• Home
  • /
  • How to
  • /
  • Sinulog Festival in Cebu: Interesting Facts and Trivia

Sinulog Festival in Cebu: Interesting Facts and Trivia

The Sinulog Festival is an annual cultural celebration held every third Sunday of January.

For most Filipinos, the holidays are over right after New Year’s Day. But in Cebu, there is a lot more to celebrate as Cebuanos look forward to the famous Sinulog Festival!

This is when you will hear the locals chanting Pit Senyor! and witness huge crowds participating in the many festivities and novena masses. 

In the weeks leading up to the third Sunday of January, Cebuanos can be seen roaming the streets in colorful shirts and hats. And when Sinulog day comes, hundreds of contingents will be parading the streets in festive costumes. 

But what is it about this festival that makes it  the biggest celebration in the Philippines? Let’s delve into some quick facts and trivia about this grandiose event.

What Is the Sinulog Festival?

The Sinulog Festival is an annual religious and cultural celebration in honor of one of the country’s historic relics: the Santo Niño de Cebu. This refers to the statue of Baby Jesus that was handed to Rajah Humabon of Cebu City by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. 

The festival is considered one of the most important historical events in Cebu, as it paved the way for the birth of Christianity in the Philippines.

A Brief History of the Sinulog Festival

Historians say that the Sinulog Festival is the link between the country’s pagan past and its Christian present. It was believed that Sinulog was danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos even before Ferdinand Magellan came to Cebu. 

Where did the Santo Niño come from? It was when Magellan came to Cebu and gave Hara Amihan a gift. He gave Hara Amihan, the wife of Rajah Humabon, the image of Santo Niño as a baptismal gift (she was later named Queen Juana). 

Many people converted to Roman Catholicism after Magellan introduced Christianity to the country.

Where Does the Term "Sinulog" Come From?

festival queen carrying an image of santo niño

The Sinulog dance is done by taking two steps forward and one step back while holding a statue of Santo Niño.

The word “Sinulog” is derived from the Cebuano term which means “like the movement of water.” It refers to the motion of the water, as portrayed by Sinulog dancers during the festival celebration. 

So what do water movements have to do with the Sinulog Festival? It’s when you dance two steps forward and one step backward to resemble the wave current of Cebu’s Pahina River, also referred to as “sulog” in the Cebuano dialect (sulog means water current).

Considered to be the biggest event in the Philippines, the Sinulog Festival is held every January as a thanksgiving to Santo Niño. This annual celebration has become so popular that it attracts 1 to 2 million people (including international tourists) every year. 

What Happens during the Sinulog Festival?

As the festival becomes more and more famous each year, the Cebu City government continues to implement several safety protocols and guidelines to ensure that everyone has a safe and memorable time during the Sinulog celebration.

Traffic can get really bad as road closures are put in place for the grand parade and street dance competitions. Another factor contributing to this are the hundreds of people roaming the streets to take part in the festivities.

Even the costumes and dances can get pretty extreme, as they highlight the essence of this cultural phenomenon. All kinds of events, exhibits, beauty pageants, photo contests, and singing and dancing competitions are some of the many activities one can enjoy throughout Sinulog week.

During Sinulog weekend, there will also be concerts, fireworks displays, fun runs, street fairs, cultural shows, and street parties all around Cebu City.

How to Take Part and Enjoy Sinulog

Now that you know how the Sinulog Festival started and what you can expect during the celebration, here are some helpful tips on how you can enjoy the week-long festival.

1. Experience the Sinulog at the grandstand. 

The Sinulog Festival can be overwhelming, seeing as it is the biggest event in the country. Yes, you can be easily carried away by other events going on throughout the festival. But if you’re planning to take part in the celebration, then Sinulog at the grandstand is something that you shouldn’t miss.

This is because it’s the best spot where you can witness participants from across the country perform their 5-minute ritual dance. You will get to enjoy the full experience watching the graceful dance routines along with the intricate and unique costumes of every contingent. 

2. Don’t miss out on the street party. 

Most locals simply go out dancing and drinking at local pubs during Sinulog. Others bring the celebration to the streets by mingling with other people. Even foreigners take part in the fun too!

It can get really crowded in some areas, so don’t be surprised if someone smears your face with paint (don’t worry, it’s safe!) as you roam the streets. 

Remember, you don’t have to participate in all of the fun if you don’t want to. Simply walking along the streets is fun enough. You’ll be greeted with lots of Pit Senyor! paired with a hug or a pat on the shoulder.

Again, keep in mind that Sinulog is the biggest event in the country. As such, it can be difficult to navigate the entire event if you’re not familiar with the routes around the city. 

To ensure a fun and safe experience during the festival, here are some quick tips to take note of.

Tip #1. Bring a bottle of water. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, especially since you’ll be doing a lot of walking (whether you like it or not). The locals already know that the best way to get around the city during this time is to walk. The roads can get chaotic, and you might not be able to get a ride or book one if you don’t want to travel on foot.

Tip #2. Wear comfy clothes that you won’t mind getting paint on. The goal is to have fun, and the locals love spreading the excitement by spraying water or beer on one another and getting their faces painted in bright colors. Even if you don’t plan on taking part in any of that, you’re bound to bump into some people who might already be covered in paint.

Tip #3. Bring enough money with you. You can never be sure of what will happen when you’re out on the streets. You might end up booking a room at an expensive hotel if you’re too tired to go home (as most affordable hotels are fully booked at this time). 

Some establishments and vendors might even jack up the price of their products and services in line with the festival. 

If you do decide to go home after taking part in the festivities, the only ride you’ll most likely get is from a cab, so it would be good to have some extra cash on you.

Related: The Sinulog Survival Guide: What to Do during the Festival

Tip #4. Take photos. Whether you want to keep them as a souvenir or to persuade a friend to come with you next time, you will definitely want some snaps of yourself attending the event. This way, when you’re too tired to join the next Sinulog celebration, you’ll have awesome pictures to remind you of how great the event truly is.

Part of this religious celebration is the Grand Parade and Street Dancing Competition.

Note: When you take photos of contingents during the grand parade and street dancing competition, make sure to capture some great moments, like their smiles or their emotions as they’re dancing to the beat of Sinulog. 

Experience the Sinulog Festival in Cebu

To this day, there is nothing quite like the Sinulog Festival in Cebu. It’s more than just a cultural celebration. For many Cebuanos, it’s part of their identity, and you can see how happy and proud they are to call the incredible island of Cebu their home.

If you want to have the full Sinulog experience, don’t miss out on any of the festivities and see how the locals celebrate this grand event. 

Other posts

Boat in the waters of Cebu

Cebu Ranked among the Best Diving Spots in the Philippines

The Philippines was recognized as the best dive destination in Asia during the biggest diving expo in Malaysia. The Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (TPBP), an agency under the Department of Tourism (DOT), announced this on March 1, 2023, also highlighting notable diving spots in the country like the island of Cebu. TPBP welcomed travelers and

Read More
firemen putting out house fires in Cebu City

Fire Safety Tips at Home: Before, During, and After

In observance of Fire Prevention Month, here are some important fire safety tips to keep in mind. March serves as a reminder that Fire Prevention Month is underway in the Philippines, as we hear the sirens of fire trucks roving the streets of Cebu City.  The prolonged echoing sound of the sirens keeps us alert

Read More
Signage of the Belmont Hotel at the Mactan Newtown

The Belmont Hotel Takes Inspiration from Cebuano Culture

The Belmont Hotel is one of the newest establishments at the Mactan Newtown. The hospitality industry in Cebu is lucrative because of the many high-end hotels around the island. That being said, you can expect world-class accommodation when visiting areas like Cebu and Lapu-Lapu City. The Megaworld Corporation is famous for promoting Cebu tourism through

Read More
Cebuanos believe that the last step in a flight of stairs should not be divisible by 3.

Common Superstitious Beliefs in Cebu

Cebuanos believe that the last step in a flight of stairs should not be divisible by 3. Have you ever been told not to leave the table if someone is still eating? Or witnessed someone knocking on wood and making a sign of the cross to ward off bad luck? Well, these are just some

Read More
Collage of Singapore and Cebu

Singaporean Ambassador Supports Singapore-like Cebu

Plans are in place to create a Singapore-like experience in Cebu. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s vision of developing the city as a world-class destination like Singapore has received support from the Philippines’ Ambassador to Singapore. Singaporean diplomat Gerard Ho Wei Hong expressed his support for the improvement of the Queen City of the South’s

Read More
Befriend the locals by learning some simple phrases in the Cebuano language.

Learning Cebuano Language: How to Speak like a Local

Befriend the locals by learning some simple phrases in the Cebuano language. Most seasoned travelers will agree that learning the local language of their chosen destination requires effort. However, in most countries, you can easily get by with English. While the same can be said about Cebu, you’ll find that learning the Cebuano language will

Read More

Best of Cebu Videos

Cebu Insights Logo

Seeking to learn more about Cebuano culture, or wanting to know what to do once you arrive, Cebu Insights is the travel guide for you in Cebu!

Contact Us

See Recent Posts

Scroll to Top
Weather Forecast
Exchange Currency
Cebu City
5:48 am5:55 pm PST
Feels like: 75°F
Wind: 6mph NNW
Humidity: 88%
Pressure: 29.83"Hg
UV index: 0

Exchange Rate USD: Tue, 21 Mar.