Sinulog, Cebu / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com

A look into Sinulog’s pious side: Cebu’s Sto. Niño procession

This year, crowd estimates of the Sinulog 2012 festivities reached 3.5 million–a consistent high in festival attendance in the entire country. It’s no wonder Cebu draws so many people during the second weekend of January for the Sinulog–if there’s one place in the Philippines that knows how to play host to a big event, it’s gotta be Cebu.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

There are mainly two sides to the celebrations: the merrymaking part which Sinulog has become very known for, and the religious side, through which the festival traces its roots.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We spent three of the six days we were in Cebu walking along the city streets during festival weekend. And once again we were reminded why we love going to local festivals–everyone’s in a merry mood, everyone’s extra generous and kind, and all the best the place has to offer is laid down before you in heavy abundance. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

But Sinulog’s other side amazed us just as much–the devotion of the people to the Sto. Niño, the festival’s central figure. The number of people who joined the procession reminded us of the Black Nazarene crowd in Manila, although not as, uh, aggressive.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

During the procession, which happens on the Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend, people bring along their Sto. Niño statues and hoist them up. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Elsewhere in the city, particularly around the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, thick crowds gather for the hourly masses (the crowd had been too big we were able to pass through the church gates on our last day after two earlier attempts). We were not even able to enter the church itself because there were just too many people.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We managed to enter the church gates on our second attempt, two days after our first one.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Second and fourth photos from top left, clockwise show people praying around Magellan’s Cross, believed to be where the Portuguese explorer placed a cross, a Catholic symbol, to mark the Christianization of the locals. The place was boarded up when we went there so people threw coins and unlit candles through the gate voids instead.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Balloon vendors add color to the crowds at the basilica. There were more balloon vendors here than anywhere else we ever saw.

If you’re planning to join the next Sinulog Festival and would want to check out its religious part, remember the following: 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

1. The Sto. Nino procession takes place every Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend.

2. Osmena Boulevard is the most recommended place to take photos as it’s the widest area and may be less prone to overcrowding.

3. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino is accessible via the Sto. Nino jeepneys. You can drop off in front of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, a beautiful whitewashed structure, before walking three minutes to the Basilica. Magellan’s Cross is beside the Basilica too.

Sto Nino Procession, Cebu | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino Procession Photo Gallery

Two2Travel

Owen Ballesteros & Nikka Corsino are trigger-happy travelers from the Philippines. They both swear by the sharpness of Nikon and almost always carry a packet of instant coffee when traveling. Photography is their bread and butter, their passion, and sometimes the only thing that prevents them from killing each other. If you have offers of work, collaborations, or an endless supply of instant coffee, please drop them a message here.

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