Gwen: Hold Sinulog still at CCSC, not SRP

SIX days before the big event, the top executive of the province has said this might not be the right time to change the venue of the Sinulog Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown, which is the culminating activity of the One Cebu Island Sinulog Festival 2023.

For the first time, it will be held at the South Road Properties (SRP) on Sunday, Jan. 15.

However, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has suggested holding it at its usual venue at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC).

READ: Sinulog at SRP a ‘risky venture’

During a press conference at the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 9, Garcia raised two major concerns.

First, she pointed out that all the roads leading to the venue will be closed to vehicular traffic, including the Cebu South Coastal Road, which is one of only two entry points to Cebu City for residents of the southern part of the province.

“Well ako I can already foresee dako kaayo ni og problema kung masirhan ang atong mga lungsod. Siguro dili sirhan, but makairog kaha no ang tanan nga vehicles, tanan nga mga trucks naa na tanan sa Natalio Bacalso? Dili gyud, if I were to be consulted as part of the One Cebu Island Sinulog,” she said.

(Well, I can already foresee that it will be a big problem if access to the city will be closed to residents of our southern towns. Maybe not entirely, but will all the vehicles and the trucks coming from the south be able to move if these are all stuck in traffic along Natalio Bacalso Ave.? No.)

“If we do this now, unya kadto nga mga (and then those) concerns how many days to go, I haven’t heard of a viable traffic plan yet. If we do this now and we are not able to fully address the consequences of holding it at this point in time, the Sinulog might not come up to expectations. Worst, daghan unya tag mga problema (there might be a lot of problems),” she added.

Unknown thing

Aside from the traffic problem, the governor also brought up security concerns.

According to Garcia, the venue at the SRP is wide and open, but this means that the possibility of untoward incidents is also wide and open.

“Ang sa Abellana (CCSC) man gud kahibaw na asa ipang station kay it’s so secure. It’s fenced and also ang buildings kahibaw na ta asa dapit. And I’ve danced several times na didto, so kahibaw na asa ipamutang sa akong team... pero kani it’s an unkown thing. Di sila kahibaw unsaon man ni og secure. Exposed kaayo. You cannot secure kay naay mga tag-as kaayong buildings nga you cannot secure,” she said.

(At CCSC, we already know where security personnel can be stationed because it is so secure. It’s fenced and also we know where the buildings are situated. And I’ve danced there several times, so we know where to put my team... but the venue at the SRP is an unknown thing. They don’t know how to secure it. It’s very exposed. You cannot secure because there are tall buildings in the vicinity that you cannot secure.)

CCSC was referred to in the past as the Abellana Sports Complex.

Last Jan. 4, it was announced that Garcia would dance with the Sarok Festival dancers from Consolacion town on Jan. 15, marking her 14th Sinulog dance.

The area where the Cebu City Government is set to hold this Sunday’s Sinulog Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown is the same area where the UniTeam rally of then presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, was held last April 18.

Garcia, mayors and candidates under the One Cebu party in the province, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan, congressmen, as well as senatorial candidates attended the UniTeam rally held at the City di Mare, Filinvest Grounds at the SRP.

However, Garcia said she is open to holding future grand parades and ritual showdowns at the SRP, but organizers must be fully prepared, especially since the event attracts not only local tourists but also visitors from abroad.

She also said it is better to help businesses located in the center of Cebu City, which used to benefit from the old parade route, since these were severely affected when the coronavirus pandemic struck the country in 2020.

In the past week, several sectors have criticized the holding of the grand parade and ritual showdown at the SRP, citing the unfinished setup at the venue and the mud in the area, based on several photos that have spread on social media.

As early as April 2022, Mayor Rama had expressed his intention to have the SRP as the new venue of the Sinulog 2023 grand parade that features dance contingents and participants of the float and Higante competitions.

As for “One Cebu Island Sinulog,” Rama mentioned the term for the first time last October, to refer to the 2023 festival.

The “One Cebu” theme for the Sinulog Festival is still under the supervision of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) in cooperation with the Cebu City Government, but they got more help this year from the Cebu Provincial Government and the cities of Talisay, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, according to SFI executive director Elmer “Jojo” Labella.

Plan B

Cebu City Councilor Phillip Zafra reacted to Governor Garcia’s comments by saying the CCSC is still being considered as a “Plan B” venue for Sunday’s Sinulog festivities, but that as far as preparations in the SRP are concerned, everything is on schedule.

Zafra, chairman of the Sinulog executive committee, told SunStar Cebu Monday that the CCSC remains the best fallback option should the need arise to abandon SRP as the main venue for the festival this Sunday.

But Zafra said this is far-fetched now since the stage for the grand ritual showdown is already complete and construction personnel are working 24/7 to complete the amphitheater-type grandstand.

“Ever since we had our Sinulog, we’ve always had a Plan B or C. The best option if we have a Plan B is Abellana (CCSC) because there is already a stage there. As far as I am concerned, based on the progress of the work now, I am pretty sure that we can push through here in SRP,” said Zafra.

He added that as long as the weather continues to cooperate, the venue at the SRP will be completed on Jan. 12 or 13.

Should there be a need to select the fallback option, Zafra said the city government will decide “on time” and that could probably be a day before the Jan. 15 festival.

In recent interviews, Zafra had said only bad weather could prevent the Sinulog Festival from being staged at the SRP.

Mayor Michael Rama flat out rejected holding Sunday’s grand parade elsewhere, saying it will push through at the SRP as planned.

Rama told SunStar Cebu Monday that he respects Garcia’s comments but that festival organizers were already working overtime to prepare the venue at the SRP.

“We will continue up to how far we can. ... We have been working double, triple (time). It has already been planned,” said Rama.

Rama added that organizers are considering all “eventualities” to happen on the day of the festival.

Grandstand, road

Aside from the stage and grandstand, the City is also doing asphalting works at the venue to ensure that the road for the contingents and floats will not be muddy.

The grandstand can accommodate 5,000 to 6,000 spectators, not including the area for special guests. And a shade will be installed to protect the occupants from the elements, he added.

Zafra said there will be no classification of tickets and a uniform price of P500 will be implemented.

The seating assignment at the grandstand for the general audience will be based on a first-come, first-served basis, he added.

Portalets and modified container vans that will be used as restrooms will be installed in different parts of the venue for the convenience of the spectators.

For safety, separate entrance and exit points for the general public and the contingents will also be implemented in the venue, said Zafra. / PJB