Monday, January 21, 2008


On the Cebu Sto. Nino Devotion and Celebrations
N.B. I write on my experience as a first-time Sinulog reluctant but converted reveler on the last day of my stay before I return to Manila.

The plane that brought me to Cebu was already, in itself, a foretaste of what was to come. Exactly a week ago, 14 January, I took one of PAL’s early flights from Manila to Cebu. It turned out to be what I observed to be a connecting flight of Balikbayans from some place colder at this time of year. Judging from the semi-sleep starved, but at the same time, excited looks on the faces of more than middle-aged couples with younger versions of themselves in tow, a number of whom sported complexions and hair colors that the miracles of glutathione and Vicky Belo-ish attempts at extreme makeovers just could not have possibly done, I was in an international flight that was bringing home Sinulog revelers and Sto Nino devotees from many miles away the world over.

I did not mind being crammed in a packed Airbus 320 … no … the smell of mixed plebeian and otherwise expensive perfumes did not bother someone who is allergic sick to scents of any kind. I joined the bandwagon of excitement that filled the airplane’s main cabin.

It was obvious that people were not merely going to Cebu, like I was … They were going home … home to a city and a province madly in love with the Senor Santo Nino and what it has come to represent and mean for all of them – something that I would not see and discover until yesterday’s climactic and hair-raising experience of Sinulog fever!

As curious as I was a little incredulous, I did a little research. In between talks I had to give, given the wired connectivity of the Sisters I was preaching to, I surfed the internet for information. And what I saw surprised me. What I saw began my ongoing education about the religious and cultural richness that Sinulog has become over the past more than 20 years!

For one thing, the legends and myths that are attached to the miraculous image that Cebuanos so dearly love, have to do with an avowed dedication to home, a fervent attachment to what el Senor Santo Nino has always considered “home” – Cebu. Legends have it that for a number of times, the authorities then thought of bringing the statue to Manila. They tried to … and failed at least three times. They even cut off the limbs at some point … but in vain. The statue stayed stolid and stable right where it chose to consider its permanent home.

And home is where it has stayed for 422 years. And home is where planeloads and shiploads of devotees and revelers, including fake, converted Johnny-come-latelies like this writer, is where they decided to do a grand homecoming of sorts.

The high point of the celebration took place on the day itself. Prepared for fittingly with novenas and round-the-clock Masses in, around, out, and in joyous sympathetic celebrations with the Basilica Minore, its real home for good, Cebu flared out in a burst of colors, sounds, and explosions of passionate religious dedication, revelry, singing and pageantry that only Cebuanos could do. A fluvial parade framed picture perfect by two bridges that connected Mactan to Cebu mainland, gave the opening salvo to the massive outflowing of devotion-cum-secular celebration the day before. Prior to that, dawn masses, dawn processions, and well-celebrated Masses everywhere hammered on the theme chosen, and drove people’s expectations and spirit to the hilt.

The Sunday, the day of the feast itself, was a big fiesta that was a “sulog” as “dako” as one could not imagine. It was a big wave (sulog) threatening to engulf all those who worked so hard, and prepared so much to realize, such that if it were not to happen, a huge wave of intense celebrations would inundate Cebu province and city all the same. And indeed, despite all the rains that poured and water that rendered every nook abd cranny of Cebu sodden and soggy, the wave of enthusiasm and the spirit of celebration had become one unstoppable huge wave of human pathos and panache that simply had to take place – come rain or shine, come hell or high water.

This converted reveler joined the surging waves of humanity late in the day. Going to Abellana sports stadium was World Youth Day 1995 experience overwhelming me with a sense of déjà vu. I felt squeezed, pushed, and pulled from and on all sides. It was one great experience of “sinulog” in the literal sense of being carried by the waves of teeming humanity from all walks of life. Together with novices who were supposed to take me there, I was literally brought there by a swell of human emotions of excitement and determination, with thousands and thousands vying for the same exact precious spot – a much coveted seat in a stadium that could seat only 12,000 people, with perhaps hundreds of thousands, milling around, hovering around, or otherwise inching their way closer and closer to where the floats, the props, and the very colorfully dressed contingents were supposed to pass.

