Sinulog Festival 2007

Photos by d2digital via

Sinulog is a dance ritual in honor of the miraculous image of the Santo Niño. The dance moves two steps forward and one step backward to the sound of the drums. This resembles the current (Sulog) of what was then known as Cebu’s Pahina River. Thus, in Cebuano, they say it’s Sinulog.

More than just the meaning of the word is the significance of the dance. Historians now say that Sinulog,which is of pagan origin is the link between the country’s pagan past and its Christian present. Lets trace it’s history.

Historical accounts say that before Portuguese navigator came to Cebu on April 7,1521 to plant the cross on its shore and claim the country for the King of Spain, Sinulog was already danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos. Then Magellan came and introduced Christianity. He gave the Santo Niño ( image of the Child Jesus ) as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon who was later named Queen Juana. At that time, not only the rulers were baptized but also about 800 of their subjects. Unfortunately however, shortly after the conversion, Magellan went into a reckless adventure by fighting the reigning ruler of Mactan, Rajah Lapu-lapu, with only a handful of men. He died in the encounter. That was on April 27,1521.

The remnants of Magellan’s men were however able to return to Spain to report the incident and the possibility of conquest. It took 44 years before a new group came and started the formal christianization of the islands. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565. His ships bombard ed the village and in one of the burning huts, one of his soldiers named Juan Camus found inside a wooden box the image of the Santo Niño lying side by side with native idols.

Historians now say that during the 44 years between the coming of Magellan and Legaspi, the natives continued to dance the Sinulog. These time, however, they danced it no longer to worship their native idols but a sign of reverence to the Santo Niño, which is now enshrined at the San Agustin Church (renamed Basilica Minore del Santo Niño).

Of course through the years since 1521, the dance was a small ritual danced by a few in front of wooden idols or before the Santo Niño. In fact, at the Santo Niño Church where the image is consecrated, only the candle vendors could be seen dancing the Sinulog and making offerings. During the Santo Niño fiesta which fall on the third Sunday of January,children dressed moro-moro costumes also dance the Sinulog. This was really no big event for Cebu City.

In 1980, however, David S. Odilao, Jr., then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (MYSD), organized the first ever Sinulog parade. He gathered a group of students, dressed them up, taught them how to dance the Sinulog to the beating of the drums. It was a small parade really which went just around the Basilica but it caught the imagination the City of Cebu, which then thought of making the Sinulog a festival that would rival all other festivals being held yearly in the country.

Thus, under the direction of the Cebu City Mayor Florentino S. Solon and through the help of lawyer Manuel S. Satorre, Jr., Juan B. Aquino Jr., Robert Grimalt and Antonio R. Aseniero, Jr.,Odilao turned over the Sinulog project to the Cebu City Historical Committee under Kagawad Jesus B. Garcia, Jr. Through Garcia’s committee, the Sinulog organization came into being. The first task of the organizing committee was how to conceptualized the festival and make it a big event.

The committee then came up with the idea of having a Sinulog logo that would identify the event yearly if it was to be institutionalized. The group didn’t however want to use the Santo Niño image itself because this would have been a sacrilege. And it had to look for something that would identify the project.

This was the coat of arms of the Santo Niño, which is quite visible as they are being embossed in the benches, architecture, and banners of the old San Agustin Church.

The coat of arms of the Santo Niño bears a two- headed hawk, the mark of the House of Hapsburg ( Hapsburg ) in Europe, which then ruled most of the known world from the 15th century to 20th century. Spain was under the Hapsburg dynasty when it sent the expeditions out across the globe to spread the Faith and expand the influence of the dynastic house to be unknown lands beyond the oceans.

The royal origin of the Hapsburg started with the ruling family on Austria in 1276 and for centuries until the 20th century the house ruled most of the kingdoms in Europe. The Hapsburg established the Holy Roman Empire in 1452 and it was at the height of their power under Charles 1 of Spain ( who was also Holy Roman Emperor known as Charles V1) the first expedition under Ferdinand Magellan which discovered the Philippines for Spain was sent initially to look for the Spice Island. The second expedition under Miguel Lopez de Legaspi was sent by his son, Philip II who ruled Spain for 42 years from 1556. In fact, the Hapsburg rulers continued to hold power until 1700 not only in Spain but also in the colonies under the Spanish regime while the Austrian line of the Hapsburg dynasty also ruled Central Europe until about the same time.

Thus, the Hapsburg emblem, now the coat of arms of the Santo Niño, was influential in many kingdoms in that time. The two-headed hawk emblem was in some of the banners brought by Magellan’s men to Cebu settlement in 1521. The same emblem was carried all the way from that time, through the Legaspi’s expedition in 44 years after Magellan, on to others that would come to the country in those days, such as Loaisa, Saavedra and the Villalobos expeditions.

The emblem of the two-headed hawk at the peak of the power of the Hapsburg dynasty represented the twin purpose of the House, which was to stand as “Champion of Catholicism and Defender of the Faith.”

With this background, the Sinulog committee used a native warrior’s shield on whose face is imprinted the coat of arms of the House of Hapsburg that now represents the Sinulog logo as interpreted by Miss Olive Templa, who coincidentally is a Cebuana.
The native shield figure symbolizes the country’s continued resistance to colonization. It speaks of the Filipino’s readiness to defend the country from all forms of foreign incursion and to resist any move that may endanger the country’s self-determination.
The coat of arms of the Santo Niño on the face of the shield on the other hand, traditionally symbolizes the country’s acceptance of Christianity as it was brought to the settlements in 1521 by European rulers.

Sinulog ’81 was then organized. Practically all sectors in the Cebuano community got involved. To distinguish the festival from the popular Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan, the organizers decided to use the parade to depict the history of the Sinulog which, as had been said, is the dance which links the country’s pagan pasty and Christian present. Seven floats were created to depict seven different periods of history. Each float were followed by dancers wearing costumes depicting the periods. They all danced the same beat the Sinulog parade started at 1 P.M. at the Cebu Provincial Capitol and ended about midnight at Fort San Pedro-Plaza Independencia area. And the show continued until the wee hours of the morning.

This made Sinulog the country’s biggest spectacle. So every year thereafter, the Sinulog parade and activities became bigger and better.

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  1. Keith Dudley says:

    Where can I purchase a DVD copy of the Sinulog Festival 2007? It looks incredible. My wife is a Kapamilya and we’d love a copy if possible.

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