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Dances of gratitude shine in Sinulog

By: - Day Desk Editor / @dbongcac
/ 11:31 PM January 24, 2014

KULTURANG Placereño, a contingent from Masbate province, wins the top prize in the Sinulog-based category during the Jan. 19 grand parade in Cebu City. TONEE DESPOJO/CDN

CEBU CITY—Students, out-of-school youth, teachers and fishermen from Placer town in Masbate province went to Cebu City to dance during the feast day of the Sto. Niño as thanksgiving for protecting their town from Supertyphoon “Yolanda” last  November.

They went home P1.5 million richer.

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DANCERS of Talisay City Elementary School show their winning form as they win first place in the Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan in the elementary division. They also won best in costume and best in musicality. JUNJIE MENDOZA/CDN

The two dancing contingents from Placer emerged top winners in the Sinulog Grand Parade on Jan. 19.

Kulturang Placereño was declared champion in the Sinulog-based (SB) category, taking home a trophy and P1 million. Tribu Himag-ulaw received P500,000 for winning second place in the free interpretation (FI) category.

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Lumad Basakanon of Barangay Basak San Nicolas in Cebu City was declared champion in the FI category.

A total of 35 dance contingents joined this year’s Sinulog Grand Parade, one of the highlights in the weeklong festivities.

Of the number, seven were out-of-towners, including the two contingents from Placer. The others were from Tangub City in Misamis Occidental province, Panglao town in Bohol province, Plaridel town in Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte and Cotabato provinces.

Placer Mayor Joshur Judd Lanete II said about 900 of his constituents joined their “pilgrimage” to Cebu as a thanksgiving to the Sto. Niño for sparing the town from the wrath of Yolanda that hit the country on Nov. 8, 2013.

“The Sinulog is a spiritual dance. We always dance to show veneration to the Sto. Niño,” Lanete said, adding that winning was merely a bonus for them. He said Yolanda was expected to make a landfall in Placer but the supertyphoon changed direction and hit Leyte province and northern Cebu instead.

While the supertyphoon displaced 2,000 families, whose houses were either damaged or destroyed, Lanete said the damage in the town was nothing compared to the devastation in Tacloban City, Leyte, and Bantayan Island in northern Cebu.

FIRST runner-up Pauline Amelinx of Tribu Himag-ulaw of Placer, Masbate, in the Sinulog Festival Queen competition TONEE DESPOJO/CDN

Lanete said the change in the supertyphoon’s path was a “miracle” and was due to their prayer and devotion to the Holy Child Jesus.

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He noted that their town had been spared from strong typhoons that normally hit the Bicol region since they started dancing in the Sinulog Grand Parade five years ago.

But Placer’s participation in the Sinulog, held every third Sunday of January in celebration of the feast day of the Holy Child Jesus, started as a personal mission for Lanete, a Sto. Niño devotee since he was a boy living in Sto. Niño Village in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City.

Lanete said his parents used to tell him that when he was 3 years old, he would disappear from their house and would later be found wandering around. He was also seen talking to a tree.

Lanete said his parents consulted a priest who told them of the presence of “other [supernatural] elements at work.” He underwent exorcism to drive away the bad spirits that were bothering him.

Since then, members of the Lanete family have become devotees of the Sto. Niño and have always made it a point to hear Mass at  Basilica del Santo Niño de Cebu during the feast day of the Holy Child Jesus.

Lanete would also join the Sinulog dances in their village then. Even when he moved to Masbate, Lanete said he would go to Cebu and hear Mass at  Basilica del Santo Niño de Cebu during the fiesta.

During his first term as mayor in 2009, Lanete decided to participate in the Sinulog Grand Parade and joined in the FI category, which usually focuses on rituals and allows the use of a variety of props and backdrops.

In 2013, their contingent won third place in the SB category. When he decided to send another delegation for the 2014 Sinulog Grand Parade, Lanete said he didn’t find it difficult to convince his constituents to join.

Unlike before when it was hard to convince people to join, he said this time many had volunteered since Sinulog had become personal to them after Yolanda. Their performers’ ages range from 7 to 55.

The contingent from Placer arrived in Cebu on Jan. 10. The next day, Lanete went to the Basilica to hear Mass.

He tapped Cebuano choreographers Barry Luche and Victor Cuenco to work on their FI and SB entries, respectively. Cuenco said he used the Miligoy de Cebu, a courtship dance that originated from Consolacion town, Cebu, in their opening dance. Their female dancers also used castanets in their dance. They also brought their own set lights to add life to their production design.

“What we did was risky. But in the end, it was all worth it,” he said.

Placer’s FI entry had a fairyland theme that featured elves, dwarfs, a horse-drawn carriage and  bees and butterflies dancing on top of steel poles.

It showed a little prince who was playing outdoors and was later stolen by bad spirits.

Prayers helped the king and the queen find their son.

Their lead dancer, clad in a white gown, emerged at the grandstand stage of Cebu City Sports Center and led in the merrymaking, a scene which judges said was patterned after “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Cuenco said they spent

P4 million to P5 million for their two Sinulog entries. Most of the expenses came from donations. They also used last year’s costumes and props.

Lanete said they started practicing in September. The practices were disrupted when Yolanda hit their municipality and affected 2,000 families.

“But instead of being discouraged, they became even more determined to dance to thank the Sto. Niño for the protection,” he said.

Their passionate expression of gratitude was rewarded with awards and recognition.

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TAGS: Cebu, Dances, feast, Religion, Sinulog festival
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