Cabaero: Pandemic-proof Sinulog festival

Nini Cabaero
·2 min read

ORGANIZERS have decided to turn the Sinulog 2021 into a mostly online and thus a pandemic-proof celebration.

Aside from the fact that it will be a different Sinulog, there are advantages to having a virtual celebration. More people can witness and participate, although not in person. They stick to safety protocols. Activities may be spread across several locations and days. The new setup can be part of the fun and the changes not actually a dampener if organizers were to introduce other innovations.

There will be challenges to moving the activities online such as scheduling the contingents, working with the technology and other preparations. On the part of the viewers, the concern is in having the device and internet connection to allow them to watch the live performances.

The religious celebration will continue at the Basilica del Sto. Niño but at a limited number of mass attendees. The processions and reenactment activities are all cancelled. These are what organizers have been announcing to prepare the public for a different Sinulog, a pandemic-proof kind of celebration.

The novena will run from January 8 to 17, 2021, with masses beginning at 5 a.m. daily. Only 1,000 people would be allowed or less than a third of the capacity of the Pilgrim’s Center to follow safety protocols.

There are three foot processions that happen every Sinulog. These are the Penitential Walk with Jesus to open the nine-day novena, Penitential Walk with Mary to mark the ninth day and the foot procession around Cebu City on the day before the fiesta. These activities plus the fluvial procession are all cancelled for next year.

As to the holding of online masses, that’s not new as the basilica and media organizations such as SunStar have been airing them every year for several years for the benefit of devotees outside of Cebu but, now, for all devotees.

The Sinulog grand parade, culminating activity of the festival, will be different too. Dances will still be held at the Cebu City Sports Complex but limited only to Cebu City-based contingents. Dance groups outside of Cebu City may record their performances to be aired during the celebration.

An innovation organizers may consider would be to schedule the online presentations of contingents over several days instead of the usual one day which is the last Sunday of the festival. This way, dance groups can take other days before the final date to present their live performances. The point is to avoid the crush of people whether in-person or online by giving them more chances to view the celebration.

Online activities can be interactive through polls or likes and a new category for crowd-sourced Sinulog performances can be introduced. Cebuano groups abroad would welcome the chance to participate in the contests when they couldn’t in the past.

These are examples of what more Sinulog organizers can do in an online celebration.