Socio-economic effects of Sinulog
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - January 22, 2019 - 12:00am

The Cebu Sinulog Festival is actually composed of two parts; the religious aspect which is the more than 400 years since the Sto. Niño image reached Cebu, and the 39 years that people have been celebrating this event with a “mardi gras” as part of the homage to the Sto. Niño. Both celebrations have steep social involvement and economic benefits from the time it started to be held, and as it gets bigger every year.

In the most recent “Sinulog”, it was reported that 1.4 million people joined the solemn procession on Saturday and almost 2 million watched the grand parade the following day. Even discounting the numbers due to exaggeration, these are still huge numbers and these are composed of local and foreign tourists, people from neighboring provinces and towns, and portions of the over 2 million Metro Cebu population.

The economic effects of the Sinulog on Cebu City and Cebu Province are quite significant. In terms of additional expenditures, in the one-month span of the event from preparation to culmination, P2 billion to P2.5 billion is spent by the private sector and the government.

Most are consumption expenditures, but there are also capital expenditures for infrastructures and capacity expansion for the production of goods and facilities for lodging and food services. This festival has spurred the construction of more hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other places of entertainment. This annual event has complemented other attractions in Cebu as a center of trade and domestic shipping, a resort city, an IT outsourcing city, and as an educational center.

The Visayas region accounts for 10% of the Philippines Gross Domestic Product, and Cebu accounts for half or 5% of this GDP. Given that the annual Regional GDP growth of the Visayan region at 7.4% is 1% higher than the National GDP growth rate, it is very credible that the Sinulog’s P2.5-billion additional expenditure and the multiplier effect contribute to the additional growth of the Visayas economy. The social impact of this faster economic growth contributes to a higher per-capita income of the Cebuanos and alleviating poverty levels and broader economic inclusion. While Cebu has always had a higher proportion of middle class than other regions in the country, the Sinulog is an additional impetus.

The religious events such as the fluvial procession, Walk with Mary, and multiple masses and novenas have the effect of rekindling/renewing the religiosity and faith of the Catholics and non-Catholics who attend these events. But beyond these, are the massive social interaction among families, friends, and all participants.

People from all social classes join the masses, processions, parades, and the other celebrations. The rich, poor, middle class, barrio folks, foreign tourists, balikbayans, promdis, children, young and old walk the same streets for the processions and the celebrations. It is a very democratic celebration. The event is also a celebration of charity and kindness.

The masses and the novenas are funded by contributions from businesses and individuals. Each of the 11 masses every day for nine days are sponsored by companies and individuals that contribute funds and services. The collections from each of these masses are hundreds of thousands, and there are thousands of people who serve or assist in these events for free as their payback for the blessings they have received for their devotion to the Sto. Niño. The Provincial and City government provides free lodging and other facilities for the needy out-of-towners, and food is provided to them by some private companies and families.

Every year the Sinulog celebration is getting better managed and bereft of its hooliganism and excesses. It is also getting de-politicalize that it cannot be used for political promotion of candidates. The drift to a more ethical/moral and democratic celebration will be good for this event. It will also be good for the people and the country if our politicians and government officials realize this and practice them in their governance.

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