The weekend isn’t just about the floats, parties and fun-loving crowds—beyond that is a cultural institution that celebrates the province’s acceptance of the Catholic faith and its unwavering devotion to the Santo Niño.
Ferdinand Magellan presented the image of the child Jesus or Santo Niño as a gift to Hara Amihan, the wife of Cebu’s ruler Rajah Humabon, when he landed in Cebu in 1521. It’s said that Hara Amihan was overjoyed at the sight of the Santo Niño and started dancing, paving the way to the conversion of 800 natives to Christianity and the changing of her own name to Queen Juana. After Magellan was killed and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived more than 40 years later, his men found the Santo Niño in one of the local houses. The devotion to the Santo Niño has steadily grown stronger since then, with the annual Sinulog parade that has gained momentum since it started in 1980.
The Sinulog festivities begin with a nine-day novena before its culmination of the grand parade on the third Sunday of January. Before the weekend, it has become tradition for the image of the Santo Niño to be brought to His parents. On Friday, He’s first brought to the St. Joseph Parish in Mandaue, where He spends the night as devotees hold vigil. Come dawn, the image is then brought by boat through the Mactan Channel to visit the Virgen dela Regla or the Virgin of the Rule. By the time the sun is up, a fleet of colorful bots join the Santo Niño in its journey back to Cebu City for the reenactment of the Cebuano’s acceptance of Christianity from the Spanish. At sundown, a solemn procession is held throughout the city’s main roads, where the large crowd can number in millions as they walk with the Santo Niño as it returns to the Basilica. On Sunday, the crowd goes into a more festive mood, with the grand parade of floats and dancers through the city’s main roads. Contingents from around the island and neighboring provinces make their way through the streets and into the Cebu City Sports Complex to show off their choreographed presentations. Outside, revelers celebrate throughout the afternoon, dancing alongside performers while done up in face paint and feathered accessories. The day ends with elaborate fireworks displays throughout the city, while the crowd continues to party well into the night.
When it comes to Sinulog, Cebuanos know what they’re talking about. We round up some friends and ask them: “What advice would you give Sinulog virgins on how to enjoy and survive the weekend?”
MIA ARCENAS (@miaccake)
Put face paint on. That way, people with paint on the street—like my friends— won’t find it tempting to smother your clean face with paint. And live in the moment. Let loose and have fun!
CHERYL PAGES-ALBA (@peonyalba)
Make sure you’re not too drunk that you don’t know where you are the next morning!
MIKEY SANCHEZ (@iammikeysanchez)
Bring ziplock bags to put your gadgets in if you don’t have waterproof casing, and bring money in small denominations. Hydrate(with water!) in between shots, and head to Century Plaza for the best street parties and the friendliest drunk people!
DOYZKIE BUENAVIAJE (@doyzkie)
Hydrate and fuel up on food! You don’t want to run low on energy while enjoying the festivities, which whisks from morning until the next day.
SIAN MAYNARD (@sianemaynard)
Comfy footwear is a must to get through the streets that are blocked off, and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated after an afternoon partying under the sun.