Rama: Sinulog at SRP; Gwen: Withdrawal final

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama stood firm in his decision to hold the Sinulog Festival Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown at the South Road Properties (SRP) on Jan. 15, 2023, prompting Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to follow through on her word to withdraw the contingents of Cebu Province from the event.

In a press conference Friday, Jan. 13, Rama was undeterred by the anouncement of Garcia Thursday night that 10 contingents, including that of independent city Lapu-Lapu, would withdraw their participation from the event if it will be held at the SRP.

This would leave just 12 of the 22 groups that had been slated to perform at the culminating activity of the One Cebu Island Sinulog Festival 2023.

On Thursday, Garcia said she had contacted Rama on the situation of some constituents struggling to practice at the SRP due to the thick mud and the asphalt still being laid at the site, but that as of 9 p.m., she still had not heard from him.

“There is no sun. How can that asphalt harden? The children took shelter in their own props. It’s raining, and they have no shelter to go to,” the governor said of the unfinished site.

“I don’t see any miracle happening. In fact, I find it presumptuous of us to be praying for a miracle because we want to insist on the SRP when we have a viable alternative,” Garcia said, referring to the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC), where the Ritual Showdown is annually held.

Garcia said the contingents’ efforts would not be wasted if the Province were to back out as they would compete at the 50th Sinulog sa Carmen on Jan. 22 instead.

Garcia assured that the Sinulog Foundation Inc. would still receive the P20 million in financial assistance promised by the Cebu Provincial Government.

“Rest assured my commitment to help the Sinulog Foundation will continue,” Garcia said.

Last Monday, Garcia had also cited traffic on Natalio Bacalso Ave. and security concerns for her call to change the venue of the Ritual Showdown to the CCSC.

No desire to compete

On Friday afternoon, Garcia said she was not “bitter” or seeking to compete with the Cebu City Government’s celebration of Sinulog 2023 when she pulled out the nine contingents under the Province to compete at the Sinulog sa Carmen instead.

“I do not mean any rancor. I have no bitterness in my heart. I have no intention to hurt anyone. All that I want everyone to understand is that I am just answering to my duty as a governor. My responsibility prevails over other considerations,” Garcia said in a mix of Cebuano and English Friday.

“There is no desire to compete at all, but circumstances have forced us to take this course. I hope that the public will not try to compare in any way. I am just doing my job... and this is the best recourse that I could possibly take,” she added.

The contingents that would no longer perform at this Sunday’s Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown are those of Carmen, Carcar City, Moalboal, Naga City, Talisay City, Tuburan, Toledo City, Mandaue City and the Consolacion guest contingent with which the governor had been slated to dance.

With their withdrawal, Garcia said this year’s celebration should no longer be called One Cebu Island Sinulog Festival 2023 but just Sinulog 2023 of Cebu City.

While she appreciated Mayor Rama’s “unifying idea” to call this year’s celebration the One Cebu Island Sinulog Festival, it could no longer be called so “because One Cebu Island consists of the LGUs (local government units) of the Province of Cebu and the tri-cities... (but) where the Sinulog in the SRP is concerned, there is no longer any participation of the Province of Cebu as well as Mandaue City and LapuLapu City,” Garcia said.

No consultation

The governor also clarified that there had been no consultation on holding the Sinulog at the SRP. She also denied reports that the Province and the tri-cities had signed a memorandum of agreement.

The tri-cities are Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

Garcia said the youth participants had been disappointed that they would no longer be able to perform as an offering to the Sto. Niño. But she said she would have a lot of answering to do to the parents of the children if anything happened to them at the SRP, so she saw the Carmen event as a godsend.

Despite the Cebu Province’s break from the Cebu City-organized event, Garcia still called for unity among Cebuanos.

“Please believe me when I say that I wish all the success of the Ritual Showdown of the Sinulog in Cebu City. I will pray to the Señor Sto. Niño for all performers, all spectators to be protected, whether this is just Cebu City or entire Cebu province. It is the Cebu City Sinulog that has gained international fame, and the success of Cebu City Sinulog is the success of Cebu. On the other hand, the failure of the Cebu City Sinulog will also be the failure of Cebu,” said Garcia.

Nightmare

The SRP has been criticized for its being “not ready” for the festival. On Friday, construction works were still ongoing, two days before the festival.

Rama reasoned Friday that the Sinulog Festival held in the downtown areas in recent years caused “a lot of nightmares” to the police, organizers and the city government.

