Jan 18, 2014

6 tips for enjoying (and surviving!) Sinulog

Photo credit: Robespierre Paderanga via http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinulog/

The Philippines boasts of many colorful Filipino festivals for every month of every year across the archipelago. The celebrations are kick-started off by Sinulog, an annual event first organized by Cebu City officials in 1980. 

To this day, Sinulog attracts millions of attendees and transforms Cebu City into a giant stage filled with elaborate decorations, street dancing, religious processions, concerts and cultural shows. At the heart of this renowned occasion is a religious custom whose roots can be traced all the way back to the 16th century.

If it's your first time attending the Sinulog celebration, read this Sinulog survival guide to know how you can best enjoy your Sinulog 2014 experience! Click on READ MORE.

Photo credit: Patrick Henry Uy via http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinulog/

Sinulog happens every third Sunday of January but the events and festivities usually begin weeks leading up to the actual Sinulog date. This Sinulog survival guide focuses more on Sinulog Sunday because that's when Cebu City gets really hyped up. Here are things you can do to make the most out of your experience:

Photo credit: Erwin Lim via http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinulog/

Know what to expect and plan ahead

Although some people prefer to be spontaneous, I wouldn't recommend being ill-prepared for something like Sinulog. The event itself is fantastic and there is much to be enjoyed from religious experience to cultural immersion to all-night parties. However, the massive influx of people and the organized chaos that engulfs the city can be overwhelming especially for newbies. Knowing what to expect (especially the possible unpleasantries) will help you plan your itinerary better and, ultimately, make your Sinulog 2014 experience safe and more enjoyable. 

Here are a few of the (not so pleasant) things you need to expect on Sinulog:
  • Big crowds in most public places in the city
  • Lots of walking and unpredictable traffic
  • Busy and unreliable mobile networks
  • Pickpockets
  • Possible rainy weather

Familiarize yourself with the Sinulog Grand Parade route and find a spot early

One of the main attractions of Sinulog is the Sinulog Grand Parade. You wouldn't want to miss this spectacle, the amazing choreography, magnificent props and dazzling costumes are a must-see. The competition and judging will take place in the Cebu City Sports Complex (formerly Abellana Sports Complex) but you can enjoy the parade from the streets. 

The Sinulog Grand Parade starts at about 9:00 AM, following a mass but if you want to secure a great spot for watching, you might want to go out early. My friend, Camille, who lives in Cebu noted that people already start crowding by the sidewalks and platforms as early as 7:00 AM and the numbers steadily increase as the hours go by. 

Even if you don't intend to watch the Sinulog Grand Parade, it's still a good idea to be familiar with the route so you'll know which places will be affected (according to an article in the Philippine Star at least 9 roads will be affected by the parade route).

Here is a map of the Sinulog 2014 Grand Parade carousel route to help you (click image to enlarge):

Image credit: Sinulog.ph


Bring only what you need, leave your valuables at home

Because you will be spending much of your time in crowded public places and walking, remember to be extra careful with your belongings. Bring only what you need and pack them in a secure and easy to carry bag. I'll give you a short list of some of the essentials you need to bring with you at the end of this post.  

My friend, Richard, recalled the first time he experienced Sinulog and commented how stressful it was to carry a sling bag around. He had to regularly check it when the crowd got crazy and carrying it was another issue. Another friend suggests bringing a cross-body bag, that way you can easily hold it close in front of you when moving through or standing in crowded places. 

Some people suggest leaving your valuables like mobile phones and DSLR cameras at home. But if you must bring expensive gadgets, take extra precautions and keep an eye on them all the time. Because of unpredictable weather (and sometimes wild crowds) it is a good idea to pack your equipment in a water-proof case or improvise with a Ziploc bag.   


Dress comfortably

To make way for the Sinulog Grand Parade and street parties, the city government closes major roads so expect a lot of detours and, of course, walking. With this mind, remember to dress for comfort. Ditch uncomfortable, high-heeled shoes in favor of flats and sneakers instead. Also, go for dry-fit and comfortable clothes that will let you move around comfortably. 

A friend of mine who has been attending some of the infamous street parties suggests wearing tops and clothes that are "disposable" or at least something you wouldn't mind getting dirt, paint, water, alcohol and whatnot on. 


Prepare for rainy weather

Most of my memories of Sinulog involves at least a slight drizzle and Sinulog this year is expected to be windy, cloudy and rainy (check out Accuweather.com  for a more detailed weather forecast of the Sinulog weekend) Make sure you bring rain gear that is easy to carry like a foldable umbrella or wear a cap. Also, bring a face towel or tissue wipes. Like I said in the previous tip, go for dry-fit clothes. You might want to bring an extra change of clothes in case you get really wet. 


Load-up your cellphone for making calls

Because of the influx of people during Sinulog, mobile phone networks tend to get congested and SMS messages tend to get very, very delayed. If you are meeting up friends and family, plan a rendezvous point and time in advance. Additionally, make sure you have enough cellphone load to make calls. Trust me, sending text messages is out of the question. 


Sinulog Survival Guide wrap-up:
  1. Know what to expect and plan ahead
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Sinulog Grand Parade route and find a spot early
  3. Bring only what you need, leave your valuables at home
  4. Dress comfortably
  5. Prepare for unpredictable weather
  6. Load-up your cellphone for making calls

What to bring:
  1. Portable rain gear
  2. Water & refillable water container 
  3. Tissue wipes and/or face towel
  4. Hand sanitizer 
  5. Just enough hard cash
  6. An extra change of clothes (especially if you plan to spend the entire day out)

How are you planning to spend Sinulog 2014?


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