To honor the Catholic Church’s Santo Niño de Cebu, Cebuanos celebrate the Sinulog Festival every third Sunday of January. The magnificence of the festival made not only Cebuanos and Filipinos in general but also the Asians refer to it is the “Mother of All Festivals.”
This grand festival is characterized by a long parade with groups from different places across the country in colorful costumes while dancing to the Sinulog beat through the streets. But apart from the colorful and well-made costumes of the dancers, to the beautiful dances and to the music brought by the drums, trumpets, and the native gongs, what is really the real essence of Sinulog?
Here is a list of the Fast Facts on Cebu’s Sinulog:
Cebu marks the birth of Christianity in the Philippines. The original statue of Santo Nino was given in April 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese, to Hara Amihan (Queen Juana) as baptismal gift. It was a similar statue to the Infant Jesus of Prague.
The Sinulog dance steps are believed to have originated from Rajah Humabon’s adviser, Baladhay. It was during Humabon’s grief when Baladhay fell sick and Humabon ordered his native tribe to bring Baladhay into a room where the Santo Niño was enthroned, along with the other pagan gods of the native Cebuanos. After a few days, Baladhay was heard shouting and was found dancing with utmost alertness.
The first Sinulog parade was held in 1980, organized by Dávid Odilao, then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports, and Youth Development. The parade was composed of students dressed in Knitted Filipiniana costumes, dancing the Sinulog to the beating of drums.
The Cebuano greeting“Pit Senyor!” is short for “Panangpit sa Senyor!” which means a plea to the Lord, the Señor Santo Niño (Holy Child), whose feast is observed during Sinulog.
The word Sinulog comes from the Cebuano adverb sulog which roughly means “like water current movement;” it describes the forward-backward movement of the Sinulog dance. The dance consists of two steps forward and one step backward, done to the sound of drums.
The Santo Nino de Cebu was brought to the Philippines by Magellan as a gift to Rajah Humabon and his wife for their baptism. Since it arrived in Cebu on April 7, 1521, it is considered as the oldest Christian religious relic in the whole country. It is stored inside a bulletproof glass box at the Basilica Menore de Santo Niño.
From being a small gathering of Cebuano residents to celebrate its rich history, Sinulog has become one of the most famous festivals in the country that draws people from different places not just in the Philippines but also around the world. The number of people flocking to the Queen City of the South for Sinulog have reached over a million in recent years.
On the feast day of Sinulog, a Pontifical Mass is celebrated at the Basilica by the Cardinal, assisted by several Cebu-based bishops. A lot of Cebuanos and tourists alike would flock to the Basilica to attend the mass before heading out to the streets to watch the Parade.
The first procession of the image of Santo Niño happened in 1565 at the Tupas Village. The image was identified by the Legazpi expedition, the same image given by Ferdinand Magellan to the Cebuanos and their queen, Juana, in 1521 when the first Spanish expedition of the world found Cebu.
Along with the solemn mass held to honor the image of the Child Jesus, Sinulog is also known for the various street parties held in the country’s second-biggest metropolitan area. However, some residents and devotees are worried that the parties may affect the tradition of Sinulog. In 2015, incidents concerning the public celebrations were reported and circulated in social media.
With the rich history of Cebu and its grandes festival, these rowdy street parties are labeled to just be the “dark side of the moon” of the country’s “biggest and grandest cultural festival.”
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