5 Things to Remember About the Sinulog Festival (Cebu City)

We’ve had our fair share of Sinulog celebrations in Cebu City, but now our participation is limited to watching this annual festival on tv or reading about it in write-ups. We can’t join them all. Still, we intend to immerse our children in the Sinulog. Here are 5 things that, in our opinion, we must imprint in their young minds as they begin their Sinulog journey (we were actually thinking of 15 things to remember, but that’s too much even for us).

1. Thanksgiving

The January celebration is not merely a street party. The whole Sinulog celebration, first and foremost, is a thanksgiving to God. You might be surprised to know that it’s a week-long celebration. Yes, party animal, your grand party time is only one day, the last day, of the Sinulog affair. Go utter a word or two of prayer, you pagan 😉 [Photo outside the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino, courtesy of aizaizbabyy.]

2. Beyond the Religious

There have been, and there will always be, purists who say that Sinulog is a sacrilege, that it’s not a way to do a religious thanksgiving. We believe otherwise. The Sinulog is not a one-day affair. It’s a week-long celebration, 90% of which is religious in nature. You go to church on the other days (we do). The last day, however, is the mardi gras. It’s the grandest of all parades the Philippines has to offer. While it has its religious roots, this is a socio-civic activity that zealots should leave alone. We don’t think about words like religion or pagan on the mardi gras. We think about one thing, and one thing only: par-tey! [Photo of Fooda Mango Avenue party, courtesy of David Wilde — rapper, singer, songwriter from Cebu City.]

3. The Party

You’ve seen the photos, selfies and panoramas, of thousands of people converging on a singular place, then you say, “wow, that’s a lot of people!” You’re right, but mostly wrong. You cannot capture Sinulog in one photo. [Photo taken from the balcony of One Mango, above, courtesy of davidpebenito.]

Those photos are taken only in one place. Remember that Sinulog is a city-wide party. Leave your important belongings in the hotel, bring only enough dough, and party like it’s the end of the world. Choose your party, though. Tons of parties are held simultaneously in different parts of the city. [Cebu Sinulog party photo, above, courtesy of Raffy Dela Peña — dj photographer and sport photographer based in Manila.]

4. Get Dirty

We don’t know what you make of the word “dirty,” but we mean physically dirty. And to avoid any wise-ass out there who’d carve something out of “dirty,” we’ll make it even more specific — it should be unclean (darn, this is not helping). How do we say this? Let’s see. You don’t wear beautiful clothes during Sinulog. You don’t expect your clothes to stay unblemished as the sun sets. [Photo courtesy of DJ Simporios.]

Sinulog is a city-wide party. Body paints. Body arts. Henna tattoos. Foams. Booze. Sweat. Sun. Friends (not fun without friends or family, we tell you). If you want to experience the real Sinulog as it should be celebrated, you get down to the streets, in plain-willing-to-throw-away clothes, and join the immense crowd in this once-a-year merriment. If you’re watching the party from the comfort of your hotel balcony, you might as well go home. [Photo courtesy of Arden Atienza.]

5. Home

Sinulog, for many, is a destination to visit. For us, it’s home. It’s a ritual that reminds us of our roots, our heritage. It’s something we know intimately, something we deeply care about. It’s not simply a cacophony of sounds and an explosion of colors; it’s home. And wherever the journey of life brings us, we will always go back to reaffirm that heritage. Whoever you are — so long as you share the one beat, that one dance — you’re one of us. Pit Senyor! Pri-ti-tit! Pit Senyor! [Photo courtesy of P.Miralles.]

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