the philippine flag Sinulog Festival Cebu City Philippines

sinulog pose sinulog smile sinulog lady

The Sinulog festival is one of the grandest, most distinguished and most colorful festivals in the Philippines. The major festival is held each year on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City to honor the Santo Niño, or the child Jesus, who used to be the patron saint of the whole province of Cebu (since in the Catholic faith Jesus is not a saint, but God). It is fundamentally a dance ritual which remembers the Filipino people's pagan past and their recognition of Christianity.

The festival features some the country's most colorful displays of ceremony and pageantry: participants clothe in bright-colored costumes dance to the rhythm of drums and native gongs. The streets are generally lined with vendors and pedestrians all wanting to witness the street-dancing. Smaller versions of the festival are also held in different parts of the province, also to celebrate and honor the Santo Niño. There is also a Sinulog sa Kabataan, which is performed by the youths of Cebu a week before the Grand Parade.

Recently, the cultural event has been commercialized as a tourist attraction and instead of traditional street-dancing from locals, Sinulog also came to mean a contest highlighting groups from various parts of the country. The Sinulog Contest is traditionally held in the Cebu City Sports Complex, where most of Cebu's major provincial events are held.

The Festival

The celebration traditionally lasts for nine days, ending on the ninth day when the Sinulog Grand Parade reveals. The day before the parade, the Fluvial Procession, a water-parade, held at dawn from the Mandaue City wharf to Cebu City wharf with the Santo Niño carried on a pump boat decorated with hundreds of flowers and candles. The procession ends at the Basilica where a re-enactment of the Christianizing of Cebu follows. In the afternoon, a more formal procession takes place along the major streets of the city, which last for hours due to large crowd participating in the religious event.

On the feast day, at the Basilica, a Pontifical Mass is held, given by the Cardinal with the assistance of several bishops of Cebu. The majority of the city’s population and devotees would flock to the Basilica to attend the mass before heading out to the streets to watch the Parade.


'Sinulog' comes from the Cebuano adverb sulog which is "like water current movement," which proficiently describes the forward-backward movement of the Sinulog dance. Traditionally, the dance consists of two steps forward and one step backward, done to the sound of the drums. The dance is classified into Sinulog-base, Free-Interpretation, and recently a Latin Category, which most people have argued that it had nothing to do with Sinulog tradition. Candle vendors at the Basilica continue to perform the traditional version of the dance when lighting a candle for the customer, usually accompanied by songs in the native language.

sinulog cebu city sinulog dance sinulog float

History of Sinulog

Pre-Spanish and the First Wave of Spaniards
Historians have renowned that before the first Spaniards came to Cebu, the Sinulog was already danced by the natives in respect of their wooden god called anitos. Then, on April 7, 1521, the Portuguese navigator, Fernando de Magallanes arrived and planted the cross on the shores of Cebu, claiming the territory in the name of the King of Spain. He then offered the image of the child Jesus, the Santo Niño, as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu's Rajah Humabon. Hara Amihan was later named, Queen Juana in honor of Juana, Carlos I's mother. Along with the rulers of the island, some 800 natives were also baptized to the Christian faith.

This event is often used as foundation for most Sinulog dances, which presents the coming of the Spaniards and the presentation of the Santo Niño to the Queen. A famous theme among Sinulog dances is Queen Juana holding the Santo Niño in her arms and using it to bless her people who are often worried by sickness caused by demons and other evil spirits.

The Coming of Legazpi

After Magellan met his death on April 27, 1521 on the shores of Mactan (ruled by Muslim Rajah Lapu-Lapu), the bits and pieces of his men returned to Spain. However, it took 44 years before the Spaniards accomplished some measure of success in colonizing the islands and finally the whole Philippines.

The explorer, Miguel López de Legazpi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565 and destroyed the village ruled by Rajah Tupas. In one of the huts of the burning village, one of Legazpi's soldiers named Juan Camus found a wooden box containing the image of the Santo Niño lying in the middle of several native statue. Historians later said that during the 44 years between the coming of Magellan and Legazpi, the natives of Cebu continued to dance the Sinulog but no longer to worship their anitos but to show their worship to the Santo Niño.

The Augustinian friars that accompanied Legazpi in his expedition proclaimed the statue miraculous and built a church on the site where it was found. Th e church was called San Agustin Church but was later renamed to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.

