‘Bypassed’ Cebu to hold grand Sinulog

CEBU CITY — While Pope Francis is holding a solemn Mass in Luneta in Manila, Cebuanos plan to hold a more festive Sinulog grand parade, with the biggest stage featuring the facade of Basilica del Sto. Niño.

About 1,000 dancers and performers will participate in the grand dance finale, Sinulog Foundation Inc. organizers here said.

The grand finale would complement the Pope’s Mass as the festivities will mark the beginnings of Christianity in Cebu, said SFI executive director Ricky Ballesteros.

The Sinulog parade will also pay tribute to the Augustinian community, which is celebrating 450 years of presence in the Philippines, Ballesteros said.

Cebu Rep. Gabriel Luis Luigi Quisumbing said he was optimistic that next month’s Sinulog will be “the best ever” as the historic visit of the Pope would serve to strengthen the devotion of the Catholic faithful.

“Sinulog, being an expression of devotion to the Sto. Nino is a natural outlet for the same expression of faith,” Quisumbing told the Manila Standard.

“I am confident that not only will Sinulog be bigger this year but also see a marked increase in the religious activities that sevre as part of its celebration.”

The Pope will be in Tacloban City on Jan. 17 to meet survivors of typhoon Yolanda and the magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

The disasters also affected Cebu, but the Pope will not be coming here.

The pontiff’s visit in Tacloban coincides with the fluvial procession of the image of the Sto. Niño in Cebu, which will begin early in the morning and will be followed by a foot procession.

During the Sinulog Grand Parade, Ballesteros said Pope Francis will be in Manila to meet Church leaders and will celebrate Mass at the Rizal Park before leaving the country.

Ballesteros allayed fears that the Pope’s absence in Cebu would reduce the number of visitors during the Sinulog.

“Sinulog 2015 will complement the Pope’s visit because it will showcase Cebu’s role in the spread of Christianity in the Philippines,” he said.

He said the Sinulog Foundation is putting up projector screens in some portions of the parade route and at the Cebu City Sports Center to show a telecast of the Pope celebrating Mass in Manila.

To celebrate its 35th year, Ballsteros said, the foundation chose a festival theme that focuses on the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino and pays tribute to the Augustinian community.

“This will be the first time for the cultural and religious aspects of the Sinulog to have the same theme,” he said. “It will be a celebration of faith in the form of dance.”

The foundation is almost done with preparations for the Sinulog 2015, including the stage where the contingents will showcase their final dance during the grand parade.

“The Sinulog 2015 stage will be the biggest so far. It will feature the facade of Basilica del Sto. Nino. Around a thousand dancers and performers from different schools in the city will also join the grand finale,” Ballesteros said.

Sinulog is a dance ritual in honor of the miraculous image of the Santo Nino.

The dance moves to the sound of the drums and this resembles the current (Sinulog) of what was then known as Cebu’s Pahina River. Thus, in Cebuano, they say it’s Sinulog.

More than just the meaning of the word is the significance of the dance. Historians now say that Sinulog, which is of pagan origin, is the link between the country’s pagan past and its Christian present.

The SFI recounted the historical accounts that before Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan came to Cebu on April 7, 1521 to plant the cross on its shore and claim the country for the King of Spain, Sinulog was already danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos.

Then Magellan came and introduced Christianity. He gave the Santo Nino (image of the Child Jesus) as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon who was later named Queen Juana.

At the time, not only the rulers were baptized but also about 800 of their subjects. Shortly after the conversion, however, Magellan fought the reigning ruler of Mactan, Rajah Lapulapu, with only a handful of men and died in the encounter on April 27, 1521.

It took 44 years before a new group arrived to start the formal Christianization of the islands. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565. His ships bombarded the village and in one of the burning huts, one of his soldiers named Juan Camus found inside a wooden box the image of the Sto. Nino lying side by side with native idols.

Historians now say that during the 44 years between the coming of Magellan and Legaspi, the natives continued to dance the Sinulog. This time however, they danced it no longer to worship their native idols but a sign of reverence to the Sto. Nino, which is now enshrined at the San Agustin Church (renamed Basilica Minore del Santo Nino).

Through the years since 1521, the dance was a small ritual by a few in front of wooden idols or before the Santo Nino.

In 1980, David S. Odilao Jr., then regional director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, organized the first Sinulog parade. He invited the physical education teachers for a meeting to discuss the organization of a Sinulog street dance parade. Nang Titang Diola of Mabolo was invited to give a demonstration at the Cebu Doctor’s College. The steps were analyzed and further enhanced by steps used by the candle vendors who performed in front of the the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

With seven schools and universities, the physical education teachers spearheaded the first Sinulog Street Dance Parade. With financial support from Odilao and the Department of Education Culture and Sports, the schools were assigned to represent eras in the history of Cebu from the primitive times to the present.

Member schools of the Cebu Physical Education Association the University of San Carlos, Southwestern University, University of San Jose-Recoletos, University of Cebu, University of Southern Philippines, Cebu Institute of Technology and Cebu Doctor’s University took part.

The street dance parade started from the Plaza Independencia and caught the imagination of the City of Cebu, which then thought of making the Sinulog a festival that would rival other festivals being held yearly in the country.

Thus, under the direction of Cebu City Mayor Florentino S. Solon and through the help of Manuel S. Satorre Jr., the late Juan B. Aquino Jr., also late Xavier Ledesma, Robert Grimalt and Antonio R. Aseniero Jr., Odilao turned over the Sinulog project to the Cebu City Historical Committee under Kagawad Jesus B. Garcia Jr. Through Garcia’s committee, the Sinulog organization came into being.

The first task of the organizing committee was to conceptualize the festival and make it a big event.

The committee then came up with a Sinulog logo that would identify the event yearly.

The group didn’t want to use the Sto. Nino image itself because this would have been a sacrilege. And it had to look for something that would identify the project.

This was the coat of arms of the Sto. Nino, which is quite visible as they are being embossed in the benches, architecture and banners of the old San Agustin Church. The coat of arms of the Sto. Nino bears a two-headed hawk, the mark of the House of Hapsburg in Europe, which then ruled most of the known world from the 15th century to 20th century.

Spain was under the Hapsburgs when it sent the expeditions out across the globe to spread the faith and expand the influence of the dynastic house to unknown lands beyond the oceans.

The emblem of the two-headed hawk at the peak of the power of the Hapsburg dynasty represented the twin purpose of the house, which was to stand as “champion of Catholicism and defender of the faith.”

The Sinulog committee thus imprinted the coat of arms on a native warrior’s shield to represent the Sinulog.



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