The Sinulog is a time when Cebuano’s flock the street to venerate that Child Jesus or the Santo Nino. The mood of the festivities ranged from the solemn to the raucous as Cebuano’s from all over the province and tourists from all over the world partake in the celebration. From the solemn procession, to beauty pageants, to countless of households partying and cooking, to the Grand Procession, everyone is all smiles and immersed in the fever of Pit Senyor!
As such, it is very easy to forget that similar to other times, one should take care of one’s self and belongings.
1. Take care of your things.
With all the festivities going on, and all the attractions to see, it is easy to become complacent. Remember that with the huge crowd also comes the thieves, snatchers and pickpockets. This is true, especially during the Grand Parade where thousands of people line the parade route and during the Solemn Procession where the devotees hold up their statuettes of the Child Jesus and dance to the beats. A lot of mobile phones, wallets, jewelry and other valuable stuff have been lost during the Sinulog celebrations. Some had fallen unnoticed to the ground, while the majority has been taken by swift hands.
Keep everything in your pockets. If you have shorts that have zippers on its pockets, all the better. If you do not, then consider wearing a belt bag with a sturdy strap, so that you could still keep your things safe while watching the parade.
Sling bags are quite a no-no. For some people, they wear a sling bag around their necks and put their money and mobile phones in it. That is quite dangerous as a sling bag could easily be snatched away from your neck, sometimes leaving rope burns and bruises on it.
For cameras, make sure that you have your ready camera bag that you can put your camera in just in case you become too tired to take pictures. Do not sling your camera over your neck.
2. Leave the unnecessary stuff at home.
While the Grand Parade is an opportune time to see and be seen, resist the temptation to deck yourself with jewelry. It is best to, just leave all the gold and silver necklaces, rings and bracelets at home. Besides, the Sinulog has a tribal feel to it, so wooden and native accessories are all the rage. If you feel the need to accessorize, you can probably buy a cute wooden trinket on your way to the parade grounds for less than P50.
If you are traveling with companions, consider leaving your mobile phone at home. If you cannot part with your mobile phone, consider carrying an older model such as a Nokia 5110 or an old Alcatel model rather than your eye catching iPhones or Nokia N-series phone.
Do bring enough money for the festivities, though. Remember that the Sinulog is one festivity after another, and it is easily seen as one party after another. Bring money for taxi fare, jeepney fare, food and drinks.
3. Dress comfortably.
For most people, the Sinulog is an all day event. The Grand Parade itself, starts early in the morning and finishes in the early evening. Then it goes well into the night as Cebuano’s party all around Cebu into the morning. So dress comfortably.
Comfy footwear is essential. Wear something light on your feet, preferably open toed sandals and old shoes. Expect to do a lot of walking for the Sinulog festivities as most routes are closed to traffic. You do not want sore feet and cracked heels to dampen the festivities, do you?
Wear light clothing. You would be under the cruel heat of the sun for most of the day, so wear clothes that breath. A white tee shirt, colorful shorts or baggy saris are a good choice. Try to eschew skinny jeans and silk uppers.
Hats and sunglasses are your friends. They do not only complete the Sinulog look, but they also provide protection from the heat of the sun.
You need to protect yourself from the sun. To do this, keep these things in mind:
- Keep hydrated. Drink lots of water and do bring a bottle of mineral water with you at all times.
- Wear sunscreen. You will be under the sun for a good part of the day, it would make perfect sense to keep out its UV rays by wearing sunscreen.
- Bring your own shade. An umbrella might put a crimp on your cool factor, but you will thank yourself for it when the sun gets extremely hot.
- Look for “exit” places. If the heat becomes unbearable, be sure to have an “exit” strategy in place. It could be a fast food joint that offers blissful air conditioning,, or an outdoor cafe that serves frozen fraps. Make sure that your body gets to cool down when you need it.
Luzon is the Philippines’ largest island and is composed of a lot of provinces, regions, cities, towns, cultures. As such, it is home to the country’s best festivals. Most of Luzon may be reached via land travel, unlike the Visayas, which is comprised of several islands and islets. If you live in Luzon, make it a point to see these six festivals in your lifetime. You can even do it in a year, as it seems that the best of Luzon festivals are spread out throughout the year and a major one is held almost every month.
