WHEN we had our first Sinulog, everything was simple. We only had a few contingents, the people who came to watch was nowhere near one million and terrorist threat was unheard of in our part of the globe.
The cellular phone was not yet invented then or, if it was, it was not available to the public. I do not recall if we had street dancing. Neither do I remember any complaints of rampant crowd misbehavior including and most specially drunkenness.
The Sinulog has grown beyond the first Sinulog organizers’ wildest imagination. From being a poor imitation of the Ati-atihan, it has become the most popular festival in the country, attracting millions of watchers not only from the Visayas and Mindanao but from all over the world.
But along with the growth came a myriad of problems mostly related to crowd control and security. Smudging the faces with black paint or powder deteriorated from being clean fun to hooliganism and drunkenness was used as a means or an excuse to grope and physically abuse women.
Worse, terrorism had become a real threat. The mental illness that drove people to harm innocent people without any particular reason began to manifest itself in certain parts of our land.
Running the Sinulog has become a complicated task as a result, necessitating the implementation of regulations that to a certain extent diminish the enjoyability of the festival.
Now, you cannot drink within a 100-meter radius of the Sinulog grand parade, which is actually an improvement of the previous 300-meter limit. I do not know if street parties are or will be allowed. What is a fiesta without street parties?
But we must all understand that these regulations, restrictions if you must, are necessary to ensure a safe Sinulog celebration. It is a relief that Mayor Edgardo Labella and Cebu City Police Officer-in-Charge Engelbert Soriano have agreed that there will be no more interruption of mobile phone signals unlike in the previous years. The decision must have been made with some reluctance because cellular phones have been known to have been used for mischief.
Col. Soriano, whom I’ve met and who strikes me as a no-nonsense police commander, is not taking any chances. He has caused the deployment of 1,600 policemen in Cebu City during the Sinulog week.
But the policemen can only do so much. We have to do our part and we can start by not drinking along the parade and procession route, not smudging other people’s faces, not groping the women, in other words not making idiots of ourselves.
Let’s take care of the little stuff and allow the police to devote their time and effort to the bigger concerns.