Sinulog: Cebu’s grand celebration of faith
The holidays may be over but the excitement hasn’t died down, not for the Cebuanos. Just a few more days before the third Sunday of January, locals are already on their festive mood as they prepare for the country’s biggest and grandest festival in honor of the Santo Niño (The Holy Child Jesus) – the Sinulog.
Since 1981, the Sinulog celebration becomes more exciting and dynamic as locals put great effort in making the festival an organized event filled with various activities, which includes pageants, photo contests, choral and dance competitions; and cultural shows. Not only does Sinulog depict the historical roots of Christianity in the Philippines, but it also provides an in-depth experience of the rich Philippine culture across the globe.
A day before the grand parade, a water parade known as the Fluvial Processions is held at dawn where the Santo Niño is carried by a majestic float from Mandaue City to its present shrine at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City.
The main highlight of Sinulog is the vibrant street parade characterized by locals dressed in colorful and creative costumes dancing to the rhythm of loud drums, native gongs and trumpets as they make their way through the streets of Cebu. Sinug, the traditional prayer dance which consists of the one-step backward and two-step forward dance moves is performed with a chant. It is believed that this dance move resembles the Pahina River’s water movement, locally termed “sulog.”
People from all walks of life join the festive ritual and other vigils in the hopes of having their prayers heard and petitions granted by the miraculous child Jesus, especially during this time.
It is believed that the pagan history and the Christian present of the country are depicted through the Sinulog. Historians say that long before the Christianity was introduced to the Cebuanos by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, the dance has been performed by ancestors in honor of their wooden gods called anitos. After Magellan arrived in Cebu, he planted the cross on the shore and claimed the country under the Spanish ruling. It was believed that Magellan offered the image as a christening gift to Hara Amihan, the wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon. Rulers, along with their subjects, were also baptized. However after when Magellan died in a fight with Mactan’s ruler, Rajah Lapu-lapu, his remaining troops sailed back to Spain. After 44 years, Spaniards, under the Miguel Lopez de Legaspi returned to the Philippines to invade Cebu and start the formal Christianization. During the fight, huts were burned down, however one of Legaspi’s men found a box that kept the image of the Santo Nino along with the other native idols. Historians believe that since the arrival of Magellan, natives continue to perform the dance ritual.