Sinulog Festival: A Celebration of Faith and Gratitude In The Philippines

For years, millions of devotees of the miraculous image of the Child Jesus, Santo Niño, have been coming to Cebu City from all over the world to show their gratitude to the Holy Child in the week-long Sinulog festival.

Apart from being a religious festival, Sinulog has also served as a venue to showcase the unique Cebuano artistry and creativity as participants offer stunning performances and a remarkable celebration that continues to capture the hearts of local and foreign tourists.

Sinulog Festival Activities Every Traveler Must Experience

Many travelers all over the world visit Cebu to experience the grand Sinulog Festival in Cebu. Make sure you wouldn’t miss these fun activities for an amazing festival experience!

  1. Fluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Santo Niño
  2. Sinulog Grand Parade
  3. Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan
  4. Sinulog sa Barangay (Dakbayan)
  5. Search for Sinulog Festival Queen

What’s inside this blog?

Sinulog Festival Description

If you’re asking about the Sinulog Festival description, here’s the answer.

Sinulog means “like water current” and is actually the name of the dance ritual in honor of the Santo Niño. The dance moves to the beat of the drums and this resembles the current of a river in Cebu. Thus, calling it the Sinulog Dance. 

Now that you know the Sinulog Festival description, let’s now trace back the Sinulog festival history.


Sinulog Festival History

sinulog festival cebu

Historians say that Sinulog is the link between the Philippines’ pagan past and its Christian present.

Sinulog was already danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos even before Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan came to Cebu on April 7, 1521 to plant the cross on its shore and claim the country for the King of Spain. Then Magellan came and introduced Christianity. He gave the image of Santo Niño as a baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, who was later named Queen Juana, wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon. At that time, more than 800 were baptized including the rulers and their subjects. But shortly after the religious conversion, Magellan was killed into a reckless fight with the reigning ruler of Mactan, Lapu-Lapu, on April 27, 1521.

sinulog festival cebu

It took 44 years before a new group came and started the formal Christianization of the islands. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565, and his ships bombarded the village. Then Spanish soldier Juan Camus found the image of the Santo Niño inside a wooden box in the burned ruins of a pre-Spanish settlement in Cebu.

During the 44 years between the coming of Magellan and Legaspi, the natives continued to dance the Sinulog. Every Santo Niño fiesta which falls on the third Sunday of January, children dressed in moro-moro costumes danced the Sinulog. This was not really a big event for Cebu City then.

sinulog festival cebu

In 1980, then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (MYSD) David S. Odilao Jr., organized the first-ever Sinulog parade.

The Sinulog steps were analyzed and further enhanced. With the help of the teachers from several schools and universities, the first Sinulog Street Dance Parade was spearheaded. The street dance parade was the start of the idea of making the Sinulog a festival.

Under the direction of then Cebu City Mayor Florentino S. Solon together with the influential names in town, a committee was formed to officially organize the first Sinulog Festival in 1981.

sinulog festival cebu

With the background of the Spanish encounters, the Sinulog committee used a native warrior’s shield on whose face is imprinted the coat of arms of the House of Hapsburg (which then ruled most of the known world from 15th-20th century) that now represents the Sinulog logo. The native shield figure symbolizes the country’s continued resistance to colonization. It represents the Filipinos’ readiness to defend the country from all forms of foreign attack and to resist any move that may endanger the country. The coat of arms of the Santo Niño on the face of the shield on the other hand, traditionally symbolizes the country’s acceptance of Christianity as European rulers brought it to the settlements.

And year after year, the Sinulog festival gets bigger and better. 


When is Sinulog Festival celebrated?

Sinulog Festival is celebrated every third Sunday of January. For Sinulog 2021, it falls on January 17.  However, due to the 2021 COVID-19 pandemic, the Sinulog Festival 2021 physical and virtual celebrations are postponed. 


What to Expect

Sinulog is one of the most-awaited events in the Philippines so expect to see a lot of people in the streets who will participate in the celebration. The Grand Street Parade which is the biggest event during Sinulog, normally starts at around 8 or 9 in the morning. There are also pyromusical shows, and a series of fun events that you should look forward to.


Sinulog Festival 2021 Schedule of Activities

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to the pandemic, Sinulog Festival 2021 will be done virtually.

