For us Cebuanos, the holiday season extends all the way to mid-January as we gear up to host one of the biggest festivals in the country- the Sinulog.
I’ve been a big fan of this tradition for as long as I can remember. When I was nine and our family had just moved to Cebu, my dad took me out to watch the entire event and I sat there mesmerized at the creativity and ingenuity of the contingents, the bursts of color and the heart-pounding drumbeats I experienced that day. Everyone was having a blast, sprinkling each other with water or grease and celebrating on the streets. It made such an impression that I wrote a term paper on the evolution of the Sinulog for an English class in university.
These last few years, my friends and I have made it a tradition to be out and about on the big day, finding new ways to experience Sinulog. It has grown to be so huge that there’s something going on nearly every day this week and you can sense this thick, tingling anticipation in the air, from the moment you see all the banderitas hanging all over Mango Avenue. This year it promises to be another unforgettable weekend for the thousands of local and foreign tourists pouring into the city, and for us locals as well. Here are some of the best things you can do during Sinulog time in Cebu:
- Watch the festival from the grandstand. Tickets are selling out fast but you can still snag them online. If this is your first Sinulog, or at least your first in a long time, you’ve got to witness the revelry from the stage. It will be at the Cebu City Sports Center and kickoff is at 9:00 AM on Sinulog Sunday, January 15. Tickets range from Php 500 to Php 700.
- Ride a float. If you happen to be tight with key people who are putting up floats for the parade, it’s also quite an experience to be on one. Not only will you see the entire parade route, you’ll also feel like a movie star! Try waving at people, they’ll think you’re some sort of a celebrity and might even ask for your autograph.
- Follow the parade route on foot. It’s also loads of fun to be roaming the streets, watching the parade, celebrating with the sea of humanity, and stopping by stalls to eat or get a henna or glitter tattoo whenever you like. The most popular places to hang out are along Gen. Maxilom Avenue, Fuente Osmena, Osmena Boulevard or P. del Rosario street. Remember not to carry valuables, wear super comfy and light clothing, and the cushiest sandals or flip flops you own! It’s going to be a long but extremely entertaining walk. Bring a cap to protect your face and remember to wear sunblock!
- Try out the ‘Eye in the Sky’ experience. It’s also become an annual hit for the cult favorite radio station Y101 to send a chopper all over the parade route so people can see the Sinulog from a whole new vantage point. At Php 1,700 per person, it’s totally worth the experience—one you’re not likely to forget for a very long time. You can sign up for Eye in the Sky at the Cebu Business Park Phase 3, behind Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion.
- Catch Miss Cebu. This pageant is one of the most awaited highlights for the Sinulog season as well. Out of the twelve lovely finalists, a swan will emerge and become the face of Cebu for the year 2012. This is happening tonight, January 11, 6:30 pm at the Pacific Ballroom of the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel. It will also be broadcasted via livestream over Studio 23. Congratulations in advance to the dynamic chairperson of Ms. Cebu, Jaja Chiongbian-Rama for what promises to be an outstanding event!
- Get to know the Sinulog Festival Queen. Every year, a festival queen is also chosen among the female lead dancers of every contingent joining the parade, who are known to exude beauty, charm and grace. This year’s coronation night will be on January 13, Friday, 7:30 pm at the Cebu City Sports Center.
- Join the Fluvial Parade. Another poignant tradition every Sinulog is the fluvial procession. A day before the Sinulog, the image of the Santo Nino is brought from His home in the Basilica to visit his foster father, St. Joseph at his parish in Mandaue City. After spending a day there, he then travels via galleon to his mother in Lapu-Lapu and then returns to Cebu in a re-enactment of the arrival of the Spaniards and Christianization in the island. Hundreds of devotees join this parade, accompanying the Santo Nino on this voyage in motorboats to the sound of drums and cheers, and petals dropped from choppers above the parade. Quite an amazing experience, worth waking up before dawn for.
- Watch fireworks light up the sky. Something about fireworks makes me want to cry—it gets me every year. I’m sure this year won’t be an exception as there is a grand fireworks competition scheduled on January 14, 7:00 pm at SM City Cebu(fronting the Northwing) and another wonderful fireworks show after the Sinulog parade on January 15, 7:00 pm at the Cebu city Sports Center. There will also be a Pyromusical at SM City Cebu on January 15, 9:00 pm featuring an astounding display from Pyroworks, to the tune of popular songs and soundtracks. Prepare to be amazed!
- Enter a photo contest. For all the shutterbugs out there, and I know your population has grown significantly in recent years with all the fancy cameras being acquired every two minutes, why don’t you try out your photography prowess and join the Sinulog photo contest? You just might capture a defining moment. Register at the Sinulog Foundation Office at Php 1,000 per head and you’ll get an access pass to most of the official Sinulog activities. You can enter up to 10 photographs (5R size), and additional entries will cost Php 50 each. Deadline for submission is on the 19th.
- Join the street parties and concerts. There’s a street party every night this weekend and you’ve got to try out at least one. On the 13th, there will be bands playing at Fuente Osmena circle starting 9:00 pm, then 7:00 pm onwards on the 14th, and 7:30 pm onwards (after the parade) on the 15th. At 8:00 pm on the 15th, Ayala Center Cebu plays host to a Sinulog Dance party at the terraces with the country’s top party destination, Republiq.
And all this is happening right here in this city, my city—CEBU! So don’t be a killjoy, go out and celebrate this weekend and shout “Pit Senyor!” at the top of your lungs. Cheers!