When attending the fiestas in the Philippines, you should have a game plan on how you would best experience it. Sometimes, it would take insiders who really know the Sinulog's activities to be able to help you out in your game plan. In this essential guide, I would give you how to best experience Sinulog based on what worked for me during the festivities and what would I do differently when I visit Sinulog next year.
How to best experience -- Sinulog!
1. Watch the Grand Parade in the Streets -- The parade is soo huge that it starts at 8am until 7pm in the evening before you are able to watch the entire parade. Its soo grand that you just hope that you get to watch the best parts. You can watch it in the Grandstand in the Cebu City Sports Complex but I find it pretty boring but it is like watching the best cultural shows in the south part of the Philippines. In the Streets, don't watch it in the sidelines behind the line boundaries. It is best that you bring a camera and act like a photographer so that you can walk on the streets while the performance is going on.
The best area to watch the parade is in the Fuentes Circle where the epicenter of the entire grand parade is located. This is one of the stops before the Grand Stand show where they practice their performance to the crowd. It is also where a lot of booths are located and street dancing is happening.
2. Walk! Walk! Walk! -- There is no doubt that you will walk entirely from your hotel or some people would park their car in Ayala Center and walk from there. In all the grand fiestas and events such as world pyro, be prepared to walk so here are some essential things to bring and keep in mind:
- Bring umbrellas or jackets in case it rains specially during the rainy seasons including Dec/January. It was raining in Sinulog and I was not prepared so I got wet while I was walking. I forgot to bring my jacket even just to wrap it on my waist.
- Wear comfortable clothes. It is best to wear rubber shoes, shorts and a dri-fit shirt to be prepared to sweat it out the entire day. Bring extra clothes, mineral water, straw hata, towels for your back, and a backpack to hold all of your things so that you can walk freely.
- Be ready to shoot. Make sure that you brought your camera or video camera to document your experience. Be sure you have that extra CF/ SD card, or extra battery pack that should last you the entire day.
3. Make a wish to Sto. Nino de Cebu. If you are a Christian, make it a point to make a prayer wish to the miraculous Sto. Nino de Cebu either by (a) joining the fluvial religious processions which happens on Saturday afternoon or (b) hearing mass at the Sto Nino Church and visiting the original Sto. Nino de Cebu image. I always believe it the power of prayer through the intercession of Saints, Mother Mary or the Sto. Nino. If there is one thing that you want to happen in your life, make that pilgrimage to the Sto. Nino Church. Just a word of caution: the Church would be like Divisoria during Christmas season, and you have to hear the English Mass at 8.30am / 11am (ask the hotel concierge or locals). It is best to go there as early as possible.
4. Join the Sinulog Photo Contest. This is one of my regret that I was not able to register for this contest. This is one way for you to test your photography skills even if you are just an amateur. The photo contest category specifically states that it needs to be a candid shot and there are a lot of categories to join including Contingent (sun), Fluvial/ Solemn Procession (sat), Float (sun), Higante (sun), Sidelights (last week of sinulog), Route Decor/ Arch (anytime). First you should check out the winning entries during the previous year's photo contest, and here you would immediately see that having a Sto. Nino in the photo is critical to winning this contest. It is also best to invite other photo enthusiast from your photo club or just be with your friends who also have a camera.
5. Plan your logistics early. As early as now, you should already plan for next year's Sinulog to get the best hotel arrangements and best deals from the airlines. Book Marriot or WaterFront - Lahug at the latest 3 months in advanced (remember it always happens on the third sunday of January). If you can afford to fly out of Cebu on the next day, Monday then do so -- it gets fully booked on all Monday flight out of Cebu. Plan your work so that you can afford a Friday night flight to Cebu/ early Saturday morning and fly out to Manila on the first flight. Flights to Cebu is as early as 5am in the morning while flights out of Cebu is at 9pm+ at the latest.
Tara Na! I do hope you consider Sinulog in your next year's travel plans. You gotta watch it and every year is bigger that the last!
[Sinulog #1] Sinulog -- The Best Fiesta in the Philippines!
[Sinulog #2] Essential Guide to the Sinulog Fiesta
[Sinulog #3] The Grand Parade
[Sinulog #4] Cebu de Sto. Nino Devotion
[Sinulog #5] Sinulog's Beauty and the Beasts (postcards)
[Sinulog #6] Sto. Nino Collections (part 1)
[Sinulog #7] Sto. Nino Collections (part 2)
Sinulog Photo Album