Sinulog handlers asked to prepare more after 2023 festival venue draws flak

January 16, 2023 - 2:53 PM
Sinulog 2023 opening
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and his wife, Malou, perform the Sinulog dance as the Sinulog Festival for 2023 officially opens at the South Road Properties in Cebu City on Jan. 15, 2022 (The Freeman/Aldo Banaynal)

Sinulog Festival goers called on the event organizers to prepare more after some attendees experienced discomfort during the festival.

Cebu City on Sunday celebrated the highly-anticipated return of the in-person Sinulog Festival and Grand Parade after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The landmark celebration is held in the Queen City of South every third Sunday of January in honor of the Child Jesus or the Santo Niño de Cebu.

Thousands of Cebuanos and other Filipinos, as well as foreigners, go to the festivities to witness merry-making activities such as dances, local pageants, filmmaking competitions and music fests.

This year’s venue for the grand parade and ritual showdown was held at City di Mare, South Road Properties (SRP). SRP is the capital city’s new business district.

This is different from its traditional site, which is at the Cebu City Sports Center. It is also known by its former name, the Abellana Sports Complex.

While some revelers enjoyed the Sinulog’s return, others reported experiencing long walks and intense heat. They also complained about insufficient comfort rooms for the public during the festivities.

Reports said that the heat index in Cebu City on Sunday afternoon reached a peak of 36 degrees Celsius. The heat index is the measure of how hot the air really feels outside.

“With either umbrellas, fans and hats on, some had to walk from SM Seaside City to the Sinulog grandstand near the Filinvest property under the scorching heat of the sun,” a report from The Freeman said.

It also said that there was “a lot of walking, fanning, and seeking shade.”

“Food stalls dotted the parade route but some vendors had to carry their wares, such as food items, with them to sell them to revelers. Some vendors, however, complained of bleak sales, especially those positioned in interior areas,” the report added.

Others bared experiencing transportation issues going to SRP.

Cha Vallente, one of the attendees, said she had no problem with the previous venue because she had the option to walk.

“When I passed by Jones (Osmeña Blvd), I felt like crying. It was all new to me that the Sinulog was no longer held there and I miss it so much,” she said to SunStar Cebu.

“I think the venue [now] is okay but hopefully, they will give extra attention to the contingents and the people next year. As of the moment, they are still in the adjustment period,” Vallente added.

Cebu Daily News also reported that some festival performers had to use props to shield themselves from the sun’s scorching heat.

It additionally said that emergency responders have to assist several performers who became dizzy because of the heat. A one-year-old child also had a fever due to too much heat exposure.

The report also said some Sinulog performers have to use an empty space behind the grand parade route to relieve themselves from the call of nature. A picture of the site was shared by the news outlet on Facebook.

The city government had placed portable toilets along the route and the venue for the ritual showdown but these were not enough, according to some attendees.

Need for ‘a vision’ 

These grievances and experiences prompted some Filipinos to air their different thoughts about the new venue. They said that authorities should be more prepared for such circumstances.

“Was SRP better? For me, it is. But needs better planning and preparation for next year,” a Facebook user wrote.

“Coming from someone who had VIP access (coz lucky, not bragging) at the Grandstand of today’s #Sinulog celebration in City di Mare. I still say Abellana would have been the better venue,” entrepreneur RB Dev wrote, referring to the old festival site.

“The current venue was simply rushed and still unfinished. But if there was enough time, it could be a different story,” he added, sharing a video of the festivities.

Another Facebook user commented that while the SRP is spacious for such grand celebrations, “the time allotted to prepare for the event was not sufficient.”

“It was not the rainy days that caused the ‘little chaos’ because if the construction and preparations started earlier, there would be no problem at all,” graphic designer Ayan Velez said.

“Silonganan kay init? [Shelter from heat?] With ample time and budget, just place tents from Il Corso to SM Seaside on both sides, problem solved,” he added.

“With ample time, we can build bleachers per level like [in] Abellana there. BUDGET and TIME are the problem, not VENUE,” Velez continued.

“As a GOOD LEADER AND EVENT ORGANIZER, one should NOT place potential hazards like these in the hands of HOPE, FAITH and CHANCE,” he further said.

Velez added that while he believes the next Sinulog “will be awesome,” people needed “to have a vision.”

Amid the comments post-Sinulog, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama on Monday thanked those who joined and contributed to making this year’s festival “successful.”

The Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said that 649,400 spectators joined the grand parade and the ritual showdown.

“Without you guys, I can’t do anything. Thank you so much to my City Government colleagues and to my family for always supporting me,” Rama said in Cebuano.

“Most of all, thank you so much, Sr. Sto. Niño for your kindness, for the wonderful time You gave,” he added.

Rama also thanked the Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu for blessing them with fair weather after days of rainfall due to the low pressure area and shear line.

What went before 

The city mayor’s decision to change the venue previously drew criticisms.

Earlier, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia questioned the need to switch the venue, citing traffic woes and the muddy terrain due to the inclement weather.

According to her, Sinulog in SRP would cause possible traffic congestion and make it hard for commuters coming from southern towns if the site were closed off from vehicles.

Garcia also aired her concerns about the muddiness of the venue after days of rainfall in the area. This came after some performers had struggled to rehearse due to the thick mud and asphalt from the construction at that time.

“There is no sun. How can that asphalt harden? The children took shelter in their own props. It’s raining, and they have no shelter to go to,” she said before.

Garcia also withdrew the contingents of Cebu Province from participating in the Sinulog showdown following such issues.

These concerns have caused some Pinoys to dub it the “Sinulog Mud Festival” or “Sinulog Mud Party” due to Rama’s insistence on using SRP as the venue.

Others had poked fun at the muddy situation by sharing pictures and videos of rain boots.

Days before Sinulog, Rama shared a quote from author and philanthropist Tony Robbins in his press statement about the venue amid concerns.

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action,” he wrote, quoting Robbins.

“The grounds are ready. Rain or shine. No rains could stop our celebration, as it rained during previous Sinulog street dance competitions. We have faith in our patron, the Holy Child Jesus, Señor Santo Niño, that all is well when we celebrate His feast, from the fluvial and street procession to our annual cultural event, now at SRP,” the city mayor said before.

“We, Cebuanos, have always been resilient, always brave to face and deal with challenges, never to faulter, ever faithful to Señor Santo Niño. We have One Faith, and stand by One Beat, One Dance, One Vision,” he added.