Sinulog as an art form
(The Freeman) - January 6, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines – He question about the purpose of art in human life has been asked for generations. Some sees art as an unnecessary frill; others swear by its power to elevate the human life experience. There seems to be some truth to both views.

Perhaps it is safe to say that art affects anyone who is confronted with it. The effect can either be positive or negative, significant or slight. Perhaps it also depends on the quality of the art itself, and what it means or how it 'speaks' to the person.

Art experts say that the layman experience of art is mainly in terms of how it 'strikes' the person - what feelings it evokes in him or what it reminds him of. On a higher level, the art education of the person, whether experiential or scholastic, also matters in how art affects him. For example, a person who is not educated on the rigors of ballet training will not be moved by a ballet performance in the same way it does one who is familiar with the dance.

For the individual, art can be a tool for awakening one's keener senses. For the community as a whole, good art can improve a community's quality of life. Those whose artistic sensibilities have been awakened are often able to manage well amid the many concerns of living - problems become challenges to conquer instead of burdens to pin them down.

Progressive urban centers, like Cebu, need art. In a community with a high quality of life, there need to be high-quality, low-cost, fun things for people to engage in.  Events as simple as painting a wall, making a mural, participating in a group dance session, being involved in a community theater group are the types of small things that get people active and involved, unify them and make them feel they belong.

There has been through the years a distinct art form that evolves in Cebu City. The Sinulog street dance treads between calisthenics and dance. Its earliest origin is supposedly dance, but as it has since also taken on a tribal flair, it has become quite different from the traditional concept of dance.

In a way, "sinulog" has evolved from being a dance of supplication to a dance of celebration. While it reportedly started as a prayer dance for seeking favors from the pagan gods in pre-colonial Cebu, today it is a festival of the city's rich cultural and historical characters - even a powerful tourism come-on.

Sinulog has taken on its own identity as an art form. It incorporates the elements of dance, beats and rhythm, music, pageantry and others - even drama - into something that's unmistakably Sinulog. Anything that represents this colossal event is now readily identifiable as the touted "the biggest fiesta of the Philippines."

Of course, art has a lot to do with Sinulog. All the colors that characterize the festival - whether in the street performers' costumes and props or of the various Sinulog merchandise displayed by the road sides and in the store - is quite a spectacle to behold. And the characteristic sounds of the festival add another dimension to the euphoric treat.

In addition, Sinulog brings out the best products that have become the pride of Cebu, both in the city and province. Key events during the festivities often display the world-famous Cebuano furniture and crafts. City restaurants highlight the delectable Cebuano food, while best-loved local delicacies abound at the various fairs that pop up all around.

The yearly occasion makes way for the explosion of various opportunities - for exposure, for trading, for showing off. Not to mention, religious expression. Sinulog captures the essence of beauty, inspires hope, and affirms faith - making it quite a special art form.

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