25 Things Every Sinulog Festival First-Timer Should Know
So you’re traveling to Cebu to experience the biggest and grandest festival in the country. You’ve seen it on TV and you’ve heard people talking about it. You know that the parade takes place every third Sunday of January and that revelers don Sinulog hats, face paint, and those colorful Sinulog shirts. But do you know what really happens during the Sinulog Grand Parade? Do you know what to expect, what to wear, or what to see and do? If it’s your very time, here are 25 things you need to know before joining Cebu’s Sinulog Festival.
1. Month-long Celebration
The Sinulog Festival is basically a month-long celebration. The season kicks off with the Sinulog Fun Run on the first Saturday of January and ends with the awarding ceremonies (Photo, Short Film, and Video Documentary contest) on the last Sunday of the month. If you want to really experience Cebu’s Sinulog Festival, one weekend is definitely not enough. (See full schedule here)
2. Señor Santo Niño
At the very center of the huge celebration is the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu. The Santo Niño, often referred to as the ‘Holy Child of Cebu,’ is a miraculous image of the infant child Jesus. The image is present in all street dancing performances and religious activities that take place during the month-long celebration.
3. Rave Parties
A lot of rave parties happen in Cebu during the Sinulog season. Rave parties are huge dance parties which feature performances by famous local and international DJs. Some of the most popular rave parties in Cebu during the Sinulog season are LifeDance, Elektro Mundo, and Invasion Cebu, to name a few.
4. Religious Festival
Although the Sinulog grand parade is fun, vibrant, and loud, the festival is still, first and foremost, a religious activity. The Sinulog is basically the Cebuanos’ way of paying homage to Señor Santo Niño. So be sure to keep things moderate, light, and cool.
5. Attended by Millions
The Sinulog Festival is watched by millions and attended by millions. So expect the city to be packed to the rafters. There will be a bit of congestion and pushing especially in busy intersections. Even the areas that are normally quiet will be stuffed with people. So always be alert and familiarize yourself with the road networks beforehand so you’ll know your exit points in cases of emergency.
6. Sinulog Outfit
The Sinulog Grand Parade is a very energetic, exciting, and fun event. However, it can also be very tiring. So, when choosing your Sinulog get-up, be sure to wear something that is not only stylish and interesting, but also cool, light, and comfortable. Sinulog Sunday is probably going to be really hot. So, don’t forget to bring a hat, an extra shirt, and a hanky.
7. Street Performances
Don’t have a ticket to watch the Sinulog at the Cebu City Sports Center? Don’t worry. Contingents will be required to perform their street dancing routine all throughout the carousel route. If you want to see complete street dancing performances, however, be sure to find a spot near bleachers where judges are usually situated.
The float category is one of the Sinulog Grand Parade’s most exciting competitions. Huge, colorful floats join the parade and trace the whole carousel route before they enter the Cebu City Sports Center where they are scrutinized by the grandstand spectators. If you want to see them up close, however, be sure to watch out for them along the parade route.
9. Main/Ritual Performances
Aside from the street dancing routine, contingents also have a much longer presentation which features a ‘ritual’ segment, gigantic props and backdrops, and effects that aren’t shown in their street dancing performances. If you want to see these complete performances, be sure to secure a grandstand ticket before they run out.
10. Puppets and Giants
Aside from the gorgeous floats, puppets and giants (higante) can also be seen during the parade. These hand-made puppets and giants, which are created by talented Cebuano artists, are paraded along the carousel route and are also presented on stage at the Cebu City Sports Center.
11. Face Paints and Tattoos
Face paint and tattoo artists can be seen in various parts of the city during the Sinulog season. For a small fee, you can get a henna tattoo, a face paint, or a temporary tattoo to match your Sinulog outfit. If you’re creative, you can even do it to your friends and to yourself.
