Unless a vaccine is developed

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - September 10, 2020 - 12:00am

The “Festival of Festivals.” This has become a label of the Sinulog, the most appropriate tag, if I may add. It is a daring description of Cebu City’s decades-old celebration that evokes the envy of other localities. Kalibo’s Ati-atihan might have chronologically preceded it while Iloilo’s Dinagyang could have been started contemporaneously but the Sinulog has become far larger, more impressive and judging by the increasing yearly volume of inter-continental tourists coming to view it, of by competitive international standard.

COVID-19, the pandemic that originated in China, will bring tremendous challenges in the Sinulog 2021 celebration. If, by infecting more six million persons worldwide and killing almost two hundred thousand Americans, it has crippled the strongest economies, the virus is likely going to bring horror to the city’s 2021 festival.

 Participants from other parts of the country, in all previous celebrations, gave added color to our Santo Nino festivities. This is going to be a major concern. It is a reasonable conclusion that the local government units of out of town participants already drained their 2020 annual budgets for calamities addressing the problems posed by the virus. Necessarily, they must have either passed supplemental budgets or re-aligned other unexpended appropriations to attend to health issues. Money may no longer be available to financing a Cebu Sinulog adventure.

 In times past, the private sector provided the kind of funds needed by any team to join the Sinulog. This fund source has also ebbed because the lockdowns grounded most businesses. There is a quote I read from a social media account and in these difficult times it is worth remembering. It says “a giver must know his limits because a receiver does not have any”.

The Corona virus feeds on the kind of socializing that we usually do. Transmission follows quickly when people come in close contact with someone carrying it. Scientists and health experts want social distancing to be observed in order to prevent viral infection. This protocol stands to be violated if the Sinulog dance is to be rehearsed and eventually performed in January 2021. Whatever allowable distances may be ordered, I still believe that not many people are willing to risk contracting the disease by fulfilling a dream to dance the Sinulog.

I have said that I am an incorrigible optimist. Accordingly, I hope that funds and manpower may be available for willing teams to come to Cebu City and join the Sinulog next year. Yet, at the back of my optimist mind, questions linger. In the first place, will there be any form of street parade allowed by the government? People may argue that the NBA playoffs are, after a long suspension being played. But, even if this non sequitur were applicable, we have to ask at what cost and how are the gates affected? The answers are beyond our city’s capacities.

Finally, the acme of our Sinulog celebration is, arguably, in the people’s flocking to the parade routes, raising praises to Santo Nino, greeting friends, making acquaintances and doing the forward-backward steps. Will we be allowed to rub the elbows of over a million people doing whatever we want to do to our hearts desire? If we were to gauge the success of our Sinulog on these standards, we must be ready to accede to failure unless of course, a vaccine has, in the meantime, been developed and administered to all of us.

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