Survival Guide: 10 Tips for An Epic Sinulog Experience

Are you ready for the 2016 Sinulog Festival? Here are my tips to prepare you for the grandest celebration in Cebu.

Cebu is one of the most known city in the Philippines. Although it is generally laid back, the city transforms from quiet to crazy every third weekend of January. The Queen City of the South becomes remarkably vibrant celebrating the arrival Child Jesus locally called as Señor Santo Niño in the shores of Cebu. It is a commemoration of start of Christianity in the country. Despite the religious nature of the celebration, it includes various higlights such as Miss Cebu, Festival Queen Competition, Sinulog Idol, Photo and Film Competition, Fluvial and Solemn Procession, Grand Parade and Street Dancing and Grand Finale Fireworks display, you are sure to find something to suit your taste.

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Photo by Roland Pascua

Sinulog Festival is the grandest festival in the Philippines bringing in about 1 million visitors. As the weekend draws near, here are some tips to prepare you for the mother of all celebrations.

1. Plan your events well.

Here is a map of the Solemn Procession 

If you are more on religious events and plan on going to the Basilica to see the image of the Child Jesus, make sure to be there as early as 5 a.m. because the queue is really long.

Activities from Friday to Sunday:

January 15, 2016 (Friday) Visual Merchandising Contest (Dept. Stores and Malls)
4:00 A.M. – Walk with Mary (Area) Fuente Osmeña – Sto. Niño
9:00 A.M. – Solidarity Meeting (All Competing Contingent/Floats/ Higante/ Puppeteers) @ Cebu City Sports Center Gym
6:00 P.M. – Sinulog 2016 Dance Crew Finals @ Cebu City Sports Center
6:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M. -Coke Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
7:30 P.M. – Sinulog Festival Queen 2016 Coronation Night @ Cebu City Sports Center
8:00 P.M. – Cebu Popular Music Festival @ Cebu Coliseum

January 16, 2016 (Saturday)
6:00 A.M. – Fluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Sto. Niño
8:30 P.M. – 10:00 P.M. – Yamaha Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
9:00 A.M. -Re-enactment of the Baptism of Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon Basilica del Santo Niño
9:00 A.M. -Sinulog 2016 “Balik Baroto Regatta”
12:00 P.M. -11TH “The Street Vibration & Big Bike Rally 2016” by V-max Owner’s Group, Inc Cebu Chapter
2:00 P.M. -Solemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño
7:00 P.M. -Sinulog Fireworks Competition @ SM City Cebu
10:00 P.M. – 12:00 MN -San Miguel Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle

January 17, 2016 (Sunday) Sinulog Grand Parade
4:00 A.M. -Mañanita Mass @ Basilica del Sto. Niño
6:00 A.M. -Pontifical Mass
8:00 A.M. -Holy Mass @ Cebu City Sports Center
9:00 A.M. -Sinulog Grand Parade Carousel Kick Off
7:00 P.M. -Grand Finale and Grand Fireworks @ Cebu City Sports Center
7:30 P.M. -Party Bands, Fuente Osmeña
9:00 P.M. -Pyrospectacular Show (Pyromusical Show @ SM City Cebu)
9:00 P.M. – 2:00 A.M. – Sinulog DJ Mixing Grand Finals Night @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
12:00 MN -Sinulog Fireworks @SRP

Map for Sinulog 2016 Festival Grand Parade Route Map

If you are more for dancing and parties, here are just some of the parties happening over the weekend.535081_10206495239958529_7494243345047192356_n

2. Bring Cash.

12571415_10153784062098329_171818833_n Avoid long queues to the ATM or worse running out of money when you need drink. Make sure you have enough cash on hand. It would be wise to keep them in different places, some could be hidden inside your bra (my mother’s advice). If you want to make the most out of your dollars, I recommend you head to Alco Credit and Foreign Exchange, Inc. they offer the best rates within the city, you can find them at Raintree Mall.

3. Prepare you Sinulog Looks

Jover Alforque

You can buy cheap Sinulog shirts that you can cut and redesign. Opt for cotton and avoid wearing clothes with thick material. I discourage you from wearing jean pants, it can get heavy once it gets wet. You have endless options for accessories from feather to wooden beads. It is a great time to get your henna tattoo, you can easily find an artist along the street.The weather can get really hot and humid so do not be afraid to bare more skin. Unless you plan to go to the Basilica then you have to be covered. Do not wear expensive jewelries too unless you want to make friends with robbers. Also make sure that the bag you bring is always close to your body and waterproof.

4. Practice the Sinulog dance steps.

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Photo by Victor Kintanar

It would not be an authentic Sinulog celebration if you do not learn the steps. It is not that complicated, it is close to the basic one two step. All you have to do is move one foot forward and take two steps backward.

5. Think of Sinulog as a Marathon.

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I am not saying you have to wear your running shoes but it would be a good idea to wear your most comfortable footwear since the main streets in Cebu are closed specially on Sunday since parade starts as early as 6:00 a.m. People are forced to be more fit and you will not notice that you have been walking for hours because of the loud music, smiling dancers and happy people you meet in the road.

6. Embrace Extraversion.

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Photo by Erick John Cuevas

If you have problems with personal space, then you should forget about it for this weekend. Cebuanos are extra friendly during the festivities. You will get hugs, greetings and drinks from random strangers on the road. You will be a dot in a sea of humans. The massive crowd walking with you will test you on this too.

7. Bring Your Squad.

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Any celebration would not be fun if you do it alone. Bring your awesome friends except for the one who always complains (no one wants a kill joy). Even if you are a solo traveler, do not hesitate to talk to people. If you are a member of Couchsurfing like me, search for Sinulog events in the website.

8. Must Haves for Sunday’s Grand Parade

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Celebrating Sinulog is like hitting the beach for summer. You must bring the following essentials: Water or any form of potable liquid for Hydration, Sunscreen, Favorite Pair of Sunnies,  Fan to Keep Cool , Small Snacks for Energy, Camera for Endless Selifes/Groufies, Powerbank

9. Eat. Party. Sleep. Repeat

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When I celebrated Sinulog 2014, I hanged out with a bunch of crazy guys so I ended up partying from Tuesday until Sunday. Make sure you get rest and nourishment in between. While you want to maximize your partying or events, make sure you will be okay on Monday and not in a hospital. There was a year when I missed out on the partying because I did not have enough sleep, my body gave in on Sunday. Also, remember to drink in moderation. It is easy to get carried away but you have to be responsible enough or at least be with a responsible friend. The past Sinulog parties have caused a major uproar from the conservative people as photos of teenagers sleeping unconscious along the streets went viral in social media sites. You do not want to leave traces of your partying in someone else’s Facebook account.

10. Be Ready For Everything and Anything.

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Photo by Restie Derigay

Make sure to agree on a meeting place with your friends. During the festival, the mobile networks normally suffer lags and some messages arrive hours later. While the weather reports say the weather will be fair, make sure that you are ready to embrace the rain as well as random showers of water, beer, alcohol and even paint. These tips should give you an idea on what to expect but nothing can be completely planned in life. Do not let this unpredictability stop you, this will make your Sinulog experience more memorable. 

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With all that said and done, I wish you the best for Sinulog 2016! May the force be with you as you brave the streets of Cebu! Prititit!!! Pit Señor!

Reginald James Lorico
Photo by: Reginald James Lorico

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