Tell it to SunStar: The Sinulog conundrum

Tell it to SunStar
Tell it to SunStarSunStar file photo

By Oscar Tan III

The Christmas season has just come to an end — and in Cebu, that implies one thing: Preparations for the “Mother of all Festivals” are underway. Hence, this has paved the way for Round 2 of the heated Abellana vs. SRP debates. Call it the Sinulog conundrum, if you will.

To recall, this stems from last year’s rather intriguing back-and-forth between Gov. Gwen Garcia and Mayor Mike Rama. The former was in favor of Cebu City Sports Center (colloquially known as Abellana Grounds), while the latter aimed to establish the South Road Properties (SRP) grounds as a formidable venue for the parade in the long term. Opinions among fellow politicians and netizens have been varied.

Valid arguments can be made for sides, and it is worth noting that the points in favor of SRP, in particular, tend to get overlooked.

A significant benefit would be the reduction of the exasperating traffic that haunts the city every Sinulog, thus making traveling for those who do not want to attend the parade virtually impossible. This was evident last year, as Osmeña Blvd. was nearly empty at 7 a.m., contrary to previous years where there would already be an influx of devotees at that early hour. Yes, the otherwise jam-packed boulevard appeared like a ghost town when it was reported, but it nonetheless made vehicular flow smoother than in years past.

Another important factor that gets overlooked are safety implications. Considering that the SRP venue is vastly larger than Abellana — the latter of which has only two major exits, at that — the likelihood of a stampede is less for the former than the latter. It is worth noting that no significant incidents of the like were reported last year.

Lastly, the beauty of SRP cannot be overlooked, given the vast sea views, the overlooking CCLEX, and the vibrance of the neighboring SM Seaside and Il Corso.

On the opposite side of the ring, the biggest argument in favor of Abellana would certainly be history and tradition. Ever since the festival’s inception in 1980, Abellana has long been its home. The parade would stretch out into the blissful streets of Osmeña Blvd., where the red and yellow flaglets would wave and traditional Sinulog dance music would fill the air the entire day. These same streets would now appear like a ghost town with the festival situated some five kilometers away.

Practicality is another element favoring Abellana. It is situated right at the heart of the city, making it accessible for the devotees. There have been complaints about the travel required to get to SRP, given its distance from the city center. Despite the free bus rides provided by the City Government, people still have to cover an additional 2,000 meters between the drop-off point and the venue itself.

Lastly, weather is a significant obstacle. Last year, many devotees complained about the lack of shade from the blazing heat of the sun. Abellana, on the other hand, has the roofing of the bleachers to act as a shade. In addition, the implications brought about by rain should also be considered. The area where the stage at the SRP is situated tends to get muddy, and this can contribute to the discomfort of both the performers and devotees.

Overall, I am a firm believer of the classic quote “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and I have all the reasons to lean towards Abellana. I do acknowledge that there was a lack in the overall festive mood last year after having virtually zero festivities along Osmeña Blvd. However, given that the SRP is still in its infancy stage, it can be expected that the major flaws surrounding the area can be addressed in the coming years. It does bear considerable potential for the long run, and it brings noteworthy contributions to the parade which should not be overlooked.

This year, in particular, one significant factor that has been overlooked is the ongoing construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. Imagine the traffic if the festival is held near the city center. At least for this year, the decision to hold the Sinulog Grand Parade and the Grand Ritual Showdown at the SRP is the correct one. For the coming years, however, it remains to be seen — and the success of this year’s event will surely have significant bearing on future decisions.

Nonetheless, in light of the true meaning of Sinulog, let us keep politics in the rearview as we enjoy the festivities this year’s edition has to offer. I wish everyone a safe and joyful Sinulog. Viva Pit Senyor!


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