful decorations... so the way it appears from the outside is more like a party. When you go off the streets, it’s not that obvious that [Sinulog] is religious.”
Through the various perspectives of travelers from all over the world, Sinulog represents many things—participative street parties, a religious observance, contemporary recognition from the Spanish colonial period (hence the yellow and red flags hanging over the streets), etc.
However, to most tourists celebrating Sinulog, it becomes ingrained as a cultural festival that binds the Cebuano spirit of togetherness and gratitude, while acknowledging the burning passion that is revealed through rich Cebuano dance and music arrangements.
(The Sinulog Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown will take place at the SRP on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. The event that traditionally includes street dancing and competitions for best dance contingent, and best float, higante and puppeteer is a highlight of the weeks-long Sinulog sa Sugbo Philippines 2024 celebration held in tandem with the 459th Fiesta Señor.) (EMANUEL YU / Intern)