Sinulog Festival for Señor Santo Niño
Nowhere else in the Philippines can one witness a yearly historical pageantry in parade known as Sinulog which is part of a religious observance except in Cebu City. The Sinulog is an annual festival held on every third Sunday of January. It honors the child known as the Santo Niño, patron of the city of Cebu. The dance moves two steps forward and one step backward to the sound of the drums. This resembles the current (Sulog) of what was then known as Cebu’s Pahina River. Thus, in Cebuano, they say it’s Sinulog. The Sinulog dance steps were believed to originate from Rajah Humabon’s adviser, Baladhay. It was during Humabon’s grief when Baladhay was driven sick. He then ordered his natives to bring Baladhay into a chapel where the Sto. Niño was enthroned. The festival now features a street parade with participants in bright-colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets, and native gongs.
The history of Sinulog was first started on April 7, 1951 when the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrived and planted the cross on the shores of Cebu, claiming the territory in the name of the King of Spain. However, Sinulog was already danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos. Magellan came and introduced Christianity. He gave the Santo Niño (image of the Child Jesus) as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon who was later named Queen Juana. At that time, not only the rulers were baptized but also about 800 of their subjects. At the moment of receiving the image, it was said that Queen Juana danced with joy bearing the image of the child Jesus. With the other natives following her example, this moment was regarded as the first Sinulog.
The first Sinulog parade was held in 1980, organized by David Odilao, then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development. The parade was composed of students dressed in moro-moro costumes, dancing the Sinulog to the beating of drums. To distinguish the festival from the popular Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan, the organizers decided to use the parade to depict the history of the Sinulog which, as had been said, is the dance which links the country’s pagan pasty and Christian present. Seven floats were created to depict seven different periods of history. Each float was followed by dancers wearing costumes depicting the periods. During the festival, a Pontifical Mass is celebrated first by the Cardinal with the assistance of several bishops of Cebu. Most devotees go to the Basilica to attend the mass before heading out to the streets to watch the parade.