Survival Guide: 10 Tips for An Epic Sinulog Experience

Are you ready for the 2019 Sinulog Festival? Here are my tips to prepare you for the grandest celebration in Cebu.

Cebu is one of the most known city in the Philippines. Although it is generally laid back, the city transforms from quiet to crazy every third weekend of January. The Queen City of the South becomes remarkably vibrant celebrating the arrival Child Jesus locally called as Señor Santo Niño in the shores of Cebu. It is a commemoration of start of Christianity in the country. Despite the religious nature of the celebration, it includes various higlights such as Miss Cebu, Festival Queen Competition, Sinulog Idol, Photo and Film Competition, Fluvial and Solemn Procession, Grand Parade and Street Dancing and Grand Finale Fireworks display, you are sure to find something to suit your taste.

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Photo by Roland Pascua

Sinulog Festival is the grandest festival in the Philippines bringing in about 1 million visitors. As the weekend draws near, here are some tips to prepare you for the mother of all celebrations.

1. Plan your events well.

Here is a map of the Solemn Procession

If you are more on religious events and plan on going to the Basilica to see the image of the Child Jesus, make sure to be there as early as 5 a.m. because the queue is really long.

Check out the list of activities!

Map for Sinulog 2019 Festival Grand Parade Route Map

If you are more for dancing and parties, here are just some of the parties happening over the weekend.

2. Bring Cash.

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Avoid long queues to the ATM or worse running out of money when you need drink. Make sure you have enough cash on hand. It would be wise to keep them in different places, some could be hidden inside your bra (my mother’s advice). If you want to make the most out of your dollars, I recommend you head to Alco Credit and Foreign Exchange, Inc. they offer the best rates within the city, you can find them at Raintree Mall.

3. Prepare you Sinulog OOTD

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You can buy cheap Sinulog shirts that you can cut and redesign. Opt for cotton and avoid wearing clothes with thick material. I discourage you from wearing jean pants, it can get heavy once it gets wet. You have endless options for accessories from feather to wooden beads. It is a great time to get your henna tattoo, you can easily find an artist along the street.The weather can get really hot and humid so do not be afraid to bare more skin. Unless you plan to go to the Basilica then you have to be covered. Do not wear expensive jewelries too unless you want to make friends with robbers. Also make sure that the bag you bring is always close to your body and waterproof.

4. Practice the Sinulog dance steps.

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Photo by Victor Kintanar

It would not be an authentic Sinulog celebration if you do not learn the steps. It is not that complicated, it is close to the basic one two step. All you have to do is move one foot forward and take two steps backward.

5. Think of Sinulog as a Marathon.

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I am not saying you have to wear your running shoes but it would be a good idea to wear your most comfortable footwear since the main streets in Cebu are closed specially on Sunday since parade starts as early as 6:00 a.m. People are forced to be more fit and you will not notice that you have been walking for hours because of the loud music, smiling dancers and happy people you meet in the road.

6. Embrace Extraversion.

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Photo by Erick John Cuevas

If you have problems with personal space, then you should forget about it for this weekend. Cebuanos are extra friendly during the festivities. You will get hugs, greetings and drinks from random strangers on the road. You will be a dot in a sea of humans. The massive crowd walking with you will test you on this too.

7. Bring Your Squad.

Any celebration would not be fun if you do it alone. Bring your awesome friends except for the one who always complains which I call as Negatron (no one wants a kill joy).

If you are a solo traveler, do not hesitate to talk to people, there l always be some group ready to adopt you. If you are a member of Couchsurfing like me, search for Sinulog events in the website.

Also remember that signals will be down on the following days so make sure to plan where to meet ahead.

Here is the schedule:

8. Must Haves for Sunday’s Grand Parade

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Celebrating Sinulog is like hitting the beach for summer. You must bring the following essentials: Water or any form of portable liquid for hydration, sunscreen, favorite pair of sunnies, fan to keep cool , small snacks for energy, camera for endless selfies/groufies, powerbank and extra shirt!

9. Eat. Party. Sleep. Repeat

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When I celebrated Sinulog 2018, I hanged out with a bunch of crazy guys so I ended up partying from Wednesday until Sunday. Make sure you get rest and nourishment in between. While you want to maximize your partying or events, make sure you will be okay on Monday and not in a hospital. There was a year when I missed out on the partying because I did not have enough sleep, my body gave in on Sunday. Also, remember to drink in moderation. It is easy to get carried away but you have to be responsible enough or at least be with a responsible friend. The past Sinulog parties have caused a major uproar from the conservative people as photos of teenagers sleeping unconscious along the streets went viral in social media sites. You do not want to leave traces of your partying in someone else’s Facebook account.

10. Be Ready For Everything and Anything.

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Photo by Restie Derigay

Make sure to agree on a meeting place with your friends. During the festival, the mobile networks normally suffer lags and some messages arrive hours later. While the weather reports say the weather will be fair, make sure that you are ready to embrace the rain as well as random showers of water, beer, alcohol and even paint. These tips should give you an idea on what to expect but nothing can be completely planned in life. Do not let this unpredictability stop you, this will make your Sinulog experience more memorable.

