The Sinulog is an annual festival held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, Philippines. The festival honors the Santo Niño (Holy Child Jesus), who is the patron Saint of the City of Cebu. It is a dance ritual that commemorates the Cebuano peoples Islamic and pagan origin, and their acceptance of Roman Catholicism. The festival features a street parade with participants in bright colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and native gongs. The Sinulog celebration lasts for nine days, culminating on the final day with the Sinulog Grand Parade.
It is said that whenthe Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived and claimed the territory of Cebu for Spain, he presented the image of the child Jesus, the Santo Niño, as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Rajah Humabon. Hara Amihan was later named, Queen Juana. Along with the rulers of the island, some 800 natives were also baptized to the Roman Catholic Church. At the moment of receiving the idol, it was said that Queen Juana danced with joy bearing this image of the child Jesus. With the other natives following her example, this moment was regarded as the first Sinulog. This event is frequently used as basis for most Sinulog dances, which dramatize the coming of the Spaniards and the presentation of the Santo Niño to the Queen. A popular theme among Sinulog dances is Queen Juana holding the Santo Niño in her arms and using it to bless her people who are often afflicted by sickness caused by demons and other evil spirits.
(Above summary adapted from Wikipedia page on Sinulog Festival at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinulog)
Below are images captured from the grand festival of Sinulog 2010.
1. Simbang Gabi
This seems to be an unique thing to Philippines, I haven't come across this elsewhere. From 16 to 24 December, dawn masses are held at churches. These masses start as early as 4am and the faithful wake up and go to church to attend mass. A common belief is that if an individual completes the nine consecutive days of the Simbang Gabi, this will result in a wish being granted. Simbang Gabi may have originated from the Spanish tradition of Misa de Gallo, which is literally Rooster's mass and is held at the stroke of midnight. The Spaniards ruled Philippines for a long time, so the Misa de Gallo might have been customized to local requirements. The Filipino version which is Simbang Gabi is held at early morning instead of midnight. After the mass, putong bumbong, which is a rice pastry along with tsokolate (hot chocolate) and bibingka (flour and egg cakes) are served to the attendees, though nowadays it is street vendors selling these outside the church. I wondered why the dawn mass at such an early hour. Apprantly it goes back to Spanish days when early dawn masses for the farmers who wanted to attend Christmas mass but could not leave their fields. Thus the mass was held before sunrise and the farmers who attended were served those putong bumbong, which is made of rice, to boost their energy levels before a hard day's work in the fields.
Perhaps, this is one of the few remaining places where you actually see carollers visiting houses to sing carols. And then there are carollers who visit you in the office. And ofcourse, there are those street bums who torture you at every traffic light stop, with improvised musical instruments. Something interesting, the carollers seem to enjoy singing "Nobody Nobody But You" rather than Silent Night or Jingle Bells. Oh well, it's the season to be joyous, so thank you Wondergirls !
Oh, god ... on Christmas Eve, the whole island turns into a humongous fire ball, literally ! All around the island, people stock up on fireworks and shoot it to the skies. Even the big ones that can go several metres high up into the sky with loud bangs. But it is a beautiful sight to behold. If you can, go up to the hills of Busay and look down at the city, you can see fireworks everywhere. And then there are those kids by the street side, who throw fire crackers at your car. And Christmas is also the time the firemen work so hard, for it is a norm for some houses to burn down with all these fire crackers.
4. Public Holidays
9. Parols & Lights
The Starbucks outlet at Asiatown IT Park is open through out the day on Christmas. Well, that is the best thing about Christmas in Cebu. Atleast I don't miss my double latte. Most of the other Starbucks outlets at the malls will be closed.
26 December marks the 5th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami that hit various parts of Asia in 2004. Here is a good read which is an English translation of an article written by a Swedish journalist Christina Kellberg.
The article centres around the lives of four people, who fell in love with the beauty of Khao Lak and built their lives around this coastal town. When the Boxing Day Tsunami striked, their lives swept away with the waves and the debris it carried into the ocean.
Pictures by Beatrice Lundborg
Click here to continue reading the story of Lek, Kong, Ria and Kai ...
The past few weeks was full of Christmas - you name it - presents, parties, cards, lights, drinks, fake santas, christmas trees. And to top it all - the sky was literally lit with fireworks all around Cebu between 11pm to midnight. It didn't stop till wee hours in the morning.
Frankly speaking, the Christmas experience in Cebu is really something I have not experienced before. I mean, the folks wake up at the wee hours of dawn to attend special masses at 4am in the morning. Even those who never been to church before go and attend mass. Lights everywhere - name it churches, the shopping malls, offices, schools, even official establishements. Well, let's keep that discussion it for another discussion.