  • January 3-10, 2021: Sinulog Festival Kick-Off – Fun Ride – Virtual Bike Challenge
  • January 4-6, 2021: Virtual Sinulog Workshop
  • January 8, 2021: Holy Mass @ Basilica del Sto. Nino | Opening Salvo Rewind
  • January 8, 2021: See Cebu in Carousel Launch
  • January 9, 2021: Sinulog sa Lalawigan Rewind @ Sinulog Facebook Page & Website
  • January 10, 2021: Sinulog sa Dakbayan Rewind @ Sinulog Facebook Page & Website
  • January 12, 2021: Festival Queen Rewind | Dollie Suzara Tribute
  • January 13, 2021: Highlands Blooms and Eco-Tourism Launching
  • January 14, 2021: Sinulog Idol Battle of the Champions | Balik Cebu: Padayun Ta
  • January 15, 2021: Festival Queen Grand Showdown @ SM Seaside Open Space Parking
  • January 16, 2021: Holy Mass c/o Basilica del Sto. Nino
  • January 17, 2021: Grand Ritual Showdown @ SRP (No audience; Virtual streaming available via Sinulog Festival Facebook Page & Website)
  • January 1-31, 2021: Cebu City Sinulog One-Stop Shop at Ayala Center Cebu
  • January 1-31, 2021: Cebuano Kini – Balik Cebu Native Exhibit at Ayala Center Cebu
  • January 8-31, 2021: The Sto. Nino – Gasa sa Ika Lima Ka Gatos Ka Tuig (500 Years Of Christianity) Exhibit at Ayala Center Cebu
  • January 8-31, 2021: Sinulog Festival Queen Costume Exhibit at Ayala Center Cebu
  • January 18, 2021 (Monday): Awarding Ceremonies
  • January 24, 2021 (Friday): “HUBO” c/o Basilica del Sto. Nino
  • January 27, 2021: Judging Sinulog 2021 Photo Contest at Robinsons Galleria Cebu
  • January 28, 2021: Judging of Finalists in Short Film/Video Documentary and Music Video Contest at Robinsons Galleria Cebu
  • February 2, 2021:
    • 1:00PM – Screening of Finalist Sinulog Short Film Festival at Robinsons Galleria Cebu
    • 6:00PM – Awarding Ceremonies Photo Contest, Short Film and Video Documentary Contest at Robinsons Galleria Cebu
  • February 1-10, 2021: Photo Exhibit Winning Photos Sinulog 2021 at Robinsons Galleria Cebu

Source: Sinulog Festival Facebook Page

Main Highlights

  • Fluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Santo Niño
  • Sinulog Festival Grand Parade

Sinulog Festival 2021 Guide: Tips for Attending the Festival

sinulog festival cebu

From heart-pounding tribal beats and crazy bar parties to the amazing Cebuano spirit, Sinulog Festival is an absolute feast for the senses. Here are some tips to make your Sinulog experience safe and more fun:

1. Bring water
The walking, dancing, and partying during Sinulog Festival will surely tire you so be sure to bring water. This will keep you hydrated throughout the day. 

2. Wear appropriate clothes
By appropriate clothes, we mean light and comfortable clothing. This is to keep you at ease while moving around because 99% of the time, you’ll be walking and dancing with the crowd. Wear also a comfortable but tough pair of shoes to keep your feet clean and safe.

3. Wear sunscreen
Expect the weather to be hot during the day so wear sunblock to protect your skin from the scorching heat of the sun. 

4. Go with the flow
Sinulog’s massive crowd can be overwhelming. Be ready to get your face smeared with paint or water for the umpteenth time! Don’t take everything too seriously, just good vibes, have fun, and enjoy.

5. Find a Cebu hotel near the parade route
Public transportation in Cebu during Sinulog might be limited or slow to a standstill. You may also find yourself stranded in the middle of the party zone. We suggest you find a hotel within walking distance of the places where the main events will happen. Check out the Cebu budget hotels here.

6. Book your accommodations in Cebu early
Sinulog is one of the country’s biggest festivals. That means it draws millions of visitors from across the world. So the hotels in Cebu will most likely be fully booked on Sinulog season. That’s why we strongly suggest that you book your accommodations in Cebu as early as today.

What began as a revival of an old dance, brought everyone— the government, business establishments, schools, pilgrims, artists, and private individuals— together. The Sinulog festival surely gave the Cebuanos a shared passion, an identity, a culture, and a name.


