Sinulog is known worldwide for its grand festivities, and it’s one of the biggest religious celebrations in the country.
This festival serves as the feast day of the Sto. Niño de Cebu, the island’s patron saint. It is the holy image of the Child Jesus that was offered by the Spaniards when they arrived in the Philippines in the 1500s.
Many miraculous feats have been attributed to this image, from healing injuries and illnesses to withstanding massive fires. It’s a huge part of Cebu culture, protected within the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño.
One of the biggest churches in the country, the Basilica hosts all of the major religious activities in line with the Sinulog Festival. While some of these celebrations and activities span different areas around the island, the Basilica is always involved in some way.
These events are all collectively part of what is dubbed the Fiesta Señor, which is the religious part of the festival. It’s one of the busiest times for the church, as millions of devotees pay their respects and attend mass before the grand celebration on Sinulog Day.
Many Cebuanos gather to attend the festivities throughout Sinulog week, including the Sinulog parade, the Grand Showdown, and of course the Grand Festival that takes part during Sinulog day.
Sinulog day is celebrated every third Sunday of the month of January. For 2024, it will be on January 21st.
So if you’re looking to get involved in the celebration, make sure to mark your calendars and list down all the activities you want to take part in.
SINULOG FIESTA SEÑOR EVENTS
- Nine-Day Novena Mass
First in line for the Fiesta Señor activities are the nine-day novena masses that are held at the Basilica, which commemorates the Sto. Niño. This takes place 11 days before the Sinulog celebration, with priests holding masses all throughout the day.
The novena starts with a penitential “walk with Jesus” at dawn on the first day. This foot procession brings thousands of devotees to the streets of Cebu along with an image of Jesus Christ, as they make their way to the Basilica.
The procession is followed by a mass, which is the first time they will be featuring the singing of the “Batobalani sa Gugma (Gozos)” during the offertory.
Here, parishioners wave their hands or a white handkerchief during the chorus as a commemoration and plea dedicated to the Sto. Niño.
The masses will end two days before the Sinulog Festival, with the 2024 iteration starting on January 11th, and ending on the 19th with the “walk with Mary.”
Both prayer walks start at around 4 AM at Fuente Osmeña Circle, going to the Basilica through Osmeña Boulevard.
However, the routes will be shorter in 2024 due to the ongoing construction of the Bus Rapid Transit.
The next religious activity is one that spans multiple cities on the island. The Traslacion is a motorcade which brings the image of the Santo Niño to the streets.
This is when the image of the Santo Niño is transferred from the Basilica to another church in Mandaue City. The next day, it is then brought to another parish in Lapu-Lapu City.
As the motorcade passes the different streets of the city, devotees wait by the sidewalks and pay homage to the image from afar. Once they arrive at the church, a mass will be held to commemorate the image.
The 2024 Traslacion starts right after the mass held after the walk with Mary. The image will then be brought from the Basilica to St. Joseph the Patriarch Church near Mandaue City Hall.
The next day, another motorcade will bring the image to the Birhen sa Regla Church in Poblacion.
- Fluvial Procession
A day before the Sinulog Festival, the Basilica will host the Fluvial Procession, where the image of the Santo Niño is brought back to Cebu City by boat along the Mactan Channel.
This is a special activity commemorating the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines, with the boat carrying the Sto. Niño leading the fleet.
This usually starts in the morning, with devotees waiting for the fleet to pass by areas with a view of the procession, like the Marcelo Fernan bridge.
In 2024, the route will pass by the Cebu Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX).
As the image arrives at the city’s port area, it is then brought back to the Basilica, where a re-enactment of the baptism of Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon is performed.
- Solemn Foot Procession
Finally, on the same day as the Fluvial Procession, the image is brought to the streets one last time for the Solemn Foot Procession. Unlike the penitential walks, this spans several neighborhoods in Cebu.
It welcomes the most number of people among all the different Fiesta Señor activities. It usually welcomes a massive crowd, with millions joining the procession and others waiting by the sidewalks.
The procession route is quite far, so for your comfort and convenience, come in proper attire and footwear. Remember that this is still a religious activity, so you still need to be modest with your clothing.
The 2024 Fiesta Señor Foot Procession will also have an alternate route due to the construction of the BRT. The new route will now take a six-kilometer detour to Natalio Bacalso Avenue before heading back to the Basilica.
These events lead up to the festivities that many look forward to during the Sinulog Festival. However, each of them is a reminder that Sinulog is more than just an event for fun and entertainment, it’s also a reminder for us to strengthen our faith.
You can still be part of the festival without watching the Grand Showdown or attending the Sinulog parade, as the Fiesta Señor is just as essential to the festival for its importance to Catholicism in the Philippines.