3. Sinulog Festival, Cebu, The Philippine Islands

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It seems appropriate that I would follow on from my Semana Santa blog to write about the Sinulog Fesitval in Cebu. The Philippines were ruled by the Spanish for over 300 years, they are named after a Spanish king and received the Catholic doctrines from a series of expeditions following Ferdinand Magellan arrival in the islands in 1521.

I arrived in The Philippines in 2006 to study and teach at the International Academy of Film and Television, Cebu. At Easter time I saw Semana Santa in the streets of Cebu. I phoned my friend Paco in Jerez and told him what I was seeing and he told me that he was watching something very similar. The Catholic Church travels far and its influence is immense.

Sinulog is an annual Festival held on the third Sunday of January it commemorates the Filipino people’s pagan origin, and their acceptance of Roman Catholicism.

As soon as he arrived in the Philippines Magellan persuaded Rajah Humabon, the Cebuano leader and his chief wife Humamay to pledge their allegiance to Spain. They were later baptised into the Catholic faith, taking the Christian names Carlos and Juana and were presented with a statue of Santo Niño de Cebú. 

Today The Santo Niño  is one of the most beloved and recognisable cultural icons in the Philippines, found in both religious and secular areas. The image is replicated in many homes and business establishments.  Sinulog is an amazing street fiesta during which devotees carry a portable Santo Nino image onto the street with participants in bright coloured costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and native gongs and celebrating and partying through the night.

I experienced it a number of times during my time in Cebu. I loved the energy of the people, the devotion of something outside themselves .

The Sinulog celebration lasts for nine days, culminating on the final day with the Sinulog Grand Parade. The day before the parade, the Fluvial Procession is held at dawn with a statue of the Santo Niño carried on a pump boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City, decked with hundreds of flowers and candles. The procession ends at the Basilica where a re-enactment of the Christianizing (that is, the acceptance of Roman Catholicism) of Cebu is performed.

The Philippines are still greatly influenced by the Spanish time but in recent years the American, Japanese and Korean influences have made a deep mark on the city of Cebu.

In 2006 I made a short film ‘Sangpit Senyor’, which was set during the Sinulog Festival of that year.