We came up with some facts you may want to know about the Sinulog Festival of Cebu.
The term Sinulog is based on the Cebuano word “sulog,” which means water current. The water current refers to is the water in the Pahina River. The dance steps moved to the sound of the drums. It also refers to the Cebuano word “saulog,” which means to celebrate.
According to stories, the Santo Nino healed a close adviser of Rajah Humabon after he got sick. To show his gratitude for the miracle, Baladhay supposedly danced for joy. The dance steps used by the adviser of the rajah saw him moving back and forth with his hands raised praising God. The movement resembled the current of water or “sulog” in Cebuano. Some historians say the dance was already performed by the natives before the arrival of Magellan. After they converted to Christianity, the dance was dedicated to the Santo Nino.
Ferdinand Magellan landed on the shores of Cebu on April 7, 1521. He was able to convert Rajah Humabon and Hara Amihan along with their followers into Christianity. Magellan gave the image of the Santo Nino as a baptismal gift to Hara Amihan. The image was thought to have been lost after Lapu-Lapu defeated Magellan in the Battle of Mactan. But, it was discovered by the expedition of Miguel Lopez de Lagazpi arrived in Cebu. The image is now housed at the Basilica Menore de Santo Niño.
The Santo Nino de Cebu was brought to the Philippines by Magellan as a gift to Rajah Humabon and his wife for their baptism. Since it arrived in Cebu on April 7, 1521, it is considered as the oldest Christian religious relic in the whole country. It is stored inside a bulletproof glass box at the Basilica Menore de Santo Niño.
The Sinulog Festival is just one of a number of festivals around the country honoring the Santo Nino. The Ati-Atihan Festival of Kalibo, Aklan and Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo are two of the festivals honoring the Holy Child. The Ati-Atihan is celebrated on the same day as the Sinulog, the third Sunday of January, while the Dinagyang Festival is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of January.
The Sinulog parade was the brainchild of former Ministry of Sports and Youth Development regional director David Odilao, Jr. This parade was held at the Plaza Independencia with seven contingents coming from different colleges in Cebu. But, there were also some historical accounts that the Santo Nino was first paraded in 1865 when the expedition of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in the island.
The Sinulog Festival is considered the grandest festival in the Philippines. The grand parade was likened to the Mardi Gras of Brazil. Recent years saw the crowd watching the grand parade increasing. Some reports reveal that around a million people from different parts of the world come to Cebu to watch the Sinulog Grand Parade.
The word “viva” is a Spanish word that means long live while the word “pit” is shortened version of the Cebuano word “sangpit,” which means to call. The word “senyor” refers to the Santo Nino or the Holy Child. So, when someone says Viva Pit Senyor during the festivities, it means “Long live, call on the Holy Child Jesus.” These three words show the zeal and deep devotion of the Santo Nino devotees.
When the Sinulog Festival was first organized, the committee overseeing the event thought of coming up with a coat of arms to identify the event. The committee did not use the image of the Santo Nino since it was considered sacrilegious. The coat of arms consists of a two-headed hawk, which is similar to the coat of arms of the House of Habsburg. They ruled much of the known world between the 15th and 20th century. The same coat of arms was also found on the banners of Magellan when he arrived in Cebu.
The solemn procession precedes the Sinulog Grand Parade. The procession starts and ends at the Basilica Menore de Santo Niño. It passes through major streets in the city. Local officials have noted that the number of devotees joining the solemn procession increases every year. In 2016, authorities said around two million people joined the solemn procession in honor of the Santo Nino de Cebu. There were even instances in the past when the front of the procession would get to return to the basilica even as the tail-end has yet to leave the place.