Experiencing Sinulog like a Local

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Being face painted (either by a professional face painter or by yourself) has always been part of tradition.

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Sinulog, a festival that happens on every third Sunday of January in Cebu City is one of the biggest cultural and religious street events in the Philippines. This huge event that makes the whole city stop is a ritual to the miraculous image of the Child Jesus, locally known as Santo Niño.

Sinulog is a colorful, joyful and high energy event which will definitely be a memorable experience. If you plan to visit Sinulog this year, its advisable to book your flights and accommodation early or days before the big event as prices skyrocket.

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Joining in the street dancing.

Being a fellow Cebuana and a devoted Sinulog attender, I have shared a few tips to help you experience Sinulog like a local.

What To Do

During Sinulog, there are several events that happen days before the big street festival. There are concerts, bazaars, dance competitions, coronation night of the Sinulog Festival Queen, special church masses, and fluvial procession of the Miraculous Image of the Sto. Niño. There’s so much to do and so much to see. Below is a short list of activities you can go to during Sinulog.

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The street dances continue amidst the big crowds of locals and tourists.

January 5, 2017 — Opening Salvo: Walk with Jesus
January 6, 2017 — Sinulog 2017 Kick-off (Mass, Parade, Opening Program)
January 7, 2017 — Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan (Parade, Concert)
January 8, 2017 — Sinulog sa Barangay (Marathon, Parade, Concert)
January 9, 2017 — Concert
January 10, 2017 — Concert
January 11, 2017 — Sinulog Idol, Concert
January 12, 2017 — Sinulog Festival Queen Competition
January 13, 2017 — Walk with Mary, Dance Finals, Sinulog Queen Coronation Night
January 14, 2017 — Fluvial Procession, Solemn Procession, Sinulog Fireworks
January 15, 2017 — Sinulog Grand Parade
January 16, 2017  — Awarding Ceremonies

For a full list of the schedule of activities with their locations, visit this page.

What to prepare

January in Cebu is both rainy and very hot with activities starting early in the morning to late in the evening. Please see a list of things to wear or prepare to ensure that your Sinulog experience is enjoyable:

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Bars and clubs are hectic during Sinulog. Re-known DJ’s are also invited to Cebu to play in different venues around the city.

  1. Proper outfits: It may be to hot for a pair of jeans, but always dress appropriately especially if you plan to visit Cebu churches and join the mass. Knee shorts, cotton t-shirts and a sarong will work. There are a lot of Sinulog t-shirts being sold in the streets and malls. It could also be a souvenir shirt from the event.
  2. Head gear: You can settle for the usual cap, but there are also Sinulog hats being sold all over the city which you can wear to feel festive. It’s important to have your face covered as it can get really hot, especially while walking down streets.
  3. Bottled water: It’s easy to forget to hydrate, so always have a bottle of water around with you to avoid dehydration. There are ambulances found around the place, but it is better to be prepared rather than experiencing heat strokes.
  4. Secure bag: Since it is one of the most crowded times in the city, theft also increases. I myself am a victim of a pickpocket during Sinulog, and lost all my photos which I took from my phone during the last event. Backpacks are not advisable as it is easy to have someone open it from behind. Best to have a side bag or one of the anti-theft bags. There are several anti-theft bags sold in Cebu. You can visit sports shops or department stores for them. For women, here’s a list of anti-theft bags that still look nice.
  5. Lose change: Most street vendors will be selling small items, and they won’t have change for big bills. Always carry around loose change so you can buy more drinks while walking the streets or even snacks.
  6. Protection: Aside from protecting your face with head gear, put sunscreen to avoid getting a bad sunburn. If you plan to join late masses or plan to walk the streets at night, protect yourself with mosquito repellants as there are mosquitos everywhere.

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  1. Rechargeable pack: If you have enough stamina, you may be out and about for the entire day. One thing many people regret is running out of battery in your mobile phone or camera. It’s always good to have spare batteries in your bag or a power bank. There are 20,000mAh power banks now available in the market, and they can charge your mobile phone more than 10 times.
  2. First Aid Kit: Many tourists fall victims to food poisoning from the street food and tap water. Always prepare medicine in case it may happen to you. Band aids can also come in handy, especially if you get blisters from all the walking.
  3. Water Resistent Camera: With a high chance of rain, it’s always better to have your gear protected so you can document your experience. Aside from the rain, there are instances where people shower you with water.
  4. Snacks: If you are a tourist, it’s not advisable to eat street food as you may get a bad stomach. Always bring some snacks with you. Restaurants will be filled with people, and it could be difficult to walk back to your hotel every time you are hungry so it’s best to carry around nutritious snacks.
  5. Comfortable Footwear: If you want to look like a local, a pair of flip-flops (slippers) can do the trick. But for some, its not enough feet protection for the long and hot walks. Wear a pair of walking shoes or comfortable sandals. Just expect your feet to be looking black at the end of the parade!

Do you have any other tips which I can add to the list? Feel free to comment below and have an enjoyable Sinulog 2017!

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