Then there is the gifts and presents and cakes. You give gifts and cakes to anyone you know. Thank Jesus for my next 2 months supply of wine's. And not forgeting the giving of presents too. So I did the best I could give - red wine ! Oh well, I didn't recycle the ones I received to give aways, since it is a claimable expense. I promptly ordered 50 bottles of the best red wine I could find in Cebu - from Manny'O wines, and yes the respectable Mr. Manny Osmeña gave me a good deal. But heck, the distributing of presents took a toll. I didn't wanted a delivery guy to send my present, so I made it a point to personally hand deliver my presents. But alas, most of the recipients were not around at the time of the delivery. Oh well, it's holidays for Christ sake !
Talking about presents, I have to mention my dear friend Abon Cimafranca. He is the human version of Santa Claus, true to the literal sense. And to top it all, he had his big red Salvattore Ferragamo paper bag, stuffed with presents of all sorts and giving it out to all those he knows, from the security guards at malls, to the bank tellers, to the restaurant waiters and hotel concierge. Heck, even my maid and driver got a handbag and wallet respectively from dear Abon. Too bad, he didn't have the beard and the tummy !
All this euphoria around me got me thinking, pardon me, as I was listening to the Priest's homily during the Christmas mass. Did Jesus Christ really wanted his birthday to be celebrated this way? Hmmm, with fire crackers, lighted trees, wines, presents and all? Oh, yes - the spirit of sharing and caring, giving and meeting, joy and peace. But is Jesus Christ's birth the only time we think of giving and sharing? Did Jesus wanted it only for his birthday? How did this one event become the most celebrated and spend thrift event in the whole world?
It then dawned upon me - it's just an annual affair that serves a purpose - to remind our forgetful minds and to teach our young ones, the value of giving and sharing, to rejoice in hope and wishful thinking, to literally get out of one's comfort zone and join in some merry making. But alas, for most people, it just ends there. After the presents are unwrapped and after the trees goes back into storage, people just carry on with normal their normal lives.
Why don't we carry the spirit of Christmas within us every day of our life? Or atleast, once a week, or say, once a month. But it is not practical to hang out the lights every week or every other month. This is where the real meaning of Christmas serves it purpose. While the celebration of Christmas is an annual reminder on the things Christmas stand for, the actual meaning of Christmas doesn't end there. Christmas serves as a reminder on the things we should carry out in our every day life. Caring and Sharing is not just about getting together with loved ones during Christmas or exchanging gifts to those you know. It is meant to show genuine caring and sharing to every one around you.
We can and we should carry on the meaning of Christmas in every day lives. This can be a simple action such as a courtesy gesture on the road - giving way to someone who has signalled intention to change lanes, bringing a blind man or elderly across the street, extending a helping hand to a colleague who is faced with a tight deadline, offering to help your mother or spouse in the kitchen, being compassionate to a good cause, making a difference in someone's life by just being there etc.
So go ahead and make a list of the things you can do in your everyday life to live the spirit of Christmas after Christmas. And that really is what Christmas is all about - a reminder on the values we should uphold in our daily lives.
Merry Christmas folks !
The month of November 2009 brought the country of Philippines and Filipino people to the world's attention, not once but three times in the month. However, these 3 episodes portrayed varied dimensions of the Filipino - first being courage, second being compassion and the last one moronism to the largest extent. I rejoiced with my fellow Filipino friends on the first 2 occassions but I hung my head in shame for the third incident.
On 14 November 2009, legendary boxing champ Manny Pacquiao fought Miguel Cotto at MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a fight labelled "Firepower". Pacquiao was promptly conferred the "Order of Sikatuna" by his home country. Pacquiao's victory brought a sense of hope and pride to the Filipino people, especially those who were ravaged in recent floods.
A week later, on 22 November 2009, another Filipino, Efren Peñaflorida, shot to world fame by winning CNN Hero of 2009. Peñaflorida was duly awarded the title of "Order of Lakandula" by his President. Peñaflorida's achievement gave Filipino's the assurance that even when government policies failied, a common man's dream and commitment to his countrymen produced better results than the powers that be.
One day later, on 23 November 2009, the world heard about Ampatuan Jr. In one of the worst political massacres ever seen by Philippines and in recent times, by the world, the Maguindanao Massacre hit the TV screens and newspapers across the world. I'am not one to comment on political issues in my host country, but the official reactions to this incident makes my skin crawl. Following, calls of justice from across the world and the reaction by Filipinos to this incident, there seems to be some progress. However, I wonder if the person responsible will end up with another Order of something noble or will be duly charged with the Order of the Noose ! This is one of those instances, I whole-heartedly support the capital punishment, but alas, Philippines does not impose capital punishment.