With all that said and done, I wish you the best for Sinulog 2019! May the force be with you as you brave the streets of Cebu! Prititit!!! Pit Señor!

Reginald James Lorico
Photo by: Reginald James Lorico
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Weekend Wanderings: Organic Farm in Bonbon, Cebu

Looking for a quick nature escape? Just half an hour ride from Cebu City and you are in another landscape.

Far from the concrete walls this farm was full of greens. Sir Oliver, the owner of the farm toured us around through his farm. Think of any herb used for cooking and he has it! He is one of the suppliers for top hotels and restaurant chains in Cebu. I definitely got jealous of his stocks of coriander and parsley.

From crispy delicious French beans to different lemon varieties. Oliver's farm reflects years of experience working as an agriculture expert. I was amazed at how hands on and humble he was that you would not even think that he worked for FAO and other international organizations.  As much as I want to describe all the sights in his farm, I will just let the photos do the talking!

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You can easily spend a full day enjoying this lush farm. I am one of the lucky few who got to spend time in this hidden oasis. Definitely grateful for having met Oliver and getting some free lemon plant!

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Diving in Cebu: Shark Diving in Malapascua Island

As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

According to some stories, some Spaniards have been sailing through the Visayas in the year of 1520 and ended up stranded on Malapascua on Christmas Day because of the unfortunate incident they called the island Mala Pascua, which literally means “Bad Christmas”. I am not certain how they could’ve thought it was bad luck to be in a beautiful island. Although the older local people still insist that their island’s name is “Logon” (same name as the main village here on Malapascua) and not Malapscua. This island a popular dive destination in the Philippines. The picturesque island is home to a world famous treasure. A special kind of shark, the thresher shark. As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

To get to Malapascua is not that quick, from Cebu City, you will have to take the bus all the way to Maya which takes about 5 hours. For my trip, I took the bus to Bogo  and stayed there for the night. The following morning we took the bus from Bogo City to Maya Port. I enjoyed the bus ride as it passed through rice fields and mangrove forests. When we reached Maya Port, the locals immediately asked if we were heading to Malapascua. I was told that the usual price is 80 PHP but we arrived a bit late (most boats don’t go to Malapascua in the afternoon unless you charter them because of the current) so we had to just say yes to them.

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Malapascua from a distance.

The weather was on our side that day despite warnings of thunderstorms that weekend. I sat and enjoyed the calming sea breeze for 30 minutes as the boat sailed smoothly over the placid sea. The other passengers looked like babies on a cradle slowly falling asleep.

Malapascua Island
Malapascua somehow reminds me of Boracay in a less touristy way.

Unknown to many, 2 years ago, Malapascua Island was also one of the islands ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Expats and locals both pitched in to recover from the destruction and while I was walking around there were little traces.

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Clear blue skies and white sand.

We did not make any prior bookings relying on the fact that it was off season in the island. It was not difficult to find accomodations. I saw more than 10 resorts all lining the coast of Malapascua. More than a decade ago, I visited the island as part of my mother’s regular company outing. I could barely remember the details of the island and would’ve gotten lost if not for Lucas. He already went to Malapascua several times for diving.  I am always embarrassed when people ask me where I did my dives ( I probably did more dives in Mabul and Sipadan than in my own country). It was my first dive in Cebu by the way! Anyways, we headed to French Kiss Divers first to try squeezing in a dive for that day (we needed vitamin Sea so much that they anyways their local staff thought I was Thai, not sure if I should be happy or not). They were nice enough to schedule a 3:30 PM dive.

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Serene view.

After taking care of our dive for the day, we headed to Malapascua Exotic Island Dive & Beach Resort. Exotic is one of the established resorts on the island and they offer budget accomodations (for those who want to spend more on dives than their beds). We left our bags and had a quick lunch (they had a wide variety of dishes and the servings were good). Once we filled our stomachs, we walked back to French Kiss to prepare the dive gears and do all the necessary equipment check.

BCDs are ready!
The view just makes you want to jump right in without your gears.

Shark diving is the main activity in the island but you can also do macro-diving. Malapascua offers sandy bottoms, seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs. The island has other top class dive sites apart from Malapascua such as Gato Island, Lapus Lapus and Dakit Dakit. If you are spending more days in the island, you can even hire a boat to take you to Kalanggaman Island in Palompon.

Here is a map I created to show you a few of the different sites:

DEEP SLOPE

Our first dive was at Deep Slope which was a unique underwater sand dune that slowly turns into a small wall which is covered with soft corals.  Pygmy seahorses, yellow and pink ones can be seen inside the different sea fans along that reef.  An interesting dive site for more experienced beginners and advanced divers. For beginners, you need to be aware of the slope and make sure to always check your dive computer to avoid diving beyond your limit. While doing the dive, I got a bit nervous when we suddenly saw a banded sea snake (more than a meter long) swimming along the reef wall (FYI: I hate snakes and centipedes).

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