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Sinulog Festival: A performance of praise

“Pit Senyor! Pit Senyor!” Sound familiar? This infectious chant, most likely encountered during the Sinulog Festival, is a truncated version of “Pit Senyor kang Mama kini, Pit Senyor kang Papa kini.” The Señor Santo Nino is one of the most revered sacred relics in the Philippines, and the reason Filipinos flock to Cebu every third week of January to honor its miraculous image.

Over the years, the Sinulog Festival has gained popularity as both a destination and experience, most especially among teenagers and young adults. Just last year, an article by Honey Jarque Loop for The Philippine Star reported a crowd of around 3.5 million. In anticipation for the annual event, we asked around to know more about Sinulog from the Lasallian students’ perspectives, and to get a glimpse of the experience of going to one of the country’s most-celebrated festivals.

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Defining Sinulog

Sinulog represents a link between culture and religion. We Filipinos have always been known for our religiosity and happy-go-lucky attitude, and these characteristics are manifested through the numerous fiestas and festivals of the many regions of the Philippines. Majority, if not all, of the country’s festivals either commemorate a monumental event of the people’s history, or honor a patron saint.

When asked what comes to mind upon hearing the word ‘Sinulog’, several students immediately think of the festival and its fun and exciting activities. For instance, Charlie* (II, AB-ISE), who has yet to experience the festival firsthand, says that he immediately thinks of “parades, floats, and religious festivity”.

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On the other hand, some students refer to its party scene or the more modern part of the festivities. Sam* (III, AB-PSM), who also hasn’t been to Sinulog yet, shares that she equates Sinulog to “parties, food, and smiles everywhere.” On the other hand, Clara* (III, AB-PSM), who has actually attended the festivities in Cebu, acknowledges that it involves “loads of partying.”

Apart from their impressions of the Sinulog Festival, there were students who also provided us with some historical insight, like Kieffer (IV, BS-INSYS) who stated that there is a correlation between the wave-like movements and the festival’s title. ‘Sinulog’ is the Cebuano term for sulog, which translates to “current”—the movements we observe in bodies of water. Kieffer interestingly shares that there is a similarity between the movements in the dance ritual performed by the natives with that of the water’s current.

Meanwhile, Clara* defines Sinulog as a festival that, “[Gives] honor and [reenacts] how Catholicism was brought to the country.” She shares how the festival traces back to an evolution from animist worship to an individual Christian figure. However, even before Cebu experienced waging wars and met Portuguese crusaders, all the chanting and dancing had already been tradition for the ancestors of Cebu. It was then only a matter of time until the voyager Magellan presented a once unfamiliar idol, the Santo Niño, to Rajah Humabon’s wife for baptism, which began the spread of Christianity in the Philippines.

 

The Sinulog experience

But what’s all the commotion about, besides the heavy banging of the drums and the upbeat mardi gras atmosphere? The Sinulog Festival promotes participation in their various contests and activities lined up, which are suitable for both the young and the young at heart. These include photo contests, short film festivals, and the grand parade. “There are several groups who perform dances which, in a way, is their offering,” Emily* (III, AB-ISE), who was born and raised in Cebu, explains.

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On her Sinulog experience, Emily* asserts that, even as someone who grew up witnessing and experiencing the festival year after year, the celebration proves to be surreal, as it signifies what she calls, “A whole community being one.” Meanwhile, Clara* recalls her experience, calling it, “Very fun and explosive in a way.” She also explains that the celebration lasted for a week or so. “There was always something happening in the streets any time of the day.”

There is no denying that those who attend the festival consider it as a worthwhile experience. They go home with smiles on their faces and so many memories to share with friends and loved ones. Henry* (I, MSPSYHD) dubs it, rather simply, “One of the best street parties I’ve been to.”

The Sinulog Experience Colored

In the midst of globalization, the warm celebration of our Philippine festivals is a great way for us to keep our Filipino culture alive and kicking. To see that the festival is still very much relevant to the youth today assures us that the Filipino culture is simply stronger than ever. What started out as a sacred dance, a ritual in honor of the Sto. Niño, has blossomed into one of the most well-known and beloved festivals of the Philippines. From its traditional practices and religious background, to its more modern side consisting of street parties that cater to teenagers and young adults, the Sinulog Festival has definitely soared in popularity, thanks to its visually appealing and inviting cultural enterprise.

 

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.

By Alexis Sobremonte

By Josienne Cordova

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