THE Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT 7) reports that contrary to earlier concerns of lower tourist bookings this year compared to previous Sinulog celebrations, hotels and resorts in Lapu-Lapu City are now nearly fully-booked as days lead up to the Sinulog grand parade on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.
DOT 7 Regional Director Shalimar Tamano said a check with major hotels and resorts showed that the presence of Airbnb accommodations are, in fact, helping visitors who find it difficult to find a room.
“We cannot give the figures. We have to finish the Sinulog first to count it but in my calls with our players, operators, and hotels, lots of hotels cannot cater to visitors and it’s difficult to find a room right now,” said Tamano.
Earlier, the Hotel Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) said hotels were struggling to fill in their rooms for this year’s Sinulog celebration due to intense market competition from the fast expansion of home-sharing platform Airbnb.
“There’s a certain sector that seems to have the same prices as Airbnb, they were the once that were somewhat affected, but I think they have recovered,” said Tamano.
Tamano was one of those who greeted nearly a thousand balikbayans who arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) on Thursday, Jan. 16, from Taipei, Hong Kong and Los Angeles under DOT’s Balik Cebu Program which has beeen running for 19 years since 2001.
Outside MCIA’s Terminal 2, stringed music coming from a rondalla welcomed the balikbayans who were also greeted by Sinulog dancers.
The balikbayans were later given a welcome dinner at Ayala Center Terraces Cebu.
“As you can see, there are a lot of people who will be attending the Sinulog festival and we expect more people to come as days progress,” said MCIA general manager Steve Dicdican.
In Cebu City, an estimated 2,500 pilgrims from towns and cities of Cebu as well as neighboring provinces will begin to arrive in “Devotee City” on Friday, Jan. 17.
Devotee City is simply the rows of container vans prepared by the Cebu City Government at the South Road Properties (SRP) beside the Compania Maritima Bldg. for out-of-town devotees who have no place to stay in the city.
Devotee City chairman Cebu City Councilor Philip Zafra said devotees from the south beyond Carcar City and from the north, beyond Danao City will be accommodated. Pilgrims from other provinces are also welcome.
Upon registration early morning, Friday, devotees need to present their bus or boat tickets. Computers have been set up to capture their images for their identification.
Zafra urged devotees to wear their IDs all the time for their security.
Unlike last year which had 50 container vans with 50 occupants per van, this year’s Devotee City will have a total of 80 vans which will house around 30 pilgrims each.
The container vans are being rented by the City from cargo company, 2GO for P2,000 each for the entire week, Zafra said.
Susana Villalon, 52, a Sto. Niño devotee from Dumanjug, southern Cebu who has been coming to Cebu City with her family for about 11 years, told SunStar they are comfortable living in Devotee City since many sponsors also provide food for them and the area is safe.
In Mandaue City, designated parking areas around the church were provided for those who will visit the National Shrine of St. Joseph (NSSJ) on Friday, Jan. 17 for the annual Traslacion of the image of Señor Sto. Niño.
The designated parking areas are at S.B. Cabahug St. near Suson Lumber and along the corner of P. Gomez St., and B. Ceniza Street beside the Mandaue City Public Market along Colonnade Supermarket.
From 6 a.m. till midnight, roads leading to the church particularly S.B. Cabahug St., corner P.Gomez St. and A. del Rosario St. will be closed to motorists to make way for the “Hawok” or people lining up to kiss the image of Señor Sto. Niño and Birhen sa Guadalupe after the Traslacion.
An 11 a.m. welcome mass will be held after the Traslacion procession , said NSSJ parish priest Monsignor Antonio Medida.
Medida said they will still hold regular scheduled masses but the “pahawok” or the kissing of the images will continue from a lane outside the church so as not to disrupt masses.
The entrance for churchgoers who will attend masses will be the main door of the church and will exit from doors on the left side.
Medida said devotees can enter and exit the church through the right side where lanes and tents are provided.
The images will leave after an 11 p.m. farewell mass on Friday.
At 10 p.m., the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge will be closed to traffic to give way for the Traslacion from the NSSJ to Virgin dela Regla Parish in Lapu-Lapu City.
Around 947 personnel from the different emergency response and enforcement agencies of Mandaue City will be deployed to maintain the solemnity of the religious event. GCM, KFD, Mae Fhel Gom-os, USJ-R Journalism Intern / (RSR)