I managed to squeeze myself somehow. The Johnny-Come-Lately of sinulog revelers and believers, found a standing room only spot up in the highest pinnacle of the stadium bleachers. I missed a good number of contingents, but what I saw made my hair stand on end, and brought tears to my eyes. There were those that simply stood out. The contingent from Carmen was a pleasure to behold. I thought it was well planned, well choreographed, and well-executed. But when the Lumad Basakanon came, they simply brought the house down. They did not steal the show. They must have had it right from the beginning. For people waited with hushed expectations. But I thought that the group from Ilongos, Leyte, despite being first-time contestants, also made the crowd roar, rave and rump about for utter appreciation. The group’s Broadway style antics and props, all artfully and skillfully executed, would have been enough reason for me to be there.

The highlight of the celebrations at the stadium ended with a flair – with not just a touch of Broadway and Las Vegas. Replete with gowns, top hats and long tails in white and blue of various shades, contrasting with red and gold and a flair of feathers galore, the grandstand burst out into a vicarious and real giant partying place. To the tune of Broadway hits like “there’s nothing like show business,” the retinue swayed and sashayed artfully and gracefully, segueing at some point, almost unnoticeably, to the traditional but stylized Sinulog music that showed everyone in the whole world, that all this was happening, the fever and all, in honor of the Holy Child Jesus, represented by that tiny miraculous statue that the whole world now loves.
And I mean this. As a converted reveler, I know that what all this fanfare and revelry that only Cebuanos could put up, has become a world-class festival and something worth being carried away by huge waves of devotion for.

Nahuman na ang sinulog, kapuy kaayo ku. Way na koy umoy pang mo mokuyug sa tanang mga concerts ug street shows sa ciudad. Mibuswak ang Cebu sa katawhan, bisan diin … sa Ayala, sa Fuente, sa Jones … Cebu and the rest of the world came out in full force. Tanang dalan, naay daghang tawo. Nigamay ang Cebu tungod sa Sinulog. It was bursting at the seams for love of Jesus, the Holy Child … and in return, El Senor Santo Nino … hinigugmang Sugbu!

Pit Senyor!


A. Wilbert S. Dianon, SDB said...

Human ng sinulog, kapuy man ku. Way na ku fuerza gabii magkuyug sa tanan nga concerts ug street shows sa ciudad. Guswak ang Cebu sa katawhon, misan diin … sa Ayala, sa Fuente, sa Jones … Cebu and the rest of the world came out in full force. Tanan nga calles, naa daghang katawo. Nigamay ang Cebu tungod sa Sinulog. It was bursting at the seams for love of Jesus, the Holy Child … and in return, El Senor Santo Nino … hinigugma Sugbu!

Nahuman na ang Sinulog, kapuy kaayo ko. Wala na koy umoy pang mo mokuyog sa tanang mga concerts ug street shows sa syudad. Mibuswak ang Cebu sa katawhan, bisan diin - sa Ayala, sa Fuente, sa Jones, Cebu and the rest of the world came out in full force. Tanang dalan naay daghang tawo. Nigamay ang Cebu tungod sa Sinulog. It was bursting at the seams for love of Jesus, the Holy Child … and in return, El Senor Santo Nino … hinigugmang Sugbu!

grade in Cebuano lesson 85/100. Not bad.

A. Wilbert S. Dianon, SDB said...

additional to the comment above: it's just an overnight cebuano lesson. One week more and Fr. Chito can speak Cebuano fluently na...

Kalakbay at Katoto said...

thanks for the grade. not bad, i must say, for an overnight lesson.

kalakbay at Katoto said...

thanks for the generous grade. will try harder next year!