CEBU CITY — Tens of thousands of revelers braved the heat of the sun to witness Cebu’s grandest and biggest celebration, the Sinulog Grand Parade, on Sunday
The police estimated the crowd in the city streets to reach 1.2 million, many of whom used umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun.
A total of 142 contingents, from dancers, puppeteers, to floats and higantes (giant figures), paraded around the major city streets in a six-kilometer carousel route that started and ended at the Cebu City Sports Center.
Unlike 2012, the province did not send any contingent, apparently due to the suspension of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia who had been the contingent’s main star in the past years.
Garcia has been holed up at her office at the capitol since Dec. 19 when she decided to defy the six-month preventive suspension issued against her by Malacañang for grave abuse of authority.
But there were talks on Sunday morning that Garcia would leave her office and dance with the Rosquillos Festival of Liloan town, whose mayor, Duke Frasco, is husband of Garcia’s daughter, Cristina.
Liloan was scheduled to perform after Tribu Sinanduloy of Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, one of the last performers in the 10-hour presentation, according to sector assignments released by the Sinulog Foundation.
This meant Liloan would likely present between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
But many of the 12,000 people inside the Cebu City Sports Center, the final judging area of the performers, were waiting if Garcia would indeed dance.
“We are waiting for Liloan to come out to see how Gwen look like and how people will react,” said Gregoria Pamintuan, 44, of Barangay Mabolo.
Pamintuan and family had been watching the Grand Parade every year since 2007 and said that Garcia and the contingent from the provincial government would likely perform after the group representing Cebu City.
But Garcia, clad in black Sinulog shirt and jeans, danced the Sinulog, holding the Sto. Niño inside her office about 10 a.m. Sunday.
Her dance was not accompanied by drums but by the clapping of her friend, Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung and two female companions to the beat of the Sinulog.
“As far as I’m concerned, this will be a day to prove once again my devotion and commitment to the Sto. Niño. The risks would always be there. What is important is to fulfill a promise,” she told reporters.
Sunday’s 33rd Sinulog Grand Parade started with an 8 a.m. Mass held at the grandstand, which was officiated by Bishop Emilio Bataclan.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama declared this year’s Sinulog festival open at 9:16 a.m. on Sunday, which signaled the start of the parade. Forty dancing contingents (18 Sinulog-based and 22 free-interpretation), 46 floats, 28 higantes and 28 puppeteers took part in the parade.
Unlike in the previous years where the city government contingent would open the Grand Parade, Val Sandiego and his wife Ophelia, dressed as San Jose and the Our Lady of Guadalupe opened this year’s Sinulog with their dance interpretation of the song “Balaang Sto. Niño.”
Their dance troupe, San Diego Dance Company, then performed the opening Sinulog dance on behalf of the city government. Their dance depicted the first baptism and the introduction of Christianity to Cebuano natives.
The opening dance also showed why and how the first Cebuano saint, San Pedro Calungsod, lived to preach religion and was killed.
Puppets in the image of pop culture figures such as Elvis Presley, Tinker Bell, Clown, Cookie Monster, NBA superstar Lebron James followed San Diego in lieu of the Cebu provincial government contingent before the dance competition started at 10 a.m.
San Diego dancers were expected to return to the Sinulog stage at 7 p.m. to close this year’s competition and introduce the grand finale, which would feature 2012 Ms. Tourism international Rizzini Alexis Gomez.
Many of the performers also included San Pedro Calungsod in their themes of their dances.
One of them was from Gregoria Milan Elementary School of Balamban town, Cebu, which started their dance by showing how a teenage boy like Calungsod suffered and died because of his faith.
Balamban dancers also used as backdrop two huge tarpaulins: one featured Calungsod, the other was Sto. Nino.
Ricky Ballesteros, Sinulog executive director, said they encouraged choreographers during their briefings to try to incorporate Calungsod’s canonization into their dances in order to coincide with the city’s celebration of its 75th Charter Day on Feb. 24.
“The Calungsod canonization is the most significant event in the modern era,” he said. With Ador Mayol and Charisse Ursal, Inquirer Visayas