Sinulog sa Palaboy: Teaching street kids discipline by dancing the Sinug dance

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio January 18,2020 - 03:24 PM


Street children practice the Sinulog dance steps in a Cebu City gym as they prepare for their presentation as members of the Sinulog sa Palaboy. | Gerard Francisco

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Sandiego Dance Company has been a main staple of the Sinulog Festival since the beginning of the annual festivity in 1980.

Val Sandiego, the dance company’s choreographer and owner, had meticulously designed the group to portray in perfect sync the dance steps that his mother, Luz Mancao-Sandiego, sought to preserve, the “two steps forward one step backward” traditional Sinug dance.

The Sandiego dancers have performed and danced along the grand parade route for years and also winning the Sinulog grand prize for years allowing them to be called as a “Hall of Famer” of the Sinulog Festival.

Yet in all these prestige and glory that the Sandiego Dance Company has accrued over the years, Val Sandiego said there seemed to be something missing in the dance troupe’s annual halad to the Señor Santo Niño.

He found this in the eyes of wandering children gazing longingly beyond the ropes of the Sinulog parade routes, mesmerized by the colors and the movement of the Sinulog dance.

“Every time we danced in the streets, I always see children…street children. They are very curious as they look at us dancing. So, I thought, we should go back to basics, to the more innocent sense of belongingness. They deserved to be recognized,” said Sandiego in an interview with CDN Digital.

Val Sandiego, owner and dance choreographer of Sandiego Dance Company has embarked on a project to train street children to dance the Sinulog. Above is Sandiego inspecting a costume in this 2015 file photo.

‘Hidden children’ in the limelight

With this in mind, Sandiego suggested to the newly formed Sinulog Governing Board, the Cebu City counterpart of the Sinulog Foundation Incorporated (SFI), for a Sinulog that would put into the limelight the rather “hidden children” of the city.

The Sinulog sa Palaboy was approved by Mayor Edgardo Labella as early as November 2019 allowing Sandiego to form a group of children from Barangays Ermita and Mabolo to dance to the Sinulog beat and are guided by the Sandiego Dance Company.

A month of practice was all it took for the 180 children to take on their swords and shields and dance to the upbeat drums that resounded in the opening ceremony of the Sinulog festival last January 10, 2020.

The street children who used to sit and watch on the sidelines of the Sinulog parade, now led the beginning of the festival as they served as the entourage of the many contingents celebrating Sinulog with Cebu this year.

“I can see the transition from the basic two steps forward, one step backward, to the more intricate dance steps. Our children have formed the discipline to dance,” said Sandiego.

A Val Sandiego dancer helps train streetkids on how to dance. | Gerard Francisco

Changed lives

Zhane Miñosa is a 16-year-old junior high school student who has been a Sandiego dancer since she was nine years old.

She helped in the training of the street children for the Sinulog sa Palaboy as one of the guide dancers to the children.

“Lisod kaayo sila disiplinahon kay siempre dili pa sila maminaw ig una, pero igka dugayan makuha ra nila nya paspas na sila makat-on. (It is difficult to discipline the kids because they don’t listen at first, but after a while they get the steps, then they learn easily),” said Miñoza.

For Miñoza, the discipline that formed within these street children, whose ages range from 8 to 14 years old, is something that they would always bring with them as they grow older.

The privilege to change a part of these children’s lives is something that has changed Miñoza’s life as well.

“Privilege nga makatabang sa mga bata nga makat-on og sayaw dili lang kay magsigeg duwag Facebook (It is a privilege to teach the kids how to dance, and help them to avoid spending most of their time on Facebook),” she said.

For 9-year-old, Renwin (not his real name), joining the Sinulog sa Palaboy started as a chance to eat a decent meal a day, since sponsors had offered to provide food for the children.

Eventually, he learned to love the dance and enjoyed playing with the sword and shield.

“Moapil ko balik next year. (I will join again next year),” said Renwin.

Val Sandiego is planning to increase the number of street children in the Sinulog sa Palaboy from 150 to 500 children in 2021. | Gerard Francisco

A bigger future

Sandiego acknowledges the change that the Sinulog Palaboy has started in the children that pioneered the activity. He and the Sandiego Dance Company plan to further the cause and bring in more street children to the group.

“In 2021, we hope to have 500 children dance in time for the Quincentennial Anniversary of the Catholic Church,” said Sandiego.

Gathering that much children will not be an easy feat, so they plan to conduct open workshops this summer and hold auditions for children to join the Sinulog sa Palaboy.

To Val Sandiego, the reward for bringing into the light the children of Cebu City’s streets is the simple joy of the children as they dance to the Sinulog beat, an innocence of faith resounding in the dance for Señor Santo Niño.

Where street children used to only watch from the sidelines, the Sinulog has become an opportunity for them to be on the spotlight./dbs

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TAGS: sandiego, sandiego dance company, Sinug, Sinulog sa Palaboy, street children, Val Sandiego

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