The top six Luzon Festivals are:
1. The Pahiyas Festival
Held on May 15 of every year, the Pahiyas Festival is carried out to give thanks to San Isidro Labrador for the good harvest. It is one of the country’s oldest festivals tracing its origin way back to the 16th century. Back then, farmers bought food to the foot of Mt. Banahaw as a sign of Thanksgiving, but eventually this tradition — done in the hopes of having a good harvest year — was modified to make the church the central offering place.
The Pahiyas is commonly associated with Lucban, Quezon, but it is also celebrated in two other Quezon towns: Sariaya and Tayabas.
Why you should be there: Pahiyas is one of the most lively, most colorful and the most elaborate festival in Luzon. The whole place comes alive in color and music. Not to mention Lucban food that includes Lucban’s world famous longanisa, broas and kiping, the star of the pahiyas.
It used to be that February was Baguio City’s least favorable month, experiencing a doldrum in the number of visitor arrivals that usually peak in December (for the holiday season) and March or April (for the Lenten Season), on top of the summer months. However, with the introduction of the Panagbenga Festival, February became a time of pageantry, fun and merrymaking in Baguio City as the city becomes covered with the most beautiful flowers in the region.
Together with its blooms, Panagbenga also showcases the different cultures of its 11 tribes such as the Igorots and the Ibalois. In fact, the street dance of the Panagbenga features dances that are inspired by these cultural tribes.
Why you should be there: Simultaneously get a taste of Baguio’s tribal culture and the Tournament of Roses parade.
3. Fertility Dance at Obando
Couples who wish to have a child flock to Obando, Bulacan, and every May 17 to 19 to join the street dance in Honor of Santa Clara. The street dancing is said to be a prayer made by the couple. The belief stems from early practice and is said to be effective, as some have been miraculously blessed with an offspring soon after they joined the dancing.
Why you should be there: The benefits are obvious if you are childless, but for other people, the Obando dance is only one of the very few religious Luzon festivals that featured street dancing on a major part of the area.
4. Bangus Festival
The bangus, or milkfish, festival pays tribute to the City’s biggest industry and features various activities that center on the fish. From deboning to eating, from the longest to the heaviest and even to the most beautiful, each year attempts to put out a record with its bangus competitions.
Why you should be there: Aside from being there while the City or its citizens bag a possible Guinness World Record, the festival also features street dancing contests, the search for the Bangus Queen (a beauty pageant), fluvial parades, and a citywide sale for the shopaholics on a budget!
5. Pagoda sa Wawa
The river festival is held every July, when a barge carrying a huge decorated float is released along the Bocaue River. This is where dozens and possibly hundreds of people partake on good food and great music. The floating feast actually commemorates Wawa’s Holy Cross, which was first found floating on the Bocaue River.
Why you should be there: Experience a one-of-a-kind river feast. After a tragedy left dozens of people dead a few years ago, the Wawa festival has been closely scrutinized to ensure the safety of future pagoda riders.
6. Bacao Festival
If Dagupan has its Bangus Festival, Isabela’s folks hold their Bacao festival in honor of St. Joseph for their good harvest of corn. Like the Bangus Festival, activities are more provincial featuring street dancing, rodeos, float competitions, and other contests. Held for five days starting on March 15.
Why you should be there: The Bacao Festival parade’s carabao dressed in costumes, and has a contest for the best-dressed beast of burden.
The Santacruzan is known as the queen of all May-time festivals in the Philippines. Perhaps this is because the Santacruzan is held every single year all over the country. Replicated in various towns and cities, it is the highlight and culminating activity of the month-long Flores de Mayo.
Flores de Mayo, as its name implies, is celebrated in May and is done to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the time of the year when rains begin to fall after a long, dry summer season and flowers start to bloom, their fragrance wafting in the air.
The Flores de Mayo was introduced by the colonizing Spaniards to the country centuries ago, during the colonization period. Traditional practices for this month include people gathering in church every afternoon to offer prayers and flowers – usually ilang-ilang, sampaguita (local jasmine), and hibiscus – to the Virgin Mother.
