Weathering the festivities

BAR NONE - Ian Manticajon - The Freeman

There's a reason why large outdoor religious and cultural events in the country are held in January. These events include the Sinulog Grand Parade in Cebu City, the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene in Manila, and the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo. The primary reason is weather-related; during this time of the year, the Amihan brings cooler winds from the northeast, resulting in relatively pleasant temperatures on most days.

Climate change has somewhat changed the situation. Although we still enjoy cooler weather at this time of the year, there are days when humidity levels cause discomfort. People often complain about the heat, especially during peak times from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This explains why there were many empty seats at the staging area of the Sinulog Grand Parade in the morning, and why large crowds only began to fill the venue by late afternoon.

Undoubtedly, the turnout at the South Road Properties (SRP) was significantly higher this year compared to last year. Photographs from above and images at street level don’t lie. But I'm skeptical about how the police came up with the figure of three million for the number of people attending the Sinulog. Considering that the entire population of Cebu island is estimated at around 4.6 million (with Cebu City accounting for over a million and Cebu Province just over three million), the figure seems implausibly high. It’s like saying that nearly two-thirds of the island's population, along with some tourists and balikbayans, were present in the streets for the event.

While I chose not to join the crowd at the SRP, the TV at home was on all day, showing images and blaring with the sounds of Sinulog, thanks to the online coverage from media outlets like MyTV. Barring any major untoward incident, one can never really go wrong with the Sinulog. Cebuanos and visitors are always in good spirits because the religious-cultural fiesta is ingrained in the Filipino DNA. No amount of missteps or shortcomings by the organizers can diminish the joyous celebration or the respectful reverence that characterize events like this.

Fresh from the success of the Sinulog, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama announced that the SRP will likely remain the venue for next year's grand parade. It seems also that people have slowly and grudgingly accepted the SRP as the venue. Besides, the drone photos of the celebration at the SRP were awesome, showing the stage and the crowd against the backdrop of the Cebu mountains and the beautiful coastline, which included a view of the magnificent CCLEX. However, it's probably an open secret, perhaps only spoken in whispers, that two large airconditioned establishments in the SRP are immensely benefitting from the event being held there.

I may have a game plan in case my family and I decide to attend the Sinulog Grand Parade at the SRP next year. We can stay at a large shopping mall in the SRP during the peak sun hours of the day, and then come out in the late afternoon to join the crowd and witness the rest of the celebration in the streets, including the drone show and fireworks.

Hopefully, the hotels and malls in the area will consider setting up a large screen indoors to show live coverage of the celebration outside. By the way, Mayor Rama mentioned the many tents installed around the venue to provide shade to the spectators. While helpful, these tents are obviously not enough to fully mitigate the heat and humidity. This situation should serve as an impetus for planting more canopy or shade trees at the SRP for a more child- and senior-friendly Sinulog.

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