Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama declared the Sinulog festival officially open after an afternoon Mass at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and a three-kilometer parade that celebrated “faith and heritage.”
Night time fireworks capped the events.
“This is the best opening so far. I was happy that the dancers were cooperative. There were many people, there was no rain,” said Ricky Ballesteros, executive director, who said he had prayed hard in church for fair weather.
The opening ceremony sets the tone for the nine-day stretch, leading up to the grand parade on January 19, he said.
COURAGE, MOVE ON
Msgr. Roberto Alesna, in his homily, asked devotees to hold on to their faith amidst the calamities of 2013, after surviving the earthquake and typhoon Yolanda.
“Faith is a fragile thing but we must not be surprised when doubts arise within us. God will always understand the doubts,” he said, echoing Pope Francis’ advice to Filipinos dazed after supertyphoon Yolanda “Don’t be afraid to ask God why.”
Alesna said that fear and doubt is a normal reaction when one is faced with trials “but we can’t allow fear to cripple us and not move on.”
“Courage is not being unafraid. Courage is being afraid and going on despite our fears,” he said.
At the Mass, Rama and Gov. Hilario Davide III led the offertory procession, and later joined other officials of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. in the customary distribution of cash envelopes to candle vendors of the Basilica.
The vendors, mostly women, continue the tradition of offering the sinulog as a prayer-dance to the Sto. Niño at the basilica.
At the head of the parade were city officials followed by Miss Cebu 2014 pageant candidates, who waved to passers-by as they rode atop vintage sports cars.
Miss Cebu 2013 Namrata Neesha Murjani and her first runner-up were part of the beauty entourage.
Dance troupes from 13 universities in Cebu and the Visayas State University of Baybay, Leyte province joined the parade from the Basilica to Fuente Osmeña and back to the Cebu City sports complex.
Leading the dancers was Sinulog Festival Queen 2013 Jaime Herrell, who earlier won the title Aliwan Festival Queen and is a Mega Cebu Ambassador.
As a finale, 300 high school students from the USC-North Campus performed a free interpretation of the Sinulog dressed in body suits with yellow and gold accents.
Their precise, well-synchronized steps impressed the crowd.
SFI executive director Ricky Ballesteros said he discovered the group after seeing a rehearsal video posted on Facebook.
The schools were the University of San Carlos, University of Southern Philippines-Foundation, University of San Jose-Recoletos, Salazar College of Science and Institute of Technology, Cebu Doctors’ University, Southwestern University, University of Cebu, Mandaue City Science High School, Cebu Technological University, Cebu Institute of Technology-University, Cebu Normal University, University of the Visayas, Abellana National High School and Visayas State University all the way from Baybay, Leyte.
The opening salvo drew 65,000 people, including the 35,000 gathered at the Basilica and its environs, said Chief Insp. Wildemar Tiu of the Waterfront Police Station.