23 Jan2012

The Feast Day of the Santo Niño is celebrated on the third Sunday of January, and in Cebu, that is best known as the day of a massive Sinulog parade that runs nine hours plus and leads to a whole day of serious partying where a massive amount of food and drink are consumed. Hmmm. But that’s getting ahead of myself. Let’s just say for now that the bulk of the Sinulog hype was created or “re-created” not too long ago, in 1980, when the first parade was implemented and it has grown to its present ginormous state today (over 3 million people reportedly participated or watched the parade last week). The Santo Niño, on the other hand, traces its origins back to Magellan in 1521…

While celebrations start nine days before Sinulog Sunday, the pious and religious parts reach their apex on Saturday, when an early morning fluvial parade starts at 6am in Mandaue and brings a Santo Niño to the Basilica Minore de Santo Niño in downtown Cebu. The Santo Niño used to make the trip in a banca, but for the past several years, has made the trip on a small yacht (I think belonging to the Ouano family) and it is accompanied by dozens if not hundreds of floating vessels like bancas, barges, yachts, sailboats, etc. This was the first year I actually witnessed the fluvial parade, from the 21st floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel…

If you have a magnifying glass, you would see the Santo Niño at the front of the white yacht in the photo above.

Hundreds of thousands of folks like bridges, piers, coastal locations to have a glimpse of the fluvial parade that moves along at a relatively smart pace… I was amused by this prime viewing spot on the pier… hanging from a container crane at the nearby port. :)

It was an impressive sight, with boats decorated and filled with passengers who wished to accompany the image to the Basilica Minore. Thank goodness the bridges to Mactan were able to handle the weight of thousands of spectators…

Later the same day, the Santo Niño (a replica, I gather, as the original is safely ensconced high above the church altar) begins a 6-8 hour procession on foot from the Basilica Minore around a several kilometer route around Cebu City and back to the church. What is utterly dumbfounding and impressive about this procession is that it is incredibly huge (a million plus people), incredibly somber and incredibly free of pushing and shoving. Compared to similar processions around the country, this one is a very orderly. Amazing. It began at roughly 2pm and hordes of folks bearing their own images of the Santo Niño simply walked the entire (or part of) route as an act of devotion and sacrifice.

Looking down Mango Avenue, a sea of devotees. And unlike large gatherings of pinoys around the globe, not much murmuring on chit-chatting in this crowd.

And after a couple of hours, the Santo Niño passes and the crowds wave… The image is encased in glass, resplendent in its velvet clothing, and surrounded by fresh flowers. The crowd immediately around the Santo Niño thickens and there are lots of folks “protecting” the statue, but it remains orderly.

Red and yellow flowers mirror the colors of the velvet clothing and gold accents of the statue.

Behind the statue hundreds of thousands more devotees follow the procession…

…and about 5-6 hours after it started, the streets begin to clear. News reports estimated 1.2 million people joined the procession this year. Considering that the entire population of the island of Cebu is probably just over 3 million, and the normal population of Cebu City and surrounding cities (Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, etc.) is about 1.5 million, you can imagine the magnitude of the procession. Plus the hundreds of thousands of tourists in town for the celebrations…

Note: Some photos in this post may have been taken by Mrs. MM, and AT.



  1. PITS, MANILA says:

    HURRAY FOR THE HOLY CHILD OF CEBU! A fluvial parade and another on foot for the Sto. Nino. He must be really fascinated by everything!

    Jan 23, 2012 | 12:07 pm


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  3. Bakerwannabe says:

    Amen. May the Santo Nino bless the Philippines and keep her in His care always.

    Jan 23, 2012 | 1:52 pm

  4. Faust says:

    Viva Pit Senior!

    Jan 23, 2012 | 8:20 pm

  5. KC says:

    That is amazing!! I’ve never been and likely will not be able to ever go, so it is so great to hear a breakdown of the events!

    Jan 23, 2012 | 8:48 pm

  6. millet says:

    goosebump-inducing post! The Cebuanos’ faith and love for the Holy Child is truly amazing!

    Jan 23, 2012 | 9:49 pm

  7. KUMAGCOW says:

    Now if only the Black Nazarene processions were this nicely done, no dead people no hurt ones either…

    Jan 24, 2012 | 12:50 am

  8. Enna says:

    Pit Senyor! We’ve just celebrated The Feast of Sