Cellphone signal shut down during Cebu’s Sinulog to ‘save lives’
CEBU CITY—Cellular phones became useless for residents of Cebu City and parts of Metro Cebu starting at 3 a.m. on Saturday after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shut down cell sites as part of the security measures for the Sinulog festivities that would peak on Sunday.
People resorted to the use of landlines to make calls and the use of land-based internet connection to open their Facebooks and emails.
Others shifted to FireChat, a mobile app, which uses wireless mesh networking to enable smartphones to connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework without an Internet connection by connecting peer-to-peer.
“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience of the cell shutdown, but it is an inconvenience that can save lives,” said Mayor Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City in a message posted on his FaceBook page on Friday night.
The deactivation of cell phone signals was part of the security measures being imposed by the police and city government following the twin blasts at the park in Hilongos town, Leyte on Dec. 28 that hurt 32 people.
Two improvised explosive devices went off at the Rizal Park through a cellular phone as more than 1,000 people were watching a local fight as part of the festivities to celebrate the town fiesta.
The bomb that exploded in Davao last September was also likely detonated by cell,” said Osmeña.
But the mayor’s decision to call for cell site shutdown drew the anger of some netizens.
“You don’t face fear with fear. And this kind of post is creating panic and notion that there is a terror threat. If there is indeed, why not do it privately. Let the intelligence, military and police do its job. Otherwise, it’s just insane that we’ve created an idea of fear that will cause people panic and paranoia. Do you think the terrorists would bomb a certain place using a mobile after all these news? It’s kinda funny [though]. Just my two cents,” said Jan Christian Montilla Bastida who reacted to the mayor’s post.
“However, we still need your help. Even with the additional personnel the military is sending, the police is still a force of thousands trying to protect a population of millions. They cannot be everywhere all the time,” was Osmeña’s response to Bastida’s post.
Osmeña added that “if I faced fear with fear, there wouldn’t be a Sinulog.”
As if on cue, cellular phone signals went off starting 3 a.m. while hundreds of devotees joined the 1.7-kilometer procession to bring the images of the Holy Child Jesus and the Our Lady of Guadalupe back to the Basilica to the Ouano wharf in Barangay Looc in Mandaue City, Cebu from the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City where these spent the night.
The images were then boarded on a “galleon” for a fluvial procession through the Mactan Channel that ended at Pier 1 in Cebu City.
From the Pier 1, the images then brought back to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino in downtown Cebu City.
In the afternoon, at least two million devotees were expected to join the 5.7-kilometer procession that would be expected to last for five hours.
Cellular phone signals would be expected to return at 8 p.m. after the Mass, that would be celebrated by Bishop John Du of the Diocese of Dumaguete at the jam-packed Pilgrim Center and would follow after the procession.
Cellular phone signals would again go out from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the Sinulog Grand Parade.
Affected areas included the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu as well as the towns of Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan and Minglanilla.
Call, text and mobile data would not be available, according to the advisory sent out by Smart and Globe telecommunication companies.
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