Mr. Puerto Rico shares Sinulog experience

Rich M. Salibay (The Freeman) - January 27, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The long flight was worth it, according to Mister Puerto Rico International 2015 Fernando Alvarez, who traveled all the way from the Caribbean in the Latin Americas to Cebu.

He said his Sinulog experience has been his most meaningful trip so far. It took more than 40 hours for the hunk to reach the Queen City of the South from Puerto Rico, but the stressful journey did not get his energy level down. He said he felt Señor Sto. Niño was with him all throughout his viaje.

 “Puerto Rico, though under the Spanish regime for so many years, was not able to keep Catholicism, especially when the Americans took over. So we don’t have a festival like Sinulog,” said Fernando. “Being Roman Catholic myself, I was super excited Sir Jim Acosta of Psalmstre invited me to join Sinulog. He said I had to dress up like Magellan, and I and my family were very emotional. It’s really a dream come true for me.”

In his hometown of Coamo in Puerto Rico, pageants are not as big of a deal over there as it is in the Philippines. He said this is why he is not that popular in their place despite being the reigning Mister Puerto Rico International. He only felt the real celebrity status here and said that the Cebuanos are truly accommodating.

Fernando felt overwhelmed with the very warm reception he got from the spectators of the Sinulog 2016 grand parade. “I thought nobody knew me. But I was surprised they knew me and kept shouting my name, ‘Fernando, Fernando, Magellan!’ That was awesome. I was even teary-eyed at one instant. It was really nice being part of  this worldwide popular celebration. I said, ‘Wow, what a wonderful feeling!’” said the 21-year-old senior Accountancy student at the University of Puerto Rico.

Fernando also found out that Cebu, for first-timers like him, offers a lot – entertainment, food, parties, gimmicks and religiosity – which are evident in the month-long Sinulog festivities. For him, Sinulog displayed the rich diverse cultures of the Filipinos.

“I really admire the Cebuanos’ dedication to Señor Sto. Niño. The street dancing competition showcased the colorful cultures of the Philippines. Though different from another, they were united through their devotion to the Holy Child. It’s one thing I wish would happen in Puerto Rico. We are a small nation with approximately four million people, but there is only a small percentage of Catholics. We don’t have religious activities like Sinulog,” said Fernando.

Because of this experience, Fernando said he will surely be back in Cebu to explore more of the island, learn many Cebuano words, and make new friends. He also sees himself gracing Philippine television and the movie theaters in the near future.

Fernando is also expected to perform his duties and responsibilities as a New Placenta for Men ambassador here and abroad, as Psalmstre intensifies its campaigns in the international market.

“Daghang salamat, Cebuanos. Mahal ko kayo. Mobalik ra ko sa sunod,” ended Fernando. –(FREEMAN)

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