Why Sinulog matters
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - January 23, 2018 - 12:00am

I believe 2018 is the 38th Sinulog celebration in Cebu, and the size and significance of the event keeps on amazing me. The impact of both the religious and fiesta activities have grown over the years and should keep on growing if those managing the events do the right thing. The impact on the economy, the social milieu, and religion in Cebu and nearby provinces are worth noting and analyzing and may have effects on the whole country.

The Sinulog season in Cebu lasts about two weeks, as preparation for the nine-day novena starts a few days earlier. Donations and pledges are accepted before the start of the nine days, and there are 14 masses every day for nine days culminating on the third Saturday of January. The corporate and the family donations together with the daily mass collections amounting to some P70 million are used to defray the church expenses for the celebration and the capital expenditures for the improvement of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño to make it more comfortable and friendly to pilgrims visiting all year round. The businesses around the church, especially the religious icons and food businesses, double their sales at this time of the year. By the second week, Filipinos from abroad and from other provinces and foreign tourists start arriving, perking up the airline and shipping businesses, and the hotel and restaurant businesses.

By then shopping malls have displayed their Sinulog festival sales and promotions, and mall sales increase by 20%. On the weekend leading to the Saturday procession and the Sunday Grand Parade all the flights and boats are full, the hotels, pensions, and Airbnb are all booked, and 400,000 Sinulog/Cebu T-shirts are sold. In this Sinulog period, an additional P2.5 billion revenue is generated by businesses in Cebu. This impacts Cebu and nearby provinces as the food to feed the multitude and other goods comes from the rural areas and nearby islands. The additional manpower expenses also trickle to the provinces. Assuming money velocity at two times, and the fact that Central Visayas accounts for 10% of the Philippine GDP, the Sinulog festivities improves the region's economic growth by ½ of 1% during the year.

On the religious impact, the Sinulog is a celebration and expression of faith and devotion of Catholics. It is a reliving of piety and atonement for sins via the sacrifice of the novena prayers, masses and the procession. Filipino Catholicism is steep in rituals, symbolism, and the attendance of religious events are thanksgiving for answered prayers and for continuance of future divine favors. For some, including many politicians, it is a period of cleansing the sins and their immoral/amoral lives they have been living before doing it again. Listening to the anecdotal testimonies of some devotees to the Santo Niño has increased the believers that there are even people of other faiths who join the religious events of the Sinulog. 

On the social impact, it has been a welcome development that politicians have avoided or diminished their participation in Sinulog events. It is considered bad taste and negative for their political careers. So, the Sinulog Grand Parade has become a big party, a thanksgiving celebration, a family reunion for people from all walks and classes of society. It is an equalizer that caters to all kinds of people. The best sight I always see in the Sinulog, are simple families from the rural areas with their children watching the parade in the streets and looking at the night sky to enjoy the fireworks as the evening falls.



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