12. Carousel Route
To ensure that spectators get to see all contingents during the grand parade, performers will be required to start and end at the exact same spot. This system, dubbed the carousel route, lets all contingents perform in all areas along the parade route. After they perform their main routine at the grandstand, they continue performing their streetdancing routine on the streets until they reach the spot where they started.
13. Fireworks Displays
The grand finale at the Cebu City Sports Center is followed by a 15-30-minute fireworks display. The fireworks show not only ends the long Sinulog Grand Parade, it also signals the beginning of the end of the Sinulog season in Cebu.
14. Celebrity Sightings
The Sinulog Grand Parade would never be complete without the presence of some famous celebrities from the capital. These celebrities are usually paraded along the carousel route on a sponsored float. This year, both GMA 7 and ABS-CBN are expected to let some of their talents join the Sinulog parade.
15. Out of Town Contingents
The Sinulog Festival is open to other festivals from neighboring cities and islands. In fact, most of the Sinulog’s biggest and most exciting winners are from different provinces. Some of the most popular and multi-awarded contingents that never fail to join the Sinulog festivities come from Leyte, Samar, Masbate, Cotabato, and Tangub.
16. Grand Finale
At the end of the long parade, a grand finale is held at the Cebu City Sports Center. The grand finale is considered one of the highlights of the Sinulog season as it usually features famous Cebuano artists and personalities. Each year, the finale also follows a specific theme.
During the Sinulog Grand Parade, major roads are closed off to traffic and jeepneys are rerouted. The roads that remain open are also either filled with parked vehicles or are packed with people. So the best way to get from one place to another is by walking. Do yourself a favor and wear something nice and comfortable.
18. Jones Avenue and Mango Avenue
Although the whole parade route is very busy, the two busiest streets during the parade are General Maxilom Avenue (Mango) and Osmeña Boulevard (Jones Avenue.) Osmeña Boulevard is where the Cebu City Sports Center is located and Mango Avenue is where restaurants, bars, and parties can be seen.
19. Crowd Control
To ensure that the parade is smooth and performers get all the space that they need, spectators will be asked to stay behind a rope line. Often times, policemen, ROTC cadets, or police interns man these rope lines to prevent spectators from crossing to the other side during performances. Only photographers with valid Photo Contest IDs will be allowed to approach the performers.
20. Lots of Tourists
During the Sinulog season, a huge number of tourists – both local and foreign – come to Cebu. These tourists fill majority of the available accommodations in the city. A lot of these visitors also remain in Cebu even after the Sinulog celebrations have ended to tour the island’s many wonderful tourist spots.
If you’re lucky (or very early,) you will be able to find a seat in one of the numerous bleachers set up along the parade route. The city government of Cebu usually sets up free bleachers to not only maximize viewing space, but also to decongest the sidewalks of spectators.
22. Food and Souvenirs
Worried about where to eat on Sinulog Sunday? Fret not! Hundreds of food kiosks appear in different parts of the city during the Sinulog weekend to cater to the millions of spectators who come to Cebu to take part in the festivities. A lot of kiosks and stalls also sell Sinulog souvenir items which you could bring home as presents.
23. Devotee City
The city government opens a devotee city every year to house visiting pilgrims and devotees who could not afford decent accommodations during the Sinulog festivities. These accommodations aren’t the best, but they are clean, sturdy, and safe especially for out-of-towners.
24. Cebuano Talent
The Sinulog Festival is a showcase of Cebuano talent. Don’t miss the grand finale to see performances from some of Cebu’s most popular and well-loved musicians and artists. Intermission numbers also feature performances from Cebu City’s best dancers, singers, and celebrities.
25. Cebu City Sports Center
If you want to fully enjoy the performances of all the contingents, get a seat at the Cebu City Sports Center. To get inside the Cebu City Sports Center, you must secure a valid Sinulog ticket. Ticket prices range from 500 to 2000 depending on the proximity of the seats to the main stage.
There you have it! I hope this list will help make your first Sinulog experience a truly memorable one. Enjoy the Sinulog, bai! Viva! Pit Senyor!