CEBU CITY Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who is also chairman of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), announced that preparations for the annual Sinulog festival are 90 percent in place. It will be held on the 17th, third Sunday of January. Rama said that this will be an “unorthodox, unconventional and innovative” Sinulog presentation. He did not explain and elaborate how it will become “unorthodox” (contrary to what is usual) and “unconventional” (not based on or conforming to what is generally done).
Innovative means there are differences from previous presentations because it will be more virtual. There is still a live showdown among participating contingents to be held at the huge parking area of SM Seaside at the South Road Properties (SRP). Guidelines have already been signed by Mayor Edgardo Labella, Rama said. The City Government has appropriated P25 million for the prizes. No more subsidy for the accommodation of out-of-town contingents as they will pre-record their performances in their place of origin.
There will be no live audience. Meaning, no live audience will be allowed to witness the showdown. This is to prevent another surge of Covid-19 cases. Rama said dance rituals by city-based contingents will still take place at the venue. These will be streamed live on social media. The number of dancers per contingent will be limited to 50 persons while use of backdrops and rolling props will be allowed. So, aside from the main contingents or dancers, there will be support groups to carry the props.
But despite this, there are certain quarters within City Hall who expressed concerns or even opposed the holding of the Sinulog festival. A Cebu City police official and two city councilors, who are in the frontline in the fight against Covid-19, claimed that they were not consulted by Rama or the SFI.
I was able to obtain a copy of the letter of Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Josefino Ligan addressed to Mayor Labella dated Dec. 30, 2020. Here’s part of Ligan’s letter:
“This pertains to the recent post of Sinulog Foundation Inc., (SFI) in their Facebook page showing the calendar of activities for Sinulog 2021. The said post has been circulating in the social media and has garnered different reactions from netizens. In this regard, please be informed that this office is not aware of the said activities and that no coordination meeting with the SFI, PNP, LGU, other agencies and stakeholders took place prior to the said posting.
“Be also informed that the local IATF, through the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) headed by Honorable Councilor Joel Garganera, has not issued a resolution approving the same. Neither the EOC has recommended the holding of such event.”
A reliable source told this columnist that EOC Chief Joel Garganera, Councilor Philip Zafra, chairman of the Peace and Order Council, and Ligan will hold a press conference today to express their concerns and opposition about the holding of the Sinulog festival.
I cannot really understand the stand of our officials. They are inconsistent in some protocols to prevent the transmission of Covid-19, especially on mass gathering. They prohibited small gatherings during the Christmas holiday, but allowed major gatherings like the Misa de Gallo and now the Sinulog festival. We even cancelled the religious aspect of the Sinulog celebration like the fluvial and solemn foot processions, which are very important, but pursue the holding of the cultural aspect, which is only for entertainment purposes.
Okay, no audience, but what about the dancers? Can Mike Rama assure that during their series of practices up to the final presentation, there will be no virus transmission among the dancers? How can the dancers observe physical distancing during practice and final performance even if they wear face masks and face shields? Thus, there will be a high probability that these dancers will be exposed to the virus and become carriers and will then infect their household members. Even worse, there is the new coronavirus variant, which is said to be more transmissible.
Sinulog is just an accessory of the main Sto. Niño religious event, so Mike should have taken his cue from church officials. If there is a surge of Covid-19 cases after the Sinulog, blame it on Rama. I don’t know if the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will intervene in this matter and come up with stricter measures or cancel the event all the way.