From an 8,000-runner event, to glorious month-long festivities and amazing vehicle discounts, Sinulog truly enlivens a 500-year-old tradition in the minds and hearts of Cebuanos
In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived and planted the cross on the shores of Cebu. He presented the image of the Child Jesus to Rajah Humabon, his wife and 800 natives of the island. In that very same year, the very first Filipino was baptized, hence making the Queen City of the South the cradle of Christianity in the Far East.
500 years later, Cebu is still touted to be the haven of Christianity in the country. One proof of which is its marvelous month-long celebration of the annual Sinulog-Santo Niño Festival held every January, which culminates on the third Sunday of the month. Every year, around two million tourists pay homage, as well as join the festivities of the island, making the celebrations the “Grandest Festival in the Philippines.”
A ‘Graceful dance’
On our recent visit in Cebu, we were able to chance upon Isuzu Cebu’s sales manager, Aimee Machacon, who said that the festivities have been celebrated for about 44 years now and as Cebuanos they have religiously been participating in the tradition every year.
For starters, “Sinulog” means “graceful dance,” wherein it symbolically represents the “sulog” or “current” of Cebu’s river.
“Sinulog is the most-celebrated of all the festivities I have come to know of here in the Philippines. As a Cebuana, I’m proud to say that I have been religiously participating in the festivities ever since I was a little girl,” Machacon shared.
Machacon, together with her sales executive, Farrah Calumba, even divulged that every January, during the month of the Sinulog, people from various parts of the country, not only participate in the celebrations, but also visit their dealership.
“Just these past few weeks, there were visitors from Bacolod, from Dumaguete, and also from Bohol, who not only go here for the Sinulog Festival, but also to inquire about our vehicles,” the latter said.
“One even said that he would buy an IPV truck and use it for the celebrations,” she added.
“This is one of the best times to buy vehicles from us since we have lots of promos.”
A “Festival Marathon”
Another highlight of the Sinulog Festival for Cebuanos is the Cebu City Marathon (CCM). On a personal note, this writer has been longing to participate, either by covering or running the event, ever since Day One; and recently, he just did, not to mention being a first-time Sinulog attendee, as well.
For the past 14 years, the “Festival Marathon” has been making strides, not only in the running and fitness community in Cebu, but also in the lives of Cebuanos.
The running event, touted as an “International-caliber marathon” by the organizers even made its “grandest” leap when they decided to hold the event, traversing the 8.9-km Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) last year, when the bridge was first officially opened.
Now, the “Pride of Cebuanos” as CCLEX is now considered the tallest and longest bridge in the country, the venue captured about 8,600 runners, the biggest number to date for CCM, last year. This 2024, organizers were able to draw almost the same number of participants.
“We started with a very small number 14 years ago since we wanted to introduce running to Cebuanos,” said one of the event’s organizers, Meyrick Jacalan.
“And it’s good when you see your fellow Cebuano slowly changing their lifestyle. They become healthier.”
He added, “We’ve always envisioned this to be a ‘Festival Marathon’, wherein balikbayans and tourists participate in. It’s very festive. You could see dancers along the streets, bands playing, fireworks everywhere. It’s just a wonderful atmosphere.”
Meanwhile, an avid runner from Manila said, “I love it here. I’ve been to countless running events in the past and this one surely tops my list.”
Now personally being able to participate in the Sinulog festivities first-hand– admittedly–I have grown envious of what Cebuanos have been doing there for the longest time. I have never seen anything as grand and as festive as that back here in Metro Manila. I’m even sure our ancestors of 500 years ago are now watching from up there, with their big pearly whites on their faces.