Isn’t It Time for a Sinulog Museum?

I would be the first to offer my services for free, in whatever capacity, if Cebu City will set up a museum or a set of galleries in a museum that will be dedicated to the long and colorful history of the Sinulog, both the traditional dance drama and the 40-year-old festival.

Rio de Janeiro has a dance museum called Casa de Jongo, dedicated to Jongo, considered the grandfather of Samba. Spain’s famous Flamenco dance is honored and celebrated in Seville at the Flamenco Dance Museum. The annual Carnival in Cologne, one of Germany’s famous festivals, is honored with its own museum. The list of museums honoring historic festivals and/or ancient dances can go on and on and is quite long, in fact, so why not do one for the Sinulog?

There is already a Sinulog Hall at the Rizal Memorial Museum and Library and but I do not think it has any galleries or exhibitions explaining the Sinulog and how it came to be Cebu City’s festival 40 years ago.

A museum dedicated to the Sinulog can actually be the fulcrum or anchor with which to build a set of exhibitions tracing both the dance and the precolonial world of Cebu down to the present and the way the dance has evolved in the ebbs and flows of Cebu’s past and its present. Cebu’s story as a vibrant late precolonial period port can actually be told side-by-side with the indigenous dance steps that, as I wrote about in the CDN Special the other day, can still be seen in the Sinulog version of the candle sellers outside the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño as well as at Magellan’s Kiosk.

The Moro-Moro version of the dance, a tradition handed down through four generations of the Diolas of Sitio Santo Niño in Mabolo, can be discussed against the backdrop of the emergence of the port of Cebu and its travails between 1571, when the conquistador Miguel  Lopez de Legazpi moved the capitol to Manila, and 1860 when the same port was opened to foreign merchants. It was at this point that Iklot Diola started a troupe that performed outside the housed of Cebu’s emerging elite, the martial version of the Sinulog that has been continued by the heirs of his granddaughter, the late Nang Titang Diola, considered the ‘Keeper of the Sinulog’.

With a touristic festival now on its 40th year, such a museum will not be bereft of stories and artifacts from winning entries, as well as those that participated. Of course, such a museum would be remiss if it will not dedicate an exhibition gallery exclusively to the Santo Niño and the devotion to the tiny image at the Basilica that is the main reason why the Sinulog has survived into the present.

The museum can also offer quick dance lessons to museum visitors as a kind of interactive component, other than the digital technologies now used in many museums.

A shop can then sell anything and everything one can imagine as a souvenir item. It can even sell a complete festival queen costume, if need be, aside from the usual magnets and tee-shirts about the Sinulog.

The museum can then be inaugurated in time for the  quincentennial  of the arrival of the Santo Niño de Cebu. If this suggestion will indeed be taken up by the Cebu City Government, I think there is still time, albeit the window of opportunity is narrowing as the days go by. So they better act fast and soon.