Cebu Tourist Spots

And since you’re in Cebu already, the Sinulog Festival place of origin, make the most of your trip by exploring the best of the province. Here are some of the top attractions in Cebu.

  1. Oslob – For swimming with whale sharks
  2. Bantayan Island – The paradise of the North Cebu
  3. Malapascua Island – Magnificent marine life
  4. Kawasan Falls – For canyoneering
  5. Simala Shrine – A castle-like shrine
  6. Pescador Island – For swimming with millions of sardines
  7. Sirao Flower Garden – The Netherlands of Cebu

For the complete list, read this blog: 15 Amazingly Beautiful Cebu Tourist Spots to Include in Your Itinerary


Cebu Tourism Guidelines 2021 | COVID-19 Updates

As of writing, Cebu has reopened its doors to local tourists. The province has set new guidelines for entering Cebu. See the details below:

  • All passengers and personnel should wear face masks and face shields when accessing Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal premises and during their flight.
  • Persons with incomplete documents shall not be allowed to board the aircraft.
  • Confirmed Round Trip Plane Ticket must also be presented (except for LSI and ROF)
  • Fill-out Province of Cebu Public Health Passenger Locator Form

For Tourists

  1. Authority To Enter (ATE)
  2. Negative RT-PCR Test  taken within 3 days prior to the travel date
  3. Round trip flight booking  
  4. Confirmed accredited hotel reservation
  5. Travel itinerary
  6. Travel Authority issued by PNP JTF COVID Shield

For Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFS)

  1. Negative RT-PCR swab test result
  2. Valid Identification Card
  3. Quarantine certificate (proof of completion of the 14-day quarantine)

For Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIS)

  1. Authority to enter
  2. Valid I.D.
  3. Letter of Coordination (LOC) from the Barangay residence in Cebu City
  4. Medical Certificate, issued within 48 hours before departure

Authorized Persons Outside Of Residence (APORS)

  1. Authority to enter
  2. Company ID / Valid Identification Card
  3. Certificate of Employment or proof of business or profession
  4. Proof of reason for travel or intent to visit (or Appointment of visit in Cebu City)
  5. Letter of Coordination (LOC) from the Barangay residence in Cebu City
  6. Medical clearance certificate
  7. Travel clearance from the Office of the Cebu City Mayor

Frequently Asked Questions About Sinulog Festival

Q: What is the Sinulog Festival description?
A: The description of Sinulog Festival is “like water current” and is actually the name of the dance ritual in honor of the Santo Niño. The dance moves to the beat of the drums and this resembles the current of a river in Cebu. Thus, calling it the Sinulog Dance. Now let’s trace back and revive the Sinulog festival history.

Q: Is Sinulog Festival a religious festival?
A: Yes Sinulog is a religious festival. Apart from being a religious festival, Sinulog has also served as a venue to showcase the unique Cebuano artistry and creativity as participants offer stunning performances and a remarkable celebration that continues to capture the hearts of local and foreign tourists.

Q: What can I expect at the Sinulog Festival?
A: Many travelers all over the world visit Cebu to experience the grand Sinulog Festival in Cebu. Make sure you wouldn’t miss these fun activities for an amazing festival experience!

  1. Fluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Santo Niño
  2. Sinulog Grand Parade
  3. Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan
  4. Sinulog sa Barangay (Dakbayan)
  5. Search for Sinulog Festival Queen

Q: What does Pit Senyor mean?
A: “Pit Señor” is the short form of “Sangpit sa Señor,” a Cebuano phrase that means “to call, ask, and plead to the king.” 

Q: Where is Sinulog Festival celebrated?
A: It is celebrated in Cebu because it is the Sinulog Festival place of origin.

Q: When is Sinulog Festival celebrated?
A: Sinulog Festival in Cebu is celebrated every January.

Q: Where is Sinulog Festival place of origin?
A: The Sinulog Festival place of origin is Cebu province.

Q: Who is the Patron Saint celebrated in the Sinulog Festival?  
A: Santo Niño is the patron saint celebrated in the Sinulog Festival. For years, millions of devotees of the miraculous image of the Child Jesus, Santo Niño, have been coming to Cebu City from all over the world to show their gratitude to the Holy Child in the week-long Sinulog festival.

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