A. “Kanamo maluoy ka unta nga kanimo nangalaba”
Its a yearly tradition for Cebu City to celebrate the day Christianity was introduced to them through Sr. Sto. Niño or the Child Jesus in a festivity called Sinulog. I am lucky enough to celebrate it twice in a row now since last year, 2016. I remember during my college years, I was dreaming of experiencing the fun and happiness of Sinulog, and when I finally experienced it the first time during Sinulog 2016, I was so happy! Yes, I didn’t catch all the fun because it was already afternoon when I went to the streets with my friends, but the sense of fulfilment was still there. We were happy to join with multitudes of people waiting around the streets of Cebu City to watch the parade composed of contestants from float and festival dance competition. Hearing the upbeat of the festival music, seeing actors, actresses, and dancers in colorful costumes made my eyes filled with awe. I truly felt the joy and excitement this celebration brings to people, I finally had a glimpse on why Sinulog is so called the festival of festivals in the Philippines.
It was a two-day celebration for us. I was with my brothers and sisters from a community of single professionals that I am in, called Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon (Cebu). The first day of our celebration was more on the spiritual side. The day started with drizzles dripping from above and occassionaly getting stronger keeping the people wet and cold. We were about to have an 8am meet up in a designated area just outside the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu. May I point out that our meet up on that day was planned days ahead and was to be followed promptly because of the fact that mobile signals were agreed to be turned off by network companies whole day, and it would really be impossible to find your foes once you’re left behind, because of the multitude of people flocking to the church to hear the mass. While waiting for all the members to arrive, we distributed the water bottles among ourselves. We had a total of 360 bottles. The plan was to get inside the basilica to give water bottles to churchgoers, hoping that people who may recieve our bottles would see Christ in us and also recieve spiritual blessings such as hope, and eventually grow deeper faith in Him. Our intention may sound as good as it is, but we were not exempted from all the hassle during that early Saturday morning. And that’s when I consider my adventure to celebrating Sinulog 2017 just started. Haha! What happened was, the security personnel didn’t allow us to get in because the morning mass just ended and the procession which will take hours to finish was about to start already. We were all stunned that we can’t get in, settled to move out of the queue of parishioners hoping to get in, and decided to stay on one side instead and wait for further notice. After about nearly an hour waiting, our group was finally allowed to get in. Praise be to God! We waited inside for the procession to start, and when everyone was settled, we then started our mission for the day. I, personally was hoping to evangelize someone through the act of giving water. I like the idea of giving water to some random person, and leaving him/her somewhat astounded, curious of who I am, and why do I do what I just did (haha). After we finished giving water, we then waited for the 6pm mass. It was again attended by thousands of people I believe. There was the flock who joined the procession, us, the people who stayed in the basilica for the novena, and the people who were not able to get in and managed to faithfully stay outside. The basilica itself was filled with faithfuls, so as the areas surrounding it outside. Amazing how big of a crowd the celebration was able to gather despite of some fear of terrorist attack. Indeed, no amount of fear will be stronger than faith.
The entire mass celebration was solemn, it was one of the day’s higlights for me. Churchgoers were still responsive despite their exhaustion due to the day’s activity and despite the bad weather. One lesson that struck me from the homily and I would like to share to you is what the priest said that, ‘we tend to be shy to reach out to person in authority, so we tend to be shy to call to God knowing that we are sinners. But then that is one reason why He humbled Himself as the Child Jesus. We shouldn’t be afraid to call to Him, that’s His purpose anyway, to hear us.’ It was a great reminder for me to always call on Him. What a relief to know there’s a God willing to hear me no matter how sinful I am.
Another highlight of the mass for me was when one of my colleagues tapped me and asked what I want her to pray for me (it was when the people were silent after recieving the Holy Sacrament). I was literally dumbfounded with her question that I couldn’t make up any answer in my mind. My heart melted to that simple act. After seconds of no response from me, my friend then concluded what I may want her to pray for me (career, which is true). Holding me on my left shoulder, she uttered her sincere prayers for our Lord to help me on that aspect of my life. Afterwards, I was instructed to do the same to the person in front of me. So I did. Its heart warming to see the shocked expression of every person I asked, I could still see their face in my mind. I wonder how they felt about it too, what’s running in their mind when they were asked the same question what do they want me to pray for them. Where they also touched the way I felt? Did they also feel their hopes suddenly boosting up? Did they also think what could the world be like if everyone will be sensitive to what the person next to them may need and pray for it? Those were actually my thoughts, see I was really touched by the simple act of my colleague praying for me. That’s one thing I like about this community Im currently in, many among the members are doing things that are inspiring. And they inspire even if they don’t intend to, it all happens naturally.
Now, I would like to share my favorite part of the day. The traditional Sinulog dance! It was my first time to witness the dance and I super enjoyed it! It was stunning to see the whole crowd waving their image of Sto. Niño and dancing to the tune of ‘Sinulog’ every time a prayer petition was mentioned. The dance lasted for about fifteen minutes, everyone’s energy doesn’t seem to be used up. Everyone was enjoying. Cebuano’s great love and faith for the Child Jesus was evident on that part alone. At first I was only listening to the music, and then I observed the crowd dancing, the next thing I knew, I was already joining the big crowd dance and shout out ‘Pit Senyor’! I didn’t expect that day will be as happy and enjoyable as it was. Im just so thankful I got to celebrate it that way. Seems like this year’s celebration of Sinulog will be hard to top. 🙂
1. “A crowd of faithfuls dancing the traditional Sinulog dance”
Moving on to our 2nd day celebrating Sinulog. The day started early too. We were a bigger group, and the plan for the day was to simply have fun and enjoy! After gathering for breakfast, we then applied body paint on ourselves. After praying for a safe day, we braved the crowded streets of Cebu to witness the float parade and be in Fuente Circle area for lunch. Think it was an easy plan? Nah! There was no other means of transportation on that day other than walking. And it was a real challenge to be past a crowd wherein its nearly impossible to walk continuously. What we did was actually, to literally move inch by inch. 😂 It was fun though. 😊 And after a looong while, we finally reached our aimed place and headed for lunch. I was schocked to see my friends with more paints all over their face and clothes, that was part of the day I guess. And it truly added more fun to the celebration! Just before 5pm, our group then headed to Ayala Center Cebu to have dinner and wait for the said mall’s exquisite fireworks display by 9pm. What a good way to end the celebration.
B. “On the streets of Cebu City”
C. “At Ayala Mall”
Credits: Video and photos by Tjane Palmiano