If the festival will be held at its original venue, the authorities have to worry about the possibility of a stampede due to the expected huge volume of revelers.

Street parties are another reason Rama is against having the festival at the downtown area since people would already invade roads and cause disturbance.

The idea of having the festival at the SRP is also not new since this was already discussed even during the term of then mayor Tomas Osmeña, said Rama.

But during that time, SRP was not yet ready since there were not enough road networks and malls, hotels and other establishments were not yet present, he added.

Meaning

Rama said even if fewer contingents will perform on Sunday, this will not reduce the meaning of the festival whose main goal is to venerate the Señor Sto. Niño.

“Sinulog will still be Sinulog, and that is the most important thing. But if the Province would want to be a part, then it can add up, but it would not reduce the meaning of Sinulog because Sinulog is venerating the Sto. Niño,” said Rama.

Rama said he has not talked to Garcia but he is still looking forward to her contingents performing at the SRP.

“Señor Sto. Niño will talk to her,” said Rama.

According to Rama, the organizers are working non-stop to make sure that the venue will be ready for Sunday.

He also lamented that those criticizing and bashing the idea of having the festival at the SRP are those who have not gone to the venue.

Rama further said there is no need for him to invite the governor since the theme of this year’s Sinulog is anchored on the concept of a One Cebu Island.

“The grounds are ready. Rain or shine. No rain could stop our celebration, as it rained during previous Sinulog street dance competitions. We have faith in our patron, the Holy Child Jesus, Señor Sto. Niño, that all is well when we celebrate His feast, from the fluvial procession to our annual cultural event, now at SRP,” said Rama.

No funds spent

Councilor Jerry Guardo, chairman of the committee on infrastructure, told SunStar Cebu that the city government did not spend funds for the construction at the SRP venue.

Guardo said Ricky Dakay of Dakay Construction and Development Corp. had made a yearly devotion to the Sto. Niño by pledging to construct and prepare the venue.

The civil works of the stage and grandstand were started in the third week of December 2022, while the asphalting of road pavements began last week.

But due to the poor weather, Guardo said, the completion of the venue has encountered delays.

Now that workers are working on the venue overtime, Guardo assured that the organizers are still on time to prepare the venue and it will be ready for the grand parade on Sunday.

Tickets

Tickets for the Sinulog Festival on Sunday are available only at the SFI office at the CCSC.

Mae Beverly Colao of the SFI said Friday that for now, SFI does not have online channels for ticket payments.

All tickets are sold at P500. The ticket entitles the holder entrance to the grand parade venue at the SRP.

Subsidy

As for the contingents that have withdrawn from the grand parade, what will they do with the P800,000 subsidy that the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) promised to those that participate in the Grand Parade and Ritual Showdown?

The Lapu-Lapu City Government said Friday that it had not yet received any subsidy from the SFI.

Mark Anthony Bautista, public information officer, told SunStar Cebu that the SFI reportedly promised about P800,000 in subsidy for the city’s contingent.

“The reason is it’s still being processed, according to Sinulog Foundation,” said Bautista.

But Bautista said the City Government already spent more than P1 million in its preparations for the Sinulog Festival.

He, however, clarified that Lapu-Lapu City is not included in the separate P800,000 subsidy given by the Cebu Provincial Government for the event.

On Thursday night, the mayors of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue expressed support for Garcia’s decision to pull out the province’s contingents should the Cebu City Government insist on holding the event at the SRP.

“I stand with Gov. Gwen’s point that it would be better if we kept the Sinulog Festival at the Abellana Sports Complex (CCSC) for now because I felt sorry for the children. I saw the photos. I really felt sorry for them,” Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan said in Cebuano in his social media post.

“What we are celebrating is the day of the Holy Child, and I’m sure He would not be happy looking at the children suffering,” he added.

Apart from that, Chan said, they were also looking at the security of the spectators.

Cortes, for his part, said the safety of the Mandaue contingent, including dancers, props men and instrumentalists, was his “paramount concern.”

“Mandaue is one with Governor Gwen Garcia and the entire province of Cebu to protect and uphold the safety of our respective contingents,” he said.

John Eddu Ibañez, executive secretary of Cortes, earlier said about P2 million had been added by the Mandaue City Government to the P600,000 subsidy promised by the SFI for its contingent.

As of Friday, Ibañez had yet to confirm with SunStar Cebu whether the City Government had already received the subsidy. (With MKG, Eiver Ky Villegas, USJ-R Intern / JGS, CTL)