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I Was a Sinulog Dancer and Loved Every Moment of It

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The author is a soccer fan and creative writing is her hobby. She has written stories for children, romantic stories and poems.

sinulog dancers with Sto. Nino image

sinulog dancers with Sto. Nino image

Sinulog Festival - Cebu's Pride

Like other countries, the Philippines celebrate national holidays. One notable celebration is Sinulog, held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, a highly urbanized city in the Central Visayas region of the country. It is one of the most well-known festivals in the Philippines. It is even considered the most colorful festival in Asia, one that is comparable to Mardi Gras. It attracts millions of visitors from all over the country and beyond. Sinulog is the ritual prayer-dance honoring Señor Santo Niño, Spanish for Lord Child Jesus. An image of the Child Jesus is said to be the baptismal gift that the Portuguese conquistador Ferdinand Magellan gave to Hara Amihan (Humamay) of Zebu (now Cebu) in April 1521. The image, believed to be miraculous, is housed at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in downtown Cebu City.

The Sinulog festival is a week-long celebration following the nine-day devotional prayer (novena) at the Basilica del Sto. Nino where the statue of the Sto. Nino is enshrined. The grand parade (Sinulog street dances) occurs after the fluvial parade and solemn procession of the Miraculous Image of the Sto. Nino. The fluvial parade (boat parade) usually starts at 6 am while the solemn procession starts late in the afternoon. The Sinulog grand parade follows the next day. Different teams from different parts of the Philippines, mainly representing schools and businesses, join the choreographed street dancing, following key elements of the Sinulog. The Grand Parade marches slowly down a 4-mile loop; you can start watching the action from Mango Avenue (also known as General Maxilom Avenue), as the parade moves west down this road, around the Fuente Osmeña Circle, then down Osmeña Boulevard to the Cebu City Sports Center.

Sinulog dance

Sinulog dance

Sinulog dance

The dance ritual basically tells the story of the Filipino people’s pagan past and their acceptance of Christianity. The dancers would dance to the beat of the drums while simultaneously shouting "Pit Senyor!" "Pit" is the contraction of the word "sangpit" meaning plea or request. "Senyor" or Senior is the Spanish word for "Lord". Thus, the Sinulog dance, is actually a prayer-dance, summoning the Lord Jesus. The sounds of the drums are so infectious, you can see people also dancing to the beat. The dance moves two steps forward and one step backward to the sound of the drums. This movement resembles the current (Sulog) of what was known as Cebu’s Pahina River. Thus, in Cebuano, it’s Sinulog. The Sinulog dance dramatizes the presentation of the Sto. Nino as baptismal gift to Rajah Humabon and his chief consort Hara Humamay. Rajah Humabon was baptized as Don Carlos while Haya Humamay was baptized as Juana. The baptism of Humabon and Humamay and his people marked the first conversion of a Filipino tribe to Catholicism. Thus, you see in some Sinulog dance groups a female dancer holding an image of the Sto. Nino, representing Queen Juana holding the image.

sinulog grand parade drums

sinulog grand parade drums

Week-long festivities

The Sinulog festival is a one-week celebration honoring the Sto. Nino. Aside from watching and/or participating in the fluvial parade, solemn procession, and grand parade, you can also enjoy the fireworks display in the evening. Both the fluvial parade and the grande street parade have splendid and splashy floats of costumed participants representing both the Spanish soldiers and the Filipino tribe. You can join the partying locals, have your face painted and enjoy the local beer and foods (suman, lechon, bami, puso, etc). You can watch live bands and be impressed by Cebu's finest vocal talents. The culmination of the festival is the awarding of prizes - there's Sinulog festival queen, the photo contest awards and the winner of the grand parade dance competitions.

Sinulog dance group

Sinulog dance group

Sinulog dancer

I was part-of the Sinulog dance group representing the Company where I worked. During my stint at the company, I was an active member of the SMC Choreography Club. We performed during important events of the Company and the city of Cebu. One of the events was the Sinulog festival. The Company would provide us with the necessary costumes and gave us the necessary free time for rehearsals. We would be provided with provisions (drinks and food) and transport. The dance theme varied every year based on the Philippine folk dances - such as the Maria Clara dance, the Muslim dance, the Cordillera dance, Rural dance and the tribal dance. I would never forget the lavish and colorful costumes that we wore during our dance performances courtesy of the SMC. I also remember dancing under hot tropical temperatures ending in the evening. We would then have dinner together hosted by the company. We would go home happy but exhausted.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Rose T