A tempered Sinulog celebration
I don’t know if it was this year or last year when a female netizen, a Balikbayan I think, posted a complaint on her Facebook page about the traffic congestion caused by one of the Sinulog events, which caused her to be late for her flight back abroad.
Her post drew quite the backlash from Cebuanos who gave her a dressing down and lectured her about respecting other people’s culture and beliefs.
Then again it was late last month when Manila-based heritage advocate Carlos Celdran also drew fire for making a sassy remark about a Sto. Niño image whose face was superimposed with that of President Rodrigo Duterte.
A resolution passed by the Provincial Board (PB) warned anyone not to disrespect the image of the Sto. Niño, that has been venerated by the Catholic faithful in Cebu for generations. Clearly, when it comes to the Sto. Niño, Cebuanos and the Catholic faithful in Cebu won’t stand for irreverence and disrespect.
That’s one of the core reasons for the public surprise and eventual objection against Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s decision to cancel the Sinulog Sa Kabataan events, which draws youth contingents from both the city, Metro Cebu and the province.
In a way, as Sinulog Foundation executive director Ricky Ballesteros said, the cancellation of the Sinulog sa Kabataan meant the youth participants won’t be able to show their annual devotion to the Sto. Niño.
The experience, he said, of waking up early mornings and dancing in practice for hours on end, was aimed at instilling the value of sacrifice and devotion to the Child Jesus among the youth participants.
The Sinulog sa Kabataan being a spectacle and a tourist come-on in the Sinulog festival calendar is just an additional side benefit, meant to show to the world that the Cebuanos’ faith in their God, the Virgin Mary and His saints is strong and very much alive.
And having been instituted oh so many years ago, it’s not hard and on more than one occasion impossible to go against tradition. The Sinulog sa Kabataan had become quite an essential event in the Sinulog festival calendar that, as Councilor Joel Garganera pointed out, constitutes an integral part for many Cebuanos of the “whole Sinulog experience.”
As a non-Catholic who arrived in Cebu City nearly a decade ago, I’ve come to expect and accept the various aspects of the annual Sinulog celebration including but not limited to the Walk of Faith in which hundreds, maybe even millions of Catholics converge to attend Mass for the annual observance.
Then there is the Sinulog Grand Parade, which has proven to be quite the hometown spectacle that Cebuanos and visitors never get tired of watching either live on the streets or in the comfort of their homes, thanks to live TV coverage.
On that day, the third Sunday of January, I would come across a huge crowd of revelers that would stretch and surround the Fuente Osmeña Rotunda nearly end to end, either watching preparations for the dance parade or eating at one of the many makeshift barbecue stalls set up by vendors eager to earn a little extra for the day.
During the whole week or so of the Sinulog festival calendar, I would adjust my schedule accordingly and I join the minority of those who complain about the monstrous traffic congestion caused by events like the Sinulog Sa Kabataan.
For me it’s not just about the expenses incurred by schools but the traffic congestion caused by events like the Sinulog sa Kabataan that really grate the nerves and makes one wonder whether God, in His infinite patience and wisdom, would really demand and require from His faithful followers that they stage public dance presentations to pay homage to His Name.
But the last part is just the Protestant—specifically the Baptist faith in me–speaking and I’d rather not engage in debates with Catholics about their beliefs and traditions which involve celebrations like the Sinulog.
That said, the mayor’s decision to cancel the Sinulog sa Kabataan isn’t so much a local or national tragedy as some people would like to make it out to be. The bulk of the festivities is still there and the mayor, as a Catholic, certainly won’t dare nor be in a position to cancel the Masses meant to honor the Sto. Niño or Child Jesus.
Besides, isn’t it about time for the schoolchildren to just join their parents in attending Mass and then join the public Sinulog celebration during the day and go home early at night?
A tempered Sinulog celebration may be just what the Cebuanos need to cut down on expenses and focus their attention more on matters of faith and reflection rather than overindulgent revelry.
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