Nalzaro: Preserving culture and history vs public health?

·4 min read

As expected, Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who is also the chairman of Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), stood his ground by opposing the calls to cancel the Sinulog festival on the third Sunday, Jan. 17, saying cancelling the Sinulog dance ritual is like “cancelling culture and history.” What culture and history is he talking about? Rama wants to preserve culture and history by jeopardizing public health?

Earlier, no less than the police and Cebu City Councilors Joel Garganera and Phillip Zafra, who are in the frontlines in the fight against Covid-19, expressed concerns and opposition to the holding of the Sinulog festival because there will be mass gathering and it might be the source of Covid-19 transmission. The Police Regional Office (PRO 7) had sent an official communication to the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF) expressing also their opposition to the said event. The PRO 7, through Lt. Col. Glenn Mayam, Operations Division chief, said they endorsed their recommendation to the RIATF for the cancellation of the event.

Cebu City Police Officer (CCPO) Director Josefino Ligan earlier complained that he was not consulted by Rama and was not even invited during coordination meetings to finalize the activities. This, despite the police’s vital role in the forthcoming event. Garganera also complained that Rama bypassed the local Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which he heads.

In an interview with reporters, Rama said: “We have no plans to withdraw our preparations. We will continue with our preparations.” He said he is “willing to present their preparations before the RIATF so that they can show and tell them that we will be holding an unconventional and substantial virtual Sinulog.”

Rama compared the Sinulog festival to the Misa de Gallo. He said: “This is very different from Misa de Gallo because the latter is nine days of regulation, nine days of attention and the first three days have mammoth crowd.” He added: “This one, when you talk about seemingly bubble Sinulog at the South Road Properties (SRP), it is strictly without any audience; therefore, if the worry is about transmission, practically, it can never be absolutely, but it can be better, manageable than even during the Misa de Gallo and towards Jan. 1.”

I think the vice mayor misses the point raised by those who opposed the holding of the Sinulog ritual showdown. The question here: Is there a mass gathering that is prohibited by the IATF? Yes, definitely the contingent performance is a mass gathering because each contingent is composed of 50 dancers and their support crew.

And if there is a mass gathering, it is feared that there will be transmission of the virus from one person to another. He only pointed out the “no audience policy” as a feature to prevent transmission. I asked this question in my Monday’s column, and I will ask it again. Can Mike Rama assure that during the series of practices up to the final ritual showdown, there will be no transmission among dancers? Infected dancers can be probable carriers and can infect their household members.

He was talking about a “bubble.” If he was referring to the “bubble” procedures adopted by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), those were different. The players/athletes were housed and confined in a village, and they were never allowed to go out and undertake Covid test in every game. Can he do that to his Sinulog dancers?

If Mike insists that these dancers are Covid-free, then I would like to challenge him to visit those contingents doing their practice now, shake hands with them. If possible, hug them without wearing a mask and face shield. Let’s see if he has the b_ _ls to do it.

Why should Rama insist and gamble on it? Our leaders have been advising us not to be complacent since the virus is very much active. And yet some of our leaders like Rama want us to lower our guard. If we sacrifice the holding of the religious aspects, can’t we set aside also the holding of the cultural aspect, which is only for entertainment purposes? Think it over, Mr. Vice Mayor. The annual grand foot procession of the Black Nazarene, which for sure will draw a mammoth crowd this coming Saturday in Manila, has been cancelled for the same reason. And that big event is about faith.

Here’s a suggestion from dySS Super Radyo anchor Edgar Guttierez. Since the Sinulog ritual showdown is virtual and has no live audience, why won’t the SFI just replay and air on social media previous Sinulog grand parade winners since this annual event was conceptualized 40 years ago? This is more convenient and economical. Dili si Mike ani kay dili siya makasalida? Publicity ra diay nang iya?