The biggest festival celebration of the Philippines is held in Cebu and it’s called Sinulog (Santo Niño Festival). This festival displays the culture and religious affinity of Cebuanos. It is usually held every third Sunday of January.
Cebu City has become the center of the Santo Niño festivals in the Philippines. It is the first festival to become famous as it is visited by a one to two million people from all over the country and world. Santo Niño represents the child Jesus, the patron saint of Cebu.
Sinulog: Santo Niño Festival in Cebu
Sinulog is well-known for its street parties which happens at night before and the actual night of the festival itself. The Sinulog Festival boasts its rich history through colorful street decorations and parade. The parade includes dance rituals which remembers the paganism in the past of the Filipinos and their openness to convert to Christian religion.
The festival also includes the pageantry of participants who wear bright-colored costumes. Fireworks and loud “Viva Pit Senyor” can be heard from all over the festival place. Loud beats from the drums, trumpets, and native gongs are also heard making the streets alive and full of enthusiasm.
Sinulog is not just found in the city proper. Smaller versions of this festival are found in the smaller parts of Cebu to honor the Santo Niño. Youth of Cebu are also active in partipating for the Sinulog. A week before the Grand Parade, youths perform and this is called Sinulog sa Kabataan.
History of the Festival
In 1521, Fernando de Magallanes arrived on Cebu Island and claimed it to be part of Spain. He was the one who introduced Christianity to the Filipinos who were animists before. A wooden statue of Santo Niño was given to the wife of the Cebu leader to commemorate the baptism. This event was still held as a ceremony and tradition up until now.
What is the meaning of the word Sinulog?
Sinulog means “graceful dance” in Cebuano dialect. It comes from the word “sulog” which is etymologically related to the passing of water. This is imitated by the dance steps in the traditional dance of Sinulog.
The Sinulog Festival lasts for 9 long days which leads to the central basilica. This is where a reenactment performance is done and massive church goers or followers actively participate. This event is headed by the highest Catholic priests.
Many people come to watch the street parade where participants from various communities in other parts of Cebu come to put on a good show while on the street. Performers are very friendly and would be happy to pose for you so you can take photos of them. It shows how proud Cebuanos are of their heritage and culture.
There are plenty of street vendors selling you a variety of stuff. From food to souvenirs to drinks and other items. This is like a carnival or a street fair after all and it’s a whole day activity (the last day) on the streets so everybody is in a celebratory mood even if it rains hard, the show still goes on!
Usual routine to some partyers are going out to the streets and watching the dancers and the floats pass by Fuente cirlce. After about 2-3 hours, people go down to Mango Avenue and have some barbecue and puso, then proceed to Ayala or SM for fireworks. Other people tend to party later in the evening by going to clubs and bars.
Tips when attending the Sinulog Festival for the First-Time:
- Your accommodation must be booked way ahead of time because above-mentioned, there are a million or two of the tourists.
- It is also best not to book a flight on the day of the festival itself.
- Wear shorts and shirts are recommended as you are going to get painted in parties.
- Wear comfortable clothes is also a must.
- Wear comfortable shoes too! You will do a lot of walking since the streets are normally closed.
- Since it is a very big festival, you have to stay vigilant as thieves are common.
- Lastly, enjoy and get acquainted with Cebu and its rich history.
Enjoy the festive mood and the happy faces of Cebuanos during the Sinulog festival. Be prepared for this crowded event that is definitely worth the celebration!