Malilong: The Sinulog and abundance of caution

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

I MUST have really been out of touch with happenings, past and planned, in my beloved city. Until last Saturday, I did not know that this year’s edition of the Sinulog dance festival will push through and that in fact, the organizers have chosen a venue. Reminds me to resume buying the printed edition of my favorite newspapers.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who has reclaimed the chairmanship of the Sinulog Foundation after an acrimonious exit last year, has scaled down the festivities, scheduled on Jan. 17 at a privately-owned lot in the SRP, obviously in recognition of the continuing threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. Merry-making along the route of the Sinulog, which is now confined within the limits of the SRP, is banned as are spectators, who will now have to content themselves with watching the live coverage on television.

But are these measures enough to guarantee that the event will not become a super spreader? The coronavirus has been proven to flourish in a crowd and if you have any doubt on that, take a look at the following data:

In November, people converged in cemeteries and memorial parks on All Saints’ and All Souls’ days in defiance of a ban that has been repeatedly announced. A little more than a week later, the single-digit daily incidence of the new coronavirus infections in the city rose to 28 (on Nov. 11), staying there for more than two weeks including on Nov. 14 when 59 new cases were tallied.

Then last month, the city government allowed the holding of dawn masses in the city’s churches amid misgivings by the the police and other quarters over the difficulty of enforcing crowd control. Despite assurances that churchgoers were going to observe physical distancing, the first day of the dawn masses, Dec. 16, saw people bunched almost shoulder to shoulder in many churches.

Thirteen days later, new infections in the city climbed to 16 (on Dec. 29) and for six consecutive days now, have not gone down to below 11. The hospitals have also had new Covid-19 admissions during the last two days and while the number by itself is not alarming, it means that the coronavirus has hit the vulnerable sector of the population again.

While we continue to hold hope that the comparatively higher number of new Covid-19 cases during the last six days is just an aberration that will soon subside, we cannot afford to lower our guard. The consequences are simply unimaginable.

There are pluses in holding the Sinulog this year such as that it gives us a semblance of normalcy. The hotels and other tourism-based businesses could benefit, too although it will probably not be much because of restrictions and forced quarantines for foreign travelers.

The Church has canceled a number of activities that we thought were indispensable in the celebration of the religious side of the Sinulog. For example, who would have thought of the feast of the Señor Sto. Niño without the Saturday procession? That is what we’re going to have this year.

If the Church is willing to sacrifice the religious procession that has been with us for generations, not out of a lack of faith but of abundance of caution, why can’t we do the same to a dance presentation? If we survive the pandemic, we can have that dance later, anyway.