Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Niño , the province’s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.
This is the last of a series on the Sto. Niño de Cebu
The Sinulog Mardi Gras in Cebu is considered one of the biggest and grandest festival in the month of January. It is one of three that is marked with street dancing in honor of the Holy Child that occurs in the Visayas, the other two are the Ati-atihan of Kalibo, Aklan which is celebrated on the same day with the Sinulog, and the Dinagyang of Iloilo.
The street dancing that we know of today had it’s beginnings with the traditional sinulog, a prayer dance that was offered to the Sto. Niño during it’s feast day every 3rd Sunday of January. What was then a small celebration within the vicinity of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, was hijacked by provincial officials and expanded to become a major tourist event in Cebu in the early 80s. From that time to the present, the religious significance of this mardi gras is lost, except for the icon of the Holy Child that is now reduced as a prop for the dancing.
If you are seeking enlightenment or ponder the significance of faith, you can’t find it in the streets of Cebu City during this day. Instead, it is a very highly commercialized ritual sacrificing children, teens and adults to pound and sashay on the scorching streets on a very long parade route just to win a lump sum of money.
But all is not lost. The Sinulog mardi gras is something to enjoy for it’s color and creativity. Nevermind if the costumes are more the product of the imagination than for authenticity. It’s a time to party, mingle, dance on the streets and have an excuse to fly to the province and drink till morning.