The Sinulog Survival Guide: What to Do during the Festival

A contingent of the Sinulog Festival performing their street dance routine

The Sinulog Festival is one of the biggest events in Cebu, and there are many things that you need to remember when you take part in it.

The Sinulog Festival is one of the biggest festivals in the Philippines. Every year, thousands of tourists and locals experience the spectacle and grandeur of Cebu’s biggest celebration. People from around the world travel to the city to witness the events, while fellow Filipinos from outside Cebu island also travel to take part in the Grand Parade. The street dance performances, along with the creative and colorful floats and higantes, make the festival extra memorable for everyone attending.

The Sinulog Festival’s history can be dated back to when Christianity was first introduced to the island — the time in which Ferdinand Magellan discovered Cebu. It spans nine days, culminating with the big celebration on the third Sunday of January. It is a memorable series of events where people show their devotion and faith to the Senyor Sto. Niño. Thanks to the Cebuanos’ powerful passion, it has made this festival a monumental and worldwide attraction.

However, the sheer amount of people attending the events could be overwhelming. There are usually too many activities and attractions that you might have trouble deciding where to go. Places like midtown Cebu City become crowded with fans and devotees hoping to witness the dancing performances. You should know what you will be getting yourself into when you go outside to witness the presentation of the many contingents.

To avoid getting into a rut during the grand festival, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

1. Find the right hotel and book a room early.

Sinulog brings in the highest number of tourists in Cebu every year. Most of the hotels in the city will be full during Sinulog and the days before, and booking too late might make it harder for you. If you are planning to attend Sinulog, make sure to book your room a few months ahead to make sure that you will have a place to stay.

You might also want to consider the strategic location of the hotel you are staying in. There are many hotels that are close to malls and tourist attractions. The location of your hotel could benefit you, especially with the many things to do in Cebu City during Sinulog.

2. Plan your visit properly.

During the Grand Parade, cell phone service will be cut off to ensure the safety of the people attending. You will struggle to communicate with the people you are with or are planning to meet. Always plan where you are going and discuss the time and place of your meetups right after.

There are events before and after the parade as well. If you are interested in any of them, such as the different firework displays or street parties, try to research about them and list them down so that you will remember their respective schedules and where they will be held. Think about how you can get to any of these places, especially since public transport might be scarce.

3. Wear the right attire.

Most events are held outdoors, including where the contingents will be dancing the many versions of the famous Sinulog dance. It’s usually sunny in the Philippines, so expect it to be scorching hot when you choose to witness the dance performances in person. You can wear shorts to make it easier to walk around the streets and wear durable shoes in case your feet will be stepped on by the crowds of people attending.

You should also bring an extra shirt in case you need to make a quick change after the events, especially if you are far away from your hotel. There is a chance you’ll run into some rowdy party-goers who will be rubbing face paint on you when you go to the many other events and attractions (yes, this happens), so it’s best to prepare yourself beforehand.

4. Bring your essentials.

This is a no-brainer wherever you go. The weather can sometimes be unpredictable, so you might as well consider bringing a cap in case the sun becomes unbearable, or an umbrella if it looks like it’s going to rain. If you are bringing camera gear, consider bringing a cover for your camera bag to protect your gadgets.

You should also wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the heat of the sun. You can bring medicines in case you feel unwell while you are outside. Most importantly, make sure that you are physically fit to attend the events out in the streets. Be sure you’ve had enough sleep and keep yourself hydrated by bringing some water with you.

5. Don’t get too drunk.

Speaking of things to do during Sinulog, there are tons of parties that you can go to after the Grand Parade. Cebu City nightlife is more energetic during Sinulog. If you’re thinking about going to any of the parties held in the city, remember to be cautious and control yourself whenever alcohol is involved.

Some party-goers can also get a little too unruly. To ensure not just your safety, but also that of the rest of the people at any of the parties, be responsible. Make sure you are able to make it back to your hotel safe and sound.

6. Be wary of pickpockets.

Don’t bring anything that might attract pickpockets. Though there are police officers around, there is still a chance that someone might steal your belongings. Always check your pockets, especially if you are bringing money and gadgets.

Watch over your valuables and make sure they are close to you whenever you are snapping photos or talking to people. Don’t leave your bag anywhere where people can steal it, and only leave your belongings to those you trust.

There are so many things to consider when you are going to Cebu for the Sinulog Festival. There are many events that you might want to experience and encounter, and many places you would want to go to. Whatever the case, taking part in Sinulog when you visit Cebu should definitely be on your itinerary.

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