Fun Facts About Sinulog Festival
Last Updated on November 8, 2023
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As each year comes to an end, there is a buzz that begins in the Philippines. Because the fun, thrilling and colourful Philippines celebration known as the Sinulog Festival will be about to begin!
Much like western countries get excited at the prospect of Christmas, Filipinos will start to make preparations of their own for the Siniulag Festival. It’s an exciting time!
Hosted in the famous Cebu city, the Sinulog Festival includes a wide array of activities and events.
People can enjoy such Sinulog Festival activities as the solemn procession, street dancing, the grand parade, the fluvial parade, the Miss Cebu pageant and the coronation of the festival queen.
Also, during the event, younger folks often look forward to several night shows that happen in almost all the corners of the city.
For two nights, the streets of Cebu will come alive with dancing, feasting and celebration.
So if find yourself in the Philippines in January, you might get the chance to experience this event for the first time.
Here are some important things about Sinulog Festival – as well as some trivia about Sinulog Festival – so that you can fully appreciate what it’s all about.
By the end of this article, you’ll know all about Sinulog Festival, and you’ll be an expert on all the unique features of Sinulog Festival. So strap in for some fascinating Sinulog facts!
Table of Contents
How did the Sinulog Tradition Start?
The history of Sinulog Festival begins in the 16th century, following the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the city of Cebu (then called Zebu).
When he arrived, Magellan met the leaders of the leader of Cebu, Rajah Humabon and his consort Hara Humamay. As a Catholic Christian, Magellan gave them a gift: an image of Jesus as a child.
This statue is called the Santo Niño de Cebu, and still resides in Cebu today, at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.
The statue is considered to be miraculous, and when she received it, Hara Humamay was said to dance with joy.
When the people saw her dance, they joined in, and this is considered to be the first Sinulog dance. It’s one of my favourite Sinulog Festival facts!
What is the Sinulog Festival all about?
One of the main questions you may be asking yourself is, what is Sinulog?
Well, Sinulog is a dance ritual which honours the Santo Niño image. The name Sinulog comes from the word “sulog” and roughly translates to “like water current movement”.
The Sinulog Festival dance itself involves moving two steps forward, then one step backward, to the rhythm of drums.
Since it began in 1980, the annual Sinulog Festival has become increasingly popular. Sinulog Festivals in the Philippines can attract anywhere from 1-15 million visitors from overseas each year.
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Additional Facts of Sinulog Festival
1. Señor Santo Niño
There is no other bigger festival in the Philippines other than the Sinulog. This Cebu festival is held annually on the third Sunday of January to express devotion of the birth of Jesus Christ.
It is also a celebration of the day that Cebuano embraced Catholicism. After giving the statue of Señor Santo Niño, Magellan baptised Rajah Humabon and Hara Humamay into the Catholic Church.
They even got new names – Don Carlos and Queen Juana, named after the King of Spain and his mother. That’s a bonus Sinulog Festival fact!
Following the example of the city’s leaders, hundreds of other locals also embraced the new religion.
As part of the proceedings, a statue of Señor Santo Niño will be carried by the performers in the main street parade.
Before you attend the celebrations, ensure that you adhere to the traditions by first visiting the Basilica del Santo Niño. Here you can pay homage yourself and get into the spirit of the festival.
2. Attended by Millions
The Sinulog parades have been a part of the activities of Sinulog Festival since it began, and since then the festival has been attracting more people each year.
As I mentioned before, millions of pilgrims from all corners of the world flock to this Sinulog Festival location to witness the old tradition.
People who haven’t heard about the festival might not have an accurate idea of how big it is. Seeing the streets so full of people can be intimidating and breathtaking.
Fortunately, everyone who travels to Cebu for the Sinulog Festival is there to enjoy themselves and celebrate. So the huge crowds are actually very friendly for the most part.
The main parade will begin on the Sunday morning at around 8-9am. Normally, I can advise getting up early and finding a good spot.
But with literally millions of people arriving every year, just show up where you can and have fun!
3. Sinulog Outfits
Sinulog Festival is the biggest celebration in the Philippines. Because of that, no expense is spared when it comes to organising the Sinulog street dance. And that includes the outfits.
Organisers of the Sinulog Festival place a lot of their attention on the outfits and choreography of the performers.
When the dancers take to the streets, it will look like a riot of colours. Flowing garments and ornate headdresses will be on show, as well as plenty of tassels, jewels, feathers and other accessories.
During the celebrations, there will be a re-enactment of the moment Magellan gave Raja Humabon and Hara Humamay the Santo Niño de Cebu.
The figurehead of the dancers will be the actress playing Hara Humamay. She will be dressed in the most impressive outfit of them all, so look out for her!
One thing to remember is that the celebration involves a lot of walking. This is because the main roads are usually limited for both private and public transport.
To avoid discomfort, I can recommend wearing flat shoes and clothes that are comfortable for walking in.
Also, as you might have guessed, the activities mainly happen outdoors.
It’s therefore a good idea to bring a small backpack for your personal items, as well as any extras such as hats, foldable umbrella, and water bottle, etc.
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4. Interesting Activities
What is Sinulog Festival all about? For many, it’s the live action entertainment and festivities.
Dancing, parades, live bands, historic re-enactments, fireworks displays and more will light up the night sky during the festival.
But Sinulog Festival is not just a night time event. During the day, visitors can enjoy themselves with beach visits, hiking activities and other types of sports competitions.
One of the other notable facts of Sinulog Festival is that you can meet your favourite celebrities!
Since the festival is so popular, it’s actually easy to interact with famous attendees. Everyone’s there to have fun and hang out, after all.
At the end of the day’s activities, people come together to dine, get face and henna paintings and even tattoos, and watch the Filipino dancers as they entertain them.
5. Street Parties
All corners of the city are normally filled, and this means that people will be celebrating everywhere. Many streets will end up thronged with people attending a Sinulog street party.
This is a great opportunity to dive into Filipino culture and immerse yourself in the festivities.
Just remember that, while there won’t be many cars on the roads, you can still get stuck on the streets due to the human traffic.
To avoid getting separated, local people move in groups, especially relatives and friends. Make sure to take care not to get lost amongst the crowds as people move through the streets.
Unfortunately, there will also probably be some pulling and pushing, as well as some smelly and sweaty skin contact with strangers in the denser areas.
In spite of all that, Sinulog Festival is lively, sacred, traditional and yet modern and colourful at the same time.
The festival has been gradually evolving just like any civilization and culture. Fortunately, the main emphasis on positivity and celebration has remained strong.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sinulog Festival is an annual celebration of the image of Santo Niño, which is said to be miraculous, and of the nation’s introduction to Christianity.
For many, Sinulog is a large part of Filipino national identity. The Sinulog dance is a tradition dating back hundreds of years.
The Sinulog Festival originated in the Cebu region, where Ferdinand Magellan first introduced the Philippines to Christianity.
I hope this information about Sinulog Festival has been useful to you! As the new and the old collide, hopefully you will have an impressive and memorable time!