Preserving the Sinulog
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - January 22, 2019 - 12:00am

The Sinulog Grand Parade last Sunday was a huge success by any measure. A record 2.5 million people, according to police estimates, went out to join the celebration. Congratulations are in order, of course, to the Cebuanos whose devotion to the Señor Sto. Niño as shown in the hundreds of thousands who showed up for the religious activities and other events leading to the grand parade.

Based on the reports, the grand parade went without a major hitch despite the intermittent rains. It was heartening to see in social media feeds cute little children in tow with their parents to watch the Sinulog street dancing. The city government’s determination to rein in hooliganism and street parties, I think, contributed to having more people, young and old, showing up for the Sinulog.

The city police under Senior Superintendent Royina Garma also deserve a pat in the back. Despite earlier complaints about strict security measures in days leading to the grand parade, it inspires confidence to see our police taking the extra mile, literally even (they had a contingent and a float during the parade), to ensure that no harm will come to people in the procession and parade routes.

City residents are no fans of the city police chief whose stint has been marred by numerous unsolved killings and her reported intransigence toward the city’s duly-elected officials. But we must also give credit to hard work and dedication on occasions when we see them in our PNP and military.

Like in previous Sinulog celebrations, I opted to stay at home and watch the parade on TV and Facebook Live feeds. I’ve had my share of memorable moments during Sinulog, from my childhood to my teenage years. I hope those who went out to watch the grand parade and street dancing had as much memorable enjoyment as I’ve had.

My most unforgettable Sinulog celebrations occurred when I was a child in the ‘80s and one when I was in college. As a child, it had become sort of a ritual for me to be perched on top of my father’s shoulders where I had the best view of the street dancing, and where I was also sort of exposed to and offered to the Holy Child. That was the time when the parade started downtown and ended in front of what was then Cebu’s prime shopping destination, the White Gold Department Store building (now just a sad, concrete shell standing beside Robinson’s Galleria). In college, I had the best view of the street dancing when I was one of hundreds of ROTC cadets tapped to hold the ropes for crowd control.

But more important than these festive memories of the Sinulog Festival is the latter’s religious-cultural meaning among the Cebuanos and the devotees coming here from other places. A doctoral dissertation, in particular, described the Sinulog dances as “informing the understanding of such cultural terms as ‘lihok’ (movement), ‘kinasingkasing’ (sincerity), and ‘halad’ (sacrifice),” which along with symbolizing indigenous religious practice, are seen as a sign of a resilient Cebuano lifestyle and world view. (Ness, 1987) Such context will ensure the permanence of the annual celebration and which shall trump the commercial interests and hedonistic overtones that have creeped into the celebration in recent years.

That is why it is good that strict regulations have been put in place to rein in the street parties and alcohol-induced youthful adventurism. As to commercialism, its presence is expected and even necessary but it should serve to perpetuate the Sinulog and not destroy the latter’s essence.

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