The Santacruzan’s Religious Relevance
The Santacruzan may be known for the lavishly decorated floats and characters dressed in elaborate gowns and costumes during the procession, but there’s a deeply religious history behind these. In fact, each reyna or queen represents some of Christendom’s most prominent figures.
Popular legend says that St. Helena (Reyna Elena), who is the mother of Constantine the Great, traveled to Calvary three centuries after the death of Jesus Christ to look for His cross. At the crucifixion site, she found three crosses then asked her sick servant to lie down on them one by one. The servant got cured after touching one of these crosses, and this cross was determined to be the one used by Christ. In the Santacruzan, she is given the most prominent status and is accompanied by her son, Constantine.
Some characters tell a story. Reyna Abogada, known as the protector of the oppressed and downtrodden, walks ahead of Reyna Sentenciada, the epitome of convicted innocents. The aetas, symbolizing the pagan natives, and the Reyna Mora – representing Muslims and other religions before Christianity — march between Reyna Bandera, who represents the advent of Christianity and Reyna Fe, who symbolizes faith.
Other virtues are represented as well:
* Reyna Esperanza – Hope
* Reyna Caridad – Charity
* Reyna Justicia – Justice
While others trace their significance from history and the bible:
* Reyna Judith – Judith from Pethulia who rallied her city against the Assyrians
* Reyna Sheba – The woman visitor of King Solomon
* Reyna Esther – Represents the prophet Esther
* Veronica – The woman of the Shroud of Turin, the one who wiped Jesus’ bloody face.
* Tres Marias – or the Three Mary’s: the mothers of Jesus and James and Mary Magdalene.
* Samaritana – The woman Jesus speaks to at the well.
Some of them are purely symbolic, yet do not need further explanation, like the Ave Maria girls, the Divine Shepherdess, the Rosa Mystica and the Queen of Flowers.
During the Spanish period, priests would select sponsors, locally known as “hermanas,” from women belonging to wealthy and reputable families. It was deemed to be a great honor to be chosen as a hermana. So much so that many would vie for the chance to be one. It is the hermana who gets to plan the festival, decorate the church and the “caroza” or the carriage used for the procession, and yes, handle the expenses and the budget.
The town’s young and prettiest ladies are handpicked to represent the various characters – called “sagalas” – and join in the procession. Each lady or “reyna” is escorted by a young gentleman, and every pair march under a bamboo canopy decorated with flowers and held by two men. The most awaited character is Reyna Elena, who, as earlier mentioned, represents St. Helena, escorted by a boy representing the young Constantine.
Catholic devotees join the procession and hold lit candles, recite the rosary, and sing songs of praise. Customarily, after the night mass, the mayor of the town would host a dinner gathering.
The Santacruzan Today
It is but natural that a parade of queens should become the queen of all festivals, and that prestige and pageantry have carried on until today. The Santacruzan has seen celebrities such as politicians and actors and actresses taking on the various characters in nationwide parades. Even homosexual men have taken to dress up for the part. Filipinos living abroad organize Filipino communities in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world to have their own Santacruzan. And no dominantly Catholic town in the Philippines is complete without a Santacruzan during the month of May, or even outside of it.
No matter who the hermana is, or who the sagalas are, the Santacruzan remains to be a very vital fixture in Philippine culture. And why not, you basically have a parade of the area’s prettiest glossing over the fact that it is teeming with religious significance and symbolism.
Festivals are a fun way to discover the culture of a people. And the islands of the Visayas are hosts to a variety of festivals that deserve any traveler’s attention. The many islands of the Visayas come alive every so often with festivals and fiestas that are marked with merry-making, color, pomp and pageantry, so much so that these events have come into world-wide acclaim.
Festivals are also a time when natives now living abroad come home to relive their pasts and re-experience their roots. Tourists from other areas or countries also visit to get a taste of the best of Philippine culture. The influx of tourism became the very fuel that made organizers think of new activities to spice up and differentiate their festival and attract more tourists.
However, there are five festivals that have stood out in recent years. Here are the Top Five Visayan Festivals that you should not miss in your lifetime!
1. Sinulog Festival
Location: Cebu City Philippines
The Sinulog Festival is held in Cebu and lasts well over a week, culminating in the street parade or Mardi Gras that falls on the third Sunday of every January. The feast venerates the Senyor Santo Nino de Cebu. For many years, Cebu’s Sinulog has featured different activities such as the Miss Cebu beauty pageant, the fluvial procession, the solemn street procession, the film-making contests, the arts contests, among others. But most people, especially non-locals, equate Sinulog with the Grand Parade.
During the Grand Sinulog Parade, dozens of contingents representing the different locales of Cebu City and Cebu province take part in different categories: free interpretation dance, traditional Sinulog dance, best float and best “higantes”. In the recent years, guest contingents have been allowed to participate and join the Cebuanos in the fun dancing, including contingents from Manila, other provinces and even other countries. Major thoroughfares of the city are closed for this parade, as people flock the streets and the Abellana Sports Complex to watch the pomp and pageantry, the burst of color and the lively beat of drums.
It is rare that an entire city joins in the celebration of one festival, but Cebu has always primed its citizenry to celebrate as a whole during Sinulog. No wonder that even as 20 years have gone by, Sinulog is still the most looked-forward event for all Cebuanos.
2. Ati-Atihan Festival
Location: Kalibo, Aklan Philippines
Aklan plays host to the annual Ati-atihan festival, coinciding with the third Sunday of January. Like the Sinulog Festival of Cebu, the Ati-atihan celebrates the many miracles of the Child Jesus or Santo Nino.
The festival is probably more well-known for the black paint that most participants put on their bodies. The black paint that covers the whole body contrasts starkly with the colorful costumes and ornaments.
The Ati-Atihan, though honoring the Santo Nino, has tribal and pagan origins. But together with the city’s Christianization, the festival has taken a new meaning.
3. Dinagyang Festival
Location: Ilo-ilo City Philippines
If you have the Sinulog or the Ati-atihan on your travel itinerary to catch the colorful Visayan Festivals in January, then surely your next stop would be Ilo-ilo, where the Dinagyang Festival is held on the fourth Sunday of January.
The Dinagyang Festival still venerates the Child Jesus, but also commemorates the conversion of Filipino tribes to Christianity.
Today’s Dinagyang Festival is much anticipated with several events serving as highlights, including the search for Iloilo’s prettiest ladies in the Miss Dinagyang pageant, the Atis street dancing, and the Kasadyahan street dancing. Like the Sinulog and Ati-atihan, prayers, drum beats and colorful costumes litter the streets of Iloilo for the Dinagyang.
4. MassKara Festival
Location: Bacolod City Philippines
Bacolod City holds its Charter Day on the 19th of October every year. Coinciding with its Charter Day is the MassKara Festival, a week-long activity that is currently dubbed as the Festival of Smile, a take on Bacolod’s own monicker as the City of Smiles.
Unlike other festivals in the Visayas, however, the MassKara is not religious or tribal in nature. Instead, the Festival ironically traces its roots on tragedy. The festival was first held in 1980, at a time when sugar cane and sugar prices plummeted and the livelihood of Bacolenos suffered. It was also during that year that a terrible maritime tragedy left more than 700 Negrenses dead when the Don Juan and the tanker Tacloban City collided with each other and sank.
To eclipse the tragedy and the sorrow, Bacolod held its first MassKara Festival. The term MassKara was coined by Ely Santiago, meaning many faces. It also became the festival’s trademark: smiling masks worn by the participants.
Today’s Masskara features the search for the festival queen, street carnivals, competitions, food fests, sports and music events, garden and agricultural shows and other activities.
5. Pintado-Kasadyahan Festival
Location: Tacloban City Philippines
Lasting a whole month, Tacloban City holds the Pintados-Kasadyahan Festival culminating on June 29. The current festival also includes the Leyte Kasadyaan Festival of Festivals, the Pagrayhak Grand Parade, and the Pintados Ritual Dance Presentation. The festival commemorates and fleshes out how the Spaniards saw the early Filipinos when they arrived in Leyte: bodies filled with tattoos and holding weapons which were previously heated in open fire. In fact, pintados is how the tattoo-covered natives were called, and that’s how the festival got its name.
Panagbenga Festival Schedule:
About Panagbenga Festival:
Panagbenga Festival has always been the most awaited festival in Baguio City (summer capital in the Philippines). A lot of tourists also visits this place to join their festival because of the cool weather and a lot of activities to enjoy. The Panagbenga Festival is celebrated for the whole month of February but the main event happens during the street parade and float parade that are decorated with flowers. On these days, crowd all over the city is pretty much expected.
Panagbenga came from a Malayo-Polynesian origin, that means “season of blooming”. The Festival is celebrated to pay tribute to the city’s flowers and as a way to rise up from the devastation of the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
Some activities to be expected are paintball tournaments, airsoft tournaments, bazaar, PMA Homecoming, street dancing, landscaping contest, etc.
Formerly known as the Baguio Flower Festival, the Panagbenga Festival, was formed and organized last 1995 by brainchild of Attorney Damaso Bangaoet Jr. of the John Hay Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC) and Victor A. Lim of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA). Entries from the annual Camp John Hay art contest gave its official logo which is, a spray of sunflowers. The festival was set in February to boost tourism as it was considered as a month of inactivity between the busy days of Christmas season and the Holy Week and the summer season.
In 1996, archivist and curator Ike Picpican suggested that the festival be renamed as Panagbenga, a Kankanaey term that means “a season of blossoming, a time for flowering”.
November 16 – Launch of Panagbenga 2010
February 1 – Opening Parade
February 13 – Chinese New Year
February 12-14 – Legarda Rocks
February 14 – Fluvial Parade
February 14 – Camelot on the Lake
February 20 – Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom
February 20-22 – PMA Homecoming 2010
February 27 – Grand Panagbenga Street Parade
February 28 – Grand Float Parade
February 26-28 – Abanao Nights
Feb 1 – Mar 7 – Market Encounter
March 1-7 – Session Road in Bloom
March 6 – Pony Boys Day
Sinulog Festival Location:
Cebu City Philippines
Sinulog Festival Schedule:
Every third Sunday of January
About Sinulog Festival:
Sinulog Festival is a festival in Cebu Philippines that pays tribute to the patron of Cebu City, Santo Niño or Holy Child. In veneration to the patron, people in cebu or cebuanos present dance rituals and have some competitions with their performance. Dancers came from different places and wear their colorful costumes and combine them with their artistic props and lively music which includes rhythm of native gongs, drums and trumpets. Traditionally, the Sinulog celebration lasts for 9 days wherein during the last day would be the Sinulog grand parade. During the dawn before the final day of the sinulog celebration, a fluvial procession is being held with their santo niño with flowers and candles on a pump boat. The procession usually ends at Basilica where a re-enactment of Christianizing Cebu is being performed. There would then be a formal procession that would take place on the streets which would last for hours because of the crowd participating the Sinulog festival.
Background of the Sinulog Dance
Sinulog came from the Cebuano adverb sulog that means like water current movement (forward backward movement during the Sinulog dance together with the sound of the drums. Candle vendors also perform this dance step most especially when people buy a candle from them.
Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrived on April 7, 1521 and placed the cross on the shores of Cebu wherein he claimed the territory in the name of the King of Spain. He offered the image of the child Jesus, the Santo Niño, as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Rajah Humabon. Hara Amihan was later named, Queen Juana in honor of Juana, mother of Carlos I. Some 800 natives were also baptized to the Christian faith along with the rulers of the island. At the moment of receiving the image, it was said that Queen Juana danced with joy holding the image of the child Jesus. With the other natives following her example, this moment was considered as the first Sinulog.
This event is commonly used as basis for most Sinulog dances, which perform the coming of the Spaniards and the presentation of the Santo Niño to the Queen. A popular theme among Sinulog dances is Queen Juana holding the Santo Niño in her arms and using it to bless her people who are often troubled by sickness caused by demons and other evil spirits.