Letter to the King
After Juan Camus found the Santo Niño in the burning village, Legazpi was said to have included the event in his report, entitled "Relation of Voyage to the Philippine Islands." It went as follows:
"… Your Excellency should know that on that day when we entered this village (Cebu), one of the soldiers went into a large and well-built house of an indio where he found an image of the Child Jesus (whose most holy name I pray may be universally worshipped). This was kept in its cradle, all covered with gold, just as if it were brought from Spain: and only the little cross, which is generally placed upon the globe in his hands, was lacking. The image was well kept in that house, and many flowers were found before it, and no one knows for what object or purpose. The soldier bowed down before it with all reverence and wonder, and brought the image to the place where the other soldiers were. I pray to the Holy Name of his image, which we found here, to help us and to grant us victory, in order that these lost people who are unaware of the precious and rich treasure, which was in their custody, may come to a knowledge of Him."

The Present
Since 1521, loyalty to the Santo Niño has grown and has taken root in Filipino popular holiness, particularly in the Visayas; pilgrims from different parts of Cebu and the rest of the Philippines make their yearly journey to the Basilica to take part in the procession and fiesta. Starting in 1980, the Cebu City government organized the Sinulog Mardi Gras and eventually gave incentives to dance groups.

It was David S. Odilao, Jr., then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (MYSD), who organized the first ever Sinulog Parade. The year was 1980 and Odilao gathered a group of students, dressed them up in moro-moro costumes and taught them the Sinulog to the beating of the drums.

The idea caught and thus, under the direction of the Cebu City Mayor Florentino S. Solon with the help of several influential Cebuanos, Odilao turned over the Sinulog project to the Cebu City Historical Committee under Kagawad Jesus B. Garcia, Jr.. It was the task of the Committee to conceptualize the Sinulog festival and make it into a yearly event from then on.
In 1981 the following year, the concept of the Sinulog Parade was actualized, involving practically every sector in the Cebuano community. Marking its difference from another popular festival, the Ati-Atihan in Aklan, the Sinulog focuses not on the ritual itself but on the historical aspects of the dance, which, as it has been said, represents the link between the country's pagan past and Christian present.

Sinulog Coat of Arms
The committee (Cebu City Historical Committee), which was responsible for the conceptualization of the Sinulog as a provincial event, decided to accept a logo for the Sinulog to identify it as an institutionalized yearly event. They turned to the coat of arms of the Santo Niño which consisted of a two-headed hawk that was the mark of the ruling House of Habsburg in Europe. The symbol stand for the twin purpose of the Habsburg dynasty as "Champion of Catholicism and Defender of the Faith." At the time when Spain sent expeditions to the Philippines, they were under the Habsburg dynasty.
The Sinulog committee then included the two-headed eagle to a native warrior's shield. The native shield is thought to symbolize the country's struggle to colonization while the Santo Niño's coat of arms printed on its face represented the country's recognition of Christianity.


Sinulog 2012 Schedule of Activities

Dec 01, 2011 – Jan 31, 2012 Sinulog Street Fair, Osmeña Blvd.
December 11, 2011 2nd Sinulog Cup Baseball Tournament
December 15, 2011 Sinulog Photo Exhibits at SM City
December 16, 2011 Sinulog on the Spot Painting Contest
December 17, 2011 Sinulog Poster Making Contest at Emall
December 18, 2011 Sinulog Best Dance Crew Elimination
Sinulog Musicfest Elimination

January 05, 2012 (Thursday) Opening Salvo: Walk with Jesus
4:00 AM Assembly Time (Area) Fuente Osmeña
4:30 AM Start of Walk-Fuente Osmeña Blvd. – Basilica del Sto. Niño
5:30 AM Installation of Hermano & Hermana Mayores 2012

January 06, 2012 (Friday) Sinulog 2012 Kick Off
2:00PM Solemn Mass (Basilica del Sto. Niño) sponsored by the Sinulog
Foundation Inc . and Cebu City government
3:00 PM Launching Parade (Basilica del Sto. Niño to Cebu City Sports Center)
7:00 PM Opening and Launching Program, Fuente Osmeña
7:30 PM Ms. Cebu 2012 Presentation
9 :00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
10:00 PM Street Party Bands

