Monograph traces roots of Sinulog dance

For people new to the Queen City of the South, there’s always this question about the festival that everyone has been calling “the grandest and the biggest” in the country.

What exactly is Sinulog?

I paid yearly visits to the city when I was younger, but never stayed long enough to witness what Sinulog looked and felt like in person: The buzz, the colors and the fever-dream feels that fill the streets during the celebrations.

Fast forward to my first year of university in the heart of Cebu City in 2018, I was finally able to witness with my own eyes how all the colors erupt and paint the grey curbs and streets of Cebu.

But what exactly is Sinulog all about?

Professor Ceasar F. Nimor finally wrote a book — a guide that could answer questions about the beloved Sinulog dance and its vibrant history.

The Kabilin Center and Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. launched on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, the “Monograph on Culture and Heritage 2023 -- Sinug: Cebu’s Dance of Faith.”

Nimor’s passion in dance and the scientific discipline led him to a deeper research on Sinulog.

“There was no article about the Sinulog in Cebu, except, perhaps, the mention of ‘Sinurog’ or ‘Sinulog’ in the works of authors Aquino and Fajardo on the subject of the different dances in the Philippines, but it’s not specifically the one from Cebu,” Nimor said.

The book details related dances, the historical traces of where our well known Sinulog dance truly hails from. For a meandering tourist, this book could very well be a handy guide in discovering the roots of this festival that has grown over the years.

In the pages of the monograph, Nimor reveals the way the Sinulog dance we witness today in the grand ritual showdowns with extravagant costumes and props is but a hybrid of the original Sinug dance.

“Actually, there are two types of Sinulog dances. There’s the votive and there’s the combat one — these evolved into the Sinulog festival that we have right now.”

For Professor Nimor, the book serves a salient purpose in this day and age. While his research is still ongoing, the material published in the monograph is extensive enough to provide an understanding of the cultural roots and sources of the dance.

In the years to come, wherever the Sinulog will be held, Nimor hopes that we will be able to go back to our roots and remember what Sinulog is all about.

“I hope that Sinulog won’t become too commercial. I think we have to go back to the essence of what it is about. This is supposedly a very sacred dance. I think we’ve forgotten its basic steps,” said Nimor.

In the dance of Sinulog — a prayer of faith and a symbol of devotion for many — much is to be learned, traced and known. What remains to be true is that in the years past and years to come, this dance of faith holds the Cebuano together.

Copies of the book are available for sale at the Casa Gorordo Museum shop and the Casa Gorordo Museum booth at SM City Cebu until Jan. 31.