The dance ritual actually has pagan origins and the natives danced the Sinulog to honor anitos and wooden idols even before the coming of the Spaniards. The image of Señor Santo Niño was originally the gift of Magellan to Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana after they were baptized together with their followers. Following the death of Magellan at the hands of Lapu-Lapu, the surviving members of the expedition were able to make it back to Spain.
By 1980, the first Sinulog parade was organized by then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (MYSD), David S. Odilao Jr. A demonstration of the dance was performed by Nang Titang Diola of Mabolo. The first Sinulog Street Dance Parade was lead by physical education teachers from seven schools and universities. The City of Cebu later thought of using the parade into a festival to rival the festivals in other parts of the country.
An increase in the number of spectators of the Sinulog Grand Parade was noted with the creation of the Balik-Cebu program in 1986. The program also resulted to direct flights from Cebu to San Francisco. The festival now attracts millions of pilgrims along with thousands of balikbayans each year. With the increasing number of people watching the grand parade, crowd control has become a perennial issue. While different strategies were used in dealing with this issue, the solution remains elusive and the organizers are still working on solving this perennial problem each year.