January 07, 2012 (Saturday) Sinulog sa Kabataan – Lalawigan
1:00 PM Parade of Participants, Capitol Site to Cebu City Sports Center
2:00 PM Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan, Cebu City Sports Center
4:30 PM Awarding of Winners
6:30 PM Cultural Show (Fuente Osmeña)
8:00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
9:00 PM Concert @ the Fuente Osmeña , Street Party Bands

January 08, 2012 (Sunday) Sinulog sa Kabataan- Dakbayan
4:00 AM Cebu City 2012 Marathon –
1:00 PM Parade of Participants, Plaza Independencia to Cebu City Sports Center
2:00 PM Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Dakbayan, Cebu City Sports Center
4:30 PM Awarding of Winners
6:30 PM Cultural Show (Fuente Osmeña)
8:00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
9:00 PM Concert @ the Fuente O, Street Party Bands

January 09, 2012 (Monday)
6:30 PM Cultural Show (Fuente Osmeña)
8:00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
9:00 PM Concert @ the Fuente O , Street Party Bands

January 10, 2012 (Tuesday)
6:30 PM Cultural show (Fuente Osmeña)
8:00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
9:00 PM Concert @ the Fuente O , Street Party Bands

January 11, 2012 (Wednesday)
9:00 AM Airport Welcome (Balikbayan Flights)
6:30 PM Cultural Shows (Fuente Osmeña)
7:00 PM Ms. Cebu 2012 Coronation Night, Waterfront Lahug Hotel
8:00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
9:00 PM Concert @ the Fuente O , Street Party Bands

January 12, 2012 (Thursday)
9:00 AM Airport Welcome (Balikbayan Flights)
6:30 PM Cultural Shows (Fuente Osmeña)
6:00 PM Balik Cebu, Welcome Party at Ayala Center Cebu
8:00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
8:00 PM Handumanan @ Ayala Terraces
9:00 PM Concert @ the Fuente Osmeña , Street Party Bands

January 13, 2012 (Friday) Visual Merchandising Contest(Dept. Stores and Malls)
4:00 AM Walk with Mary (Area) Fuente Osmeña-Sto. Niño
9:00 AM Solidarity Meeting (All Competing Contingent /Floats / Higante / Puppteeters Cebu City Sports Center Gym
5:00 PM Sinulog Best Dance Crew Grand Finals
6:00 PM Sinulog Musicfest Band Competition Grand Finals
6:30 PM Cultural Shows (Fuente Osmeña)
7:30 P.M Cebu Popular Music Festival, Cebu Coliseum
7:30 P.M Sinulog Festival Queen 2012, Cebu City Sports Center
8:00 PM Sinulog Idol (Fuente Osmeña Circle)
9:00 PM Concert @ the Fuente O , Street Party Bands

January 14, 2012 (Saturday)
6:00 AM Fluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño
9:00 AM Re-enactment of the Baptism of Queen Juana and Rajah
Humabon Basilica del Sto. Niño
2:00 PM Solemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño
7:00 PM Sinulog Fireworks Competition at SM City Cebu
7:00 PM Street party at Fuente Osmeña and Plaza Independencia
8:00 PM Kasadya Nite Mardi Gras at Ayala Center Cebu

January 15, 2012 (Sunday) SINULOG GRAND PARADE
4:00 AM Mañanita Mass at Basilica del Sto. Niño
6:00 AM Pontifical mass with His Eminence Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal
9:00 AM Sinulog Grand Parade Carousel Kick Off
7:00 PM Grand Finale and Fireworks, Cebu City Sports Center
7:30 PM Street Party Bands, Fuente Osmeña

January 16, 2012 (Monday)
1:00 PM Awarding Ceremonies, Cebu City Sports Center

January 20, 2012 (Friday) “HUBO”
4:00 AM “HUBO Mass” Ritual at Basilica del Sto. Niño

January 28, 2012 (Saturday)
1:00 P.M Screening of Finaslists Short Film/Video Documentary Contest
6:00 P.M Awarding Ceremonies Photo Contest and Video Documentary
Contest at SM City Cebu

January 30 – Feb. 10, 2012 Photo Exhibits “Winning Photos Sinulog 2012 at SM City Cebu