Sinulog, Festival Of The Santo Ninyo

Sinulog Cebu Philippines
Children celebrating Sinulog festival on the island of Cebu in The Philippines

As I’m sure most of you are already aware, The Philippines is host to a wide variety of festivals. Usually, these festivals are put in place to celebrate and honor a patron saint or for Thanksgiving. You have the Masskara Festival for Bacolod City, Panagbenga Festival for Baguio City, Kadayawan Festival for Davao City just to name a few. Then there is Cebu, which is home to the internationally recognized festival, Sinulog.

Now just for a quick recap. In the era before the arrival of the Spanish, the island of Cebu was known as Zubu. It was primarily inhabited by pagans and Islamic tribes. These tribes had already established a history of trade with other Asian countries long before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Historical records suggest that the wooden statue of the baby Jesus was a gift from Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of Rajah Humabon. This was Cebu’s chieftain at the time of Magellan’s arrival to the island of Cebu. The wooden statue, widely known as Santo Niño is still found on the island of Cebu to this day. It’s currently kept in a secure location inside the Santo Niño and San Nicholas de Tolentino Church. The Santo Nino became the symbol of friendship and the natives’ conversion to Christianity. The Sinulog Festival of the Cebuanos symbolizes their unending devotion to the baby Jesus.

In Cebu, it is during Sinulog that Cebuanos honor the feast of Child Jesus, Santo Niño. It has been believed that the Child Jesus protects the whole province from natural calamities and other disasters. The Cebuanos, in turn, show their gratitude to Sto. Niño through their faith and devotion especially during its feast day.

While there are about a hundred major festivals in the country, Cebu’s Sinulog is said to be one of the most successful. Even non-Cebuanos from all over the country look forward to this event. Locals prepare for the much awaited Sinulog Festival, and balikbayans and tourists all prepare to travel to Cebu and witness the grand annual celebration set for the 3rd Sunday in January.

The festivity in this premier island in Central Visayas is divided into two — the religious side and the celebrations.
A nine-day novena kicks off the Sinulog celebration. Millions of Sto. Niño devotees from outside and within Cebu attend the religious activities of the event. In fact, the authorities make it a point that all pilgrims who have no money to spend for hotels or pension houses are accommodated in the Devotee City. It should be noted that most city hotels at this time are fully occupied. Thus tourists planning to join the Sinulog fun must make their bookings early.

On a Saturday, devotees wake up early for the Fluvial Procession. Then later in the afternoon is the Solemn Procession. It is good to know that both activities are always well-attended despite the early start. For the other side of the celebration, Sinulog is the time of the year that the entire city is in revelry.

The streets are crowded, with parties happening almost everywhere over the city. Celebrities visit Cebu and make series of shows and even politicians are visible. The event runs for a month with the Grand Parade featuring the street dancing as the highlight.

You may be asking what makes Sinulog successful — a major factor is the faith of the Cebuanos. That while yes the people are in the mood to party, still Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño is full, which only means the Cebuanos do not forget the real essence of celebrating the feast in the birth of Christ.

Credit should be given to the Sinulog organizers for their efforts in lining up all activities. They take care of security and crowd control — a crucial part of the entire event. The contingents too deserve appreciation for yearly improving on their dances, considering the highlight of the celebration is the Grand Parade.

But really any time of the year, the vibrant culture and scenery of the Philippines are always available for tourists and other visitors. For tourists, to be in the Philippines means to experience a vacation in a land that many call a paradise. The country will surely entertain everyone especially those who are love excitement and adventure.

The country is culturally diverse, with many residents having Spanish, American, Chinese and Malay blood. The Philippine seas and beaches are truly a haven of white sands and intriguing beach houses or villas. The underwater landscapes are enough to captivate every snorkeling fan. The Philippines really is a must visit tourist destination for any keen travelers.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Sinulog festival for the first time, read the summary of my experience here.

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