There is a famous story that circulated in the late 80’s, perhaps a product of the frequency of super typhoons in country. The tale speaks of a deaf child with a warm smile, trudging through the thoroughfares of Metro Manila one October afternoon. For some reason, the kid wore boots and toyed with an umbrella in spite of relatively fair weather. The next day, a strong typhoon hit manila and most of the cities were flooded. People believed that the child was a sign from the heavens: a warning that disaster would soon befall the city. This is just one of the many stories Filipinos associate with the Santo Niño.
The History of Sinulog
Tracing its roots, the Filipinos’ belief in the miracles of the Santo Niño – a local depiction of the child Jesus – goes way back to a time when local natives were having their initial brush with Christianity. Rajah Humabon and Amihan, his queen, were baptized along with their folks, christened to the names Carlos and Juana. Catholicism soon spread throughout the region, in the surrounding areas, and eventually much of the Philippines.
To commemorate the Filipinos’ concession to Christianity, which happened in 1521 in Cebu, Cebuanos held a festive event in honor of Señor Santo Niño. This annual celebration would later be known as the Sinulog Festival, which, to this day, attracts droves of local and foreign tourists.
The Festival of Dances
The Sinulog is informally known as The Festival of Dances, as performers rhythmically and gracefully move to the sound of native drums. This distinct movement is supposed to simulate the wishy-washy river current, which locals call sulog. This is where the festival got its name from.
Throughout the day, lovely maidens in colorful costumes greet guests and visitors from the grand street parade. Crowds yell out the festival’s signature chant: “Pit Señor” – which means “Sangpit sa Señor” or to joyously call to the Lord. While at it, they proudly display the image of the Santo Niño as they engage in the Sinulog dance. Everyone’s a part of the celebration and those present are encouraged to participate, regardless if you’re a performer or a happy visitor.
Any celebration is not complete without food, and Cebu happens to have some of the most mouthwatering cuisines in the Philippines. You’ll find all of them served at the festival, including the popular Cebu lechon, inasal, suman and longganisa. Visitors often leave their diets in Metro Manila, as they gorge on the lechon’s herbed meat and crispy skin as well as the province’s bevy of appetizing snacks.
Each year, The Sinulog Festival gets bigger and bigger, as some of the best musicians, artists, and performers from the entire nation are invited to participate. Parts of the celebration have gradually evolved to suit the modern times, but the dances, costumes and chants are still there – those are carefully preserved so as to keep the tradition alive and fuel the spirit behind celebration.
A Solemn Ending
The Sinulog is a nine-day celebration, with the final day dedicated to the Sinulog Grand Parade. Before the parade, a religious fluvial march is held at dawn, with the image of the Santo Niño stowed on an ornately decorated pump boat. The vessel is decked with hundreds of flowers and candles, and sails from Mandaue City to Cebu City.
The march ends at the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino de Cebu, where a dramatization of the traditional Christian baptism in Cebu is performed – complete with a ceremony and a series of rituals.
In the afternoon, another solemn march takes place along the major thoroughfares of Cebu City. A lot of people participate with prayer and a positive outlook, as they thank God for all the blessings received during the celebration and in life. The Santo Niño is recognized for performing miracles and blessing the people, and he gets due recognition from those who attend the Sinulog.
Choosing Accommodation Fit for a Celebration
Participating in the Sinulog can be a tiring affair, especially if you’re geared to join all nine days of the festival – apart from touring cities and trying out the local fare. Bunking in an inn, loft or a luxury hotel won’t be a problem, since Cebu has a large number of lodging options.
You can stay at the region’s wide array of quality accommodations, depending on your budget and lifestyle. Cebu happens to be one of the country’s most progressive cities, thus attracting reputable developers to put up residential centers, commercial areas and fancy resorts.
Travelers who find solace in Cebu’s culture, lifestyle and celebrations can even find a home near any of the tourist destinations. Residential developments, like the Mactan Newtown, offer fine pieces of real estate to luxury travelers and more convenient options for frequent backpackers.
Staying in any of those brings a traveler closer to the Sinulog festival and ultimately, the best that Cebu has to offer. Now, you won’t have to rely on the internet and in-flight magazines on how to live a pleasantly adventurous life. Furthermore, not a lot of things are quite as enthralling as screaming “Pit Señor” while dancing the night away to the beat of tribal drums.