Happenings, Happenings

The Sinulog 2011

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By Michelle Luciano

Pit Senyor! Viva Sto. Nino!! is a line that every Cebuano must know how to shout.

The Sinulog Festival is the grandest festival in Cebu and they say it is the mother of all festivals in the Philippines. It is held on the 3rd Sunday of January in honor of the image of the child Jesus, popularly known as the Sto. Nino. The image of the Sto. Nino is an important part of Cebu’s history. In April 1521, while in the service of Charles I of Spain, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu, during his voyage to find a route to the Indies.

He convinced Rajah Humabon and his wife Humamay, to pledge their allegiance to Spain. When they were later baptized into the Catholic faith, the couple took on the Christian names Carlos and Juana. Magellan presented the Santo Niño to the newly-baptized Queen Juana as a symbol of the alliance.  However, Magellan died on April 27, 1521 in a battle that took place in Mactan. In the years that followed his death, the image ceased to be a Christian symbol and was revered by the Cebuano natives as Bathala. It was only restored as a Christian symbol 44 years later, upon the arrival of the next Spanish expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.

The Santo Niño was once considered the patron of Cebu. It was however argued that being a representation of the Child Jesus, it cannot be considered as patron or intercessor to God in behalf of the Cebuanos. Many Cebuanos do not consider the Christmas season over until the Feast of the Santo Niño.  January 22, 2011 marked the 31st year of the Sinulog Mardi Gras, and the streets in Cebu were full of people from the different places all over the world.  One Dance, One Beat was the main theme of 31st anniversary of the Sinulog, because it is through the celebration of the festival that the Cebuanos are united. It takes a year to prepare of the entire event and months of practice to have a perfect dance presentation. With almost 50 dancers in one contingent – it requires coordination, proper execution of the steps and more importantly, audience impact to create the perfect presentation. The dancers perform in the streets going to the main venue (Cebu City Sports Complex) where they will present their final dance number.

Of course let’s not forget the solemn side of the festival which starts with a 9-day novena prayer. On the 9th day, a fluvial parade is held at dawn with a statue of the Santo Niño carried on a pump boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City, decked with hundreds of flowers and candles. In the afternoon, a more solemn procession takes place along the major streets of the city, which last for hours due to large crowd participating in the event.

For me, the procession is the most important activity during the Sinulog Festival because it shows the strength of the faith that each Cebuano has in the Sto. Nino. During the procession, people walk for 8km beginning from the Basilica del Sto. Nino. They walk this distance without any complaint – only prayers. Confetti is showered upon the image, fireworks are lit, and balloons are released with a prayer to the Sto. Nino, in the belief that petitions written on the balloon will be granted. It is now my pledge to Him that I will join the procession next year. It would be a way of saying thank you to Him for all the blessings He has showered upon me.

The Sinulog is one of the grandest and most colorful festivals in the country. I’m not saying this because I’m a proud Cebuano. Once you have experienced the Sinulog, you will keep coming back every year and expect each celebration to be grander than the previous year.  PIT SENYOR!