THERE will be no street dancing on Jan. 17, 2021, the third Sunday of this month which highlights the cultural aspect of the annual Sinulog celebration to honor the Señor Sto. Niño or the Child Jesus.
The ritual showdown, which was supposed to take place at the South Road Properties, will also be pre-recorded.
The Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) and the steering committee led by Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama as overall convener made these announcements on Thursday, Jan. 7.
During a meeting the day before, the group had decided to record all performances beforehand and show these online instead, given the threat of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Rama had been adamant to retain cultural activities of Sinulog 2021, but had a change of heart following reports of an increase in Covid-19 cases in the city in the past few days.
“Recognizing what is transpiring, which is really true enough, it’s a concern. We do not want to be an additional concern,” he said.
With this new development, the vice mayor said the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the police can focus on crowd control at the Basilica del Sto. Niño starting on Friday, Jan. 8, the first day of the novena mass for Sinulog 2021.
Neil Odchigue, member of the SFI executive committee, said organizers are looking at two ways to record the contingents’ performances.
The initial plan is for the SFI’s production team to record contingents in their respective localities and barangays to ensure fairness.
They’re also entertaining City Councilor Phillip Zafra’s suggestion that they use the Cebu City Sports Center as venue for the recording of performances.
The ritual showdown has 21 participants with nine contingents in the Sinulog-based category (Cogon Pardo, Punta Princesa, Labangon, Guadalupe, Day-as, Bacayan, Poblacion Pardo, San Roque and Sapangdaku) and 12 in the free interpretation category (Cambinocot, Mabolo, Basak, Pasil, Adlaon, Lahug, Tisa, Sinsin, Ermita, San Nicolas Proper, Toledo City and Tabuelan town).
Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. already announced on Facebook on Wednesday night, Jan. 6, that Talisay City would skip this year’s competition.
The Talisay City contingent had been listed down as a participant in the Sinulog-based category.
“It was a collegial decision where I asked the opinion of numerous sectors within the city,” Gullas told SunStar Cebu.
The mayor cited the ongoing pandemic as the reason for pulling out from the competition, saying he couldn’t risk the health and safety of his constituents.
The cancelation of the street dancing may result in a further cut in the Sinulog 2021 budget, which is P22 million and not P25 million as Rama had said.
“Once the revisions are done and everything is laid into place, there will be a substantial reduction in terms of the utilization of funds because we have already removed the street dancing component of the competition and the prizes for that will, of course, in effect be removed,” Odchigue said.
The guidelines for the showdown will be finalized after organizers meet with choreographers and leaders of each contingent, he said.
Rama will go around to check if contingents observe minimum health standards during rehearsals. Those who fail to do so, he said, will be disqualified.
He said a prize awaits the contingent that will be recognized as the “most disciplined.”
Meanwhile, City Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the city’s EOC, said the Sinulog participant who developed Covid-19 symptoms tested positive for the disease.
Garganera said the participant and his family have been isolated, and they are now identifying the 90 members of the group who may have come in contact with the patient.
When asked if the group can still participate in the competition, he said “we will see,” adding that they will wait for the result of their contact tracing.
The incident has prompted the EOC to test other Sinulog participants for Covid-19.
“But again, I have to wait for the result of the contact tracing. For all we know, maybe he didn’t report to rehearsal when his symptoms started,” Garganera said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Garganera welcomed Rama’s decision not to push through with physical activities at the SRP.
“It’s the best move and the safest one,” he said.
The sentiment was echoed by Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla, Cebu City Police Office deputy police director for operations.
He said they can now focus on securing the crowd that will attend the religious activities, which are the novena masses at the Basilica del Sto. Niño.
Parilla said they opposed the street dancing because they were afraid it would result in the resurgence of Covid-19 cases.
The Department of Health (DOH) 7 said its data on active Covid-19 cases in Central Visayas reflects a double-digit increase in the number of new cases between Dec. 30, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021.
During this period, the DOH 7 logged 398 new cases and only 85 recoveries.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 spokesperson, said the numbers might partially reflect cases recorded after the Misa de Gallo, or dawn masses, and the holiday celebrations (Christmas and New Year).
The region has 877 active cases, 315 of which are confined in health care facilities while 562 are in isolation.
Cebu City also posted a double-digit increase in the number of cases during the same period from 108 cases on Dec. 30 to 222 cases on Jan. 6.
“For as long as we remain vigilant and we adhere to our public health measures, we are optimistic that our cases will not reach the numbers of June and July 2020,” Loreche said in a text message to SunStar Cebu.
She urged everyone not to waste the efforts to control the pandemic in the region and to start up the economy.
“The Sinulog festival is a very important event in our lives, but for now, with coronavirus still very much around, let’s do our prayers and celebrations simple and (with) no fanfare. We look forward to 2022 where we can have the best Sinulog ever in our lifetime,” she added. (JJL, JKV, AYB, WBS)