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While it’s true that Sinulog is quite the party everybody’s raving and excited about, it’s not just about getting drunk and having a good time. The festival is loaded with so much significance you might want to attend the solemn procession first (happening on Saturday) before partying all through Sunday.

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1. Why’s it called Sinulog?
The word comes from the Cebuano adverb ‘sulog,’ which pertains to “water current movement.” The dance, you see—two steps forward one step back—tries to mimic the movement, or the current of Cebu’s Pahina River.

2. Did anybody invent the dance?
Rajah Humabon’s adviser Baladhay did—though the word “invented” might be misleading. Myth has it that a terribly sick Baladhay was brought to a room where the Santo Niño, along with other pagan gods, was enthroned. A few days later, a commotion ensued. Folks saw Baladhay in a trance, shouting and doing the dance: two steps forward, one step back. When asked what in heaven’s name happened, Baladhay pointed to the Santo Niño and said he was being tickled with a midrib of a coconut leaf, trying to be woken up.

3. Oh. So is it safe to say Sinulog is a purely Catholic thing?
Well, it commemorates our acceptance of Christianity. When Magellan arrived in Cebu in 1521, he gifted Rajah Humabon’s wife Amihan, with a statue of the Sto. Niño. And then the great conquistador quickly died in the hands of brave Lapu-Lapu. Forty-four years later, in 1565, another expedition led Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Cebu. One of his men recovered what is now believed to be the very same Sto. Niño figure from Magellen inside a wooden box from a burning hut in the village of King Tupas. Transferring the image from the burning hut to a shrine that would later on become the San Agustin Church marked the first ever Sinulog procession, that would be repeated every year.

4. How did that become the Sinulog that we now know today?
Every third Sunday of January, on the feast of the Sto Niño, villages across Cebu would have its modest procession with villagers dancing the Sinulog. According to the official Sinulog website, in 1980, David S. Odilao Jr, the regional director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development along with several PE teachers organized a grand parade. it was so successful that they organized a bigger and grander festival in 1981. It became a year thing.

5. What’s up with the Pit Señor tagline?
You hear it too in other Sto Niño events like the Black Nazarene. “Pit Señor” is the lazy way to say “Panangpit sa Senyor” which is a plea to the Señor Santo Niño. Saying Viva Pit Señor, meanwhile is a celebratory expression meaning “Long Live, call on to the Lord!”

6. So we have to get ourselves to Cebu by Sunday, right?
Well, if the only thing you do is  see is the parade and party, then that’s totally fine. It goes on the entire day from 9am to 7pm, culminating with a grand fireworks show at SM City Cebu. But, you must know that the Sinulog is over one week long. This year, the festivities actually started last Thursday, Jan 5.

We’re pretty sure a weekend shebang is what you intend to do, but just the same: Aim for an entire weekend in Cebu will make your trip totally worth it. Festivities will really start to heat up as early as Friday, with a dance crew finale, the Sinulog Festival Queen coronation night, and the Cebu Popular Music Festival.

After the solemn procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño on Saturday, a huge street party at the Fuente Osmeña and Plaza Independencia will follow, complete with fire works and everythaang. And then of course the big full day shebang on Sunday. Aren’t you excited yet? We know we are.

Headline image: Madel Crudo (Original photo: Constantine Agustin | Flickr)

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