Two steps forward and 39 years later
What started as a small ritual dance in honor of the Holy Child Jesus several decades ago has now become a grand celebration of unity amid diversity.
People of different races, beliefs and generations visit Cebu annually to join what is probably the biggest fiesta in the country.
But did you know that the Sinulog festival first started as an intimate homage to Señor Sto. Niño, participated in solely by Cebuano devotees?
According to the Sinulog Foundation Inc.’s (SFI) official website, the grand event did not happen until the early 1980s.
The first Sinulog parade was organized by David Odilao Jr. in 1980.
Odilao, who was then the regional director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, invited physical education teachers for a meeting to discuss the organization of a Sinulog street dance parade.
A dance demonstration at the then Cebu Doctors’ College was made by Estelita “Nang Titang” Diola, the oldest Sinulog dancer in the province, who died in 2013 at the age of 88.
The simple dance moves were taken up a notch by incorporating the steps used by the candle vendors performing in front of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño.
The first Sinulog parade was then taken to the streets with the participation of the different schools.
Unlike today’s five-kilometer carousel route, the first street dance parade started at the Plaza Independencia and ended at the Capitol.
The following year, in 1981, seven floats were created to depict the seven different periods of Cebuano history.
Dancers performing to the same beat wore costumes depicting the eras as they followed the floats.
The night was capped off with a grand fireworks display and the tradition has been kept until today.
So that spectators can appreciate the finesse in execution and precision in performances, workshops and demonstrations were conducted annually through the help of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the Philippine Folk Dance Society.
For the next five years or until 1985, the Sinulog festival was only participated in by devotees and spectators from Cebu City and Cebu Province.
Organizers of the festival, though, saw the need to introduce new features that would attract more participants.
Over the next few years, participants from all over the country started giving their own touch to the Sinulog ritual dance. They, too, have become crowd favorites and perennial winners.
One of the most celebrated outof-town contingents is the multiyear champion Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe of Tangub City.
Tangub has 12 championships to its name since it first started joining the Sinulog grand parade in 1994.
To make the Sinulog livelier than it already was, the organizers introduced new contests and more special awards.
The search for the Sinulog Festival Queen, the award for the contingent with the best musicality and a video documentary contest were held for the first time in 2004.
This year, spectators are in for new events such as the Agikik sa Sinulog (featuring Cebuano comedians), Sugbuanong Musika (showcasing the talent of local musicians) and a tribal band performers’ contest.
For Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, making the Sinulog a sober fiesta is the most remarkable innovation so far.
Finding the street parties and revelry too rowdy for a festival of veneration, Osmeña last year ordered a temporary entertainment and liquor ban within the 300-meter radius of the carousel route after hundreds of revelers ended up drunk in the streets the day after the grand parade.
“Last year was the most memorable to me because we brought solemnity to the event by enforcing a ban on alcohol and street parties,” Osmeña told SunStar Cebu.
CROWD FAVORITE. Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe of Tangub City has 12 grand prize awards to its name, including this performance in 2006.