Sinulog: One of Asia’s Top Festivals despite Being Canceled

Sinulog parade in the streets of Cebu

Sinulog is recognized as one of Asia’s top festivals.

The Sinulog Festival in Cebu brings in people from around the world to celebrate the feast of Santo Niño every year. Unfortunately, 2020 was the last time Filipinos and foreigners alike got to experience a full-blown celebration.

For two straight years, the parade was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic; consequently, the Sinulog Festival had become much quieter—far from its typical lively, colorful state.

Nonetheless, the International Events and Festivals Association (IEFA) Korea recognized the Sinulog Festival as one of the best festivals in Asia despite its parade being canceled for two years in a row.

What Makes the Sinulog Festival Appealing?

The Sinulog Festival has been celebrated every third Sunday of January in Cebu City since 1980. It commemorates the arrival of the Spaniards in Cebu and the first baptism in the Philippines.

Although it is only officially held for a day, the entire celebration lasts for ten days because of its precedent—the Fiesta Señor, a novena in honor of Santo Niño. So, everything about Fiesta Señor begins on a Thursday with a nine-day prayer at the Basilica del Sto. Niño, then ends on a Saturday with a roughly 7-kilometer procession.

Now, the official part of the fiesta usually starts early in the morning—many try to secure a spot along the parade route as early as 5 AM because of how quickly the crowd can grow.

In fact, the Sinulog Festival draws the highest number of tourists to the Philippines than any other cultural event in the entire year. Millions of people flock to the streets to witness and experience the festivities, such as the exuberant, picturesque Sinulog Grand Parade and the upbeat Sinulog theme song playing throughout the city.

The parade has become a worldwide spectacle as locals and tourists witness dazzling street dancing competitions, numerous entertaining higantes (giant paper mache puppets), and a bevy of floats carrying local celebrities visiting the town to witness the event.

It then culminates with the Grand Showdown at the Cebu City Sports Center, wherein contingents from across the country perform their own versions of the Sinulog dance in order to win a cash prize.

However, the celebration does not stop after the official part is over. In most cases, people, especially the younger generations, drink all day and dance all night along the streets near the parade route. And many might even tell you that their most memorable Sinulog moments were made during its street parties.

Top 3 Ocean Cities’ Festivals

IEFA Korea is an international organization specializing in researching Asian cultural celebrations to further develop them as tourist attractions. It had recently announced that the Sinulog Festival is among this year’s Top Three Ocean Cities’ Festivals—an award for Asian cultural celebrations held in coastal cities that have had a significant impact on the tourism industries of their countries.

The other awardees are the Pattaya Fireworks Festival in Thailand and the Hassan Battle Festival in South Korea. The award was presented at the Ocean Tourism Festival City Forum in Tongyeong City, South Korea, on March 25, 2022.

This award is another welcome addition to the international accolades that the Sinulog Festival has garnered so far. Shahlimar Tamano, the regional director of the Department of Tourism Central Visayas Office (DOT–7), said that this feat is “an acknowledgment of the role that the festival plays in enhancing the lives of the Cebuanos and tourists.”

Also, this award can attest to how the Sinulog Festival continues to impress and attract people worldwide. And you can bet that more people will want to have the whole Sinulog experience again after being physically limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic for two years now.

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