Editorial: Hold Sinulog in SRP

Over 150 people—most of them in their 20s—have died in a crowd surge during a Halloween revelry in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul, South Korea. An urban planning professor told the Associated Press (AP) that the deaths should be seen as a “manmade disaster” because the tragedy was preventable.

A disaster prevention professor interviewed by AP has said that a large crowd needs a large police presence, adding that more government workers should have been deployed to monitor potential bottleneck points. Seoul police assigned only 137 officers to the Oct. 29, 2022 revelry to manage a crowd anticipated to number over 100,000. On the same day, nearly 7,000 police officers were deployed to another part of Seoul where protests of opposing camps were held, AP reported.

The tragedy in the East Asian country should serve as a reminder to Filipino officials that they must prepare well for all public events that attract crowds like concerts and festivals.

In Cebu City, there is no bigger event than the Sinulog Festival, which often attracts millions of revelers, if one believes the police’s crowd estimate. The grand parade route is six kilometers, and the roads are not wide enough.

The Covid-19 pandemic did not discourage organizers from holding the Sinulog in 2021 and 2022. They still pushed through with it albeit without the physical crowd and the street dancing.

If the plan to hold the grand parade in the presence of a crowd happens next year, Sinulog organizers must anticipate a large number of revelers, most of whom could be teenagers who tend to be raucous. Organizers must also ask themselves if the usual parade route—parts of N. Bacalso Avenue, P. Del Rosario Street, New Imus Road, Gen. Maxilom Avenue and Osmeña Boulevard—could still accommodate the revelers.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has announced his plan to hold the grand parade in January next year in the South Road Properties (SRP). This should push through.

SRP roads are wider than the grand parade route, which is crammed with buildings and has uneven sidewalks.

Holding the Sinulog in SRP has been welcomed by the Cebu City Police Office, which said that securing the venue would be much easier as SRP has fewer entry and exit points than the existing parade route.

The downside in holding Sinulog in SRP though is that the area has few trees and structures that can provide shade from the sun or shelter from a sudden rain.

However, SRP’s advantage is that it has a better breathing space than the existing Sinulog parade route. It has no narrow streets where an Itaewon-like crowd surge could happen.