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Evolution of Cebu’s Sinulog Festival

The Sinulog Festival is an annual major celebration held every third Sunday of January to honor of the Sto. Nino or the Holy Child Jesus. To Cebuanos, the festivity is an expression of their profound faith and devotion to the Sto. Nino. The festival is a nine-day celebration that culminates into a street dance parade called the Sinulog Grand Parade. Perhaps the grandest of all Philippine festivals, it is characterized by ostentatious and meticulously crafted indigenous-inspired costumes and props bursting with imagination and vibrant colors. It also features elaborately designed float rides, giant effigies called the "Higantes," and the heart-pounding beat of drums, trumpets, and gongs.

It Started with the Sulog

The Sinulog as we know it today is a far cry from how it was observed prior to the 1980's. The dancing was only confined within the premises of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino wherein women candle vendors danced the Sulog  as a form of fervent prayer and devotion to Sto. Nino. The Sulog (a contraction of Sinulog) which roughly means "Like movement of water current" is performed with forward-backward. Moreover, a solemn procession through the major streets of Cebu served as one of the highlights of the festivity.

Beginnings of a Grand Parade

It was David Odilao, then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, who came up with the idea of transforming the Sinulog Festival into a street parade. In 1980, with the cooperation of physical education teachers from different schools and universities, the first Sinulog Grand Parade came into fruition with mostly students as participants who were garbed in Moro costumes.

The idea caught on like wildfire. The Sinulog Festival widened its scope of by welcoming participants from other provinces in the Philippines. The highlight of the festival is the dance competition held at the Cebu City Sports Complex wherein contingents vie for the grand prize under two contest categories: The Freestyle Interpretation and the Sinulog-based.

Soon after, the participation of the private sector, business establishments, barangays, civic-religious organizations had provided much needed financial support that made the festival more attractive to both local and foreign visitors.

Sinulog Today

Today, the Sinulog Festival offers a variety of both fun and religious activities. For instance, there is a fluvial procession from Mandaue to Cebu carrying the image of the Holy Child. A procession on major streets of Cebu also takes place a day prior the the grand parade. Trade Fairs are held to showcase the best products Cebu has to offer. Then there are nightly cultural and variety shows open to the public; and the Night Bazaars that offer low prices of commodities and then there are the Street Parties where you can let your hair down and dance the night away to your heart's content.

The Sinulog Festival, having evolved into a highly commercialized event, hasn't lost its main purpose of commemorating Cebu's pagan past and its acceptance of Christianity.

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