Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sinulog 2012: Of Festival and Faith

What a day! I was like a mother hen… stayed and roamed around uptown city center but left my visitors roaming on their own. That aside from other friends who were also in town for the Sinulog. This “Solemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. NiƱo” was one such activity I did not even think would merit attention from any of my friends. But it did! While some went for the usual “Cebu” things like the ‘Sky Adventure’ and ‘Taboan’, many went for this procession, not to watch it but to actually join – even if they already went to the fluvial procession early in the morning while I was still asleep! Only shows that I have many friends nearer to Him than I am hehe!

Ready to make calls to other friends and ready to take action if anything unlikely might happen to my visitors, I constantly checked on my phone of their whereabouts but I got to chance upon the procession. This procession was rerouted due to intermittent rains and puddles or even floods in some areas of the usual route. And I chanced upon it something like about 12:35PM along Mango Avenue. I just wondered why since the schedule said 2PM. Officially church or non-church activity, there was no mistaking. Those were all devotees walking the streets, some carrying lighted candles while others the images of Sto Nino of various sizes. Most establishments along the way blared not the usual fiesta music but the activities over at the Basilica being broadcasted live by a radio station.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5PM passed, I had been to various places and various establishments just looking around, but the procession was still streaming like a big river of humanity out in the designated route that was closed to vehicular traffic. That must have been millions and millions of people. And I was sure they could not be the very same people walking the same route around and around for it was quite a lengthy procession route!

What did I think?!

First, that must have been undoubtedly true devotion to the little Jesus! This procession is not a parade where people watch you. There are but a curious handful (like me, and some probably bewildered foreigners) along the sides to watch and snap a few photos. So if one walked in that procession of many kilometers, you can never say they were just there to be seen by the madlang public, right?! Nor could I say they did it just for the fun of it – as it can never be fun in any sense of the word. Its so crowded everywhere, you wear heavier ‘church-clothing’ and it is such a long walk (probably 4 or 5 kilometers). If its not true devotion, I don’t know what to call it.

Second, there were too many of them! If its anything for the priests and bishops of this country, go review procession footages and you have proof that there are still millions and millions of Filipinos who are not forgetting Him. You should nurture that faith and devotion instead of making them weigh which side they are on at such petty things as contraceptives. Hey aside from my friends, I saw many outsiders (people from outside of Cebu) who were in the procession and many did surprise me! One was even first to spot me and greet me “Pit Senyor”!

Third, the procession is also for those where it passes. Example: That intersection of Mango Avenue (yep, Gen, Maxilom) and Gorordo Avenue was way too crowded where thousands of people congregated as if Sunday's Sinulog Grand Parade was already on - eh it is still Saturday even as I write this! But they were mostly wielding candles and images of the Sto Nino. There were even nuns there. I asked a woman with her family sitting by the side of the street and she said they must see the image of Sto Nino pass this way even if the skies rained on them (fortunately it did not). Houses and establishments along the route not only lighted candles in their frontages but mostly had their very own images of the Sto. Nino out in front. All who waited on the roadsides prayed or sang together with the broadcasted goings-on from the church.

Fourth, it was overwhelming. I can’t explain it but even if I was just watching on the side, something consumed me when the image passed where I was standing. People knelt and prayed, sang that ever popular song “bato balani” and waved their hands like they do it over at churches (only in Cebu by the way). Until now am thinking what it was that seemed to have overtook me. Maybe it was the collective fervent devotional energy of everyone around that swept me?! It was such a serene, unexplainable feeling! I don’t know what it was, I did not even know I also knelt down, bowed my head and closed my eyes… but I liked it. Hey, some of the foreigners in the area also did. I asked one woman why she seemed to be crying as she sang and waved her hand as the Sto Nino image passed by that corner. Her reply was “I don’t really know, maybe I was just so happy to see Him”. Well, I think what I felt was what everyone else in the area also experienced. Maybe faith, devotion, veneration is not (after all) something that always needs to be loudly preached. You just feel it deep in your own heart (mind, soul, flesh, whatever) when people around you do so. I think.

So there! I may have thought of many other things at various encounters with this procession, but the four items above, I think, were the most memorable, at least for me who did not even join it. How about you?

I have by the way been to so many festivals in this country, and most of them have religious origins. But this one, the Sinulog, that I have witnessed many times even before I became resident, still have and does have that real celebration of real faith, happening on a Saturday, aside from the most-awaited fantastic festival grand parade on a Sunday. Now that changes the meaning of Sinulog a bit, for me at least!

Something to look forward to in Sinulog 2013!


  1. well, didn't i tell you over drinks on friday night that Sinulog isn't just a festival?... it's a collective faith of a people who know that they can overcome obstacles as long as they worship Him... i am a Born-Again Christian, but i am in awe of the manifestation of faith of the Cebuanos...

  2. agree. and as I said, I really thought the every-friday dizzying crowd over at the basilica was already proof of it all. this procession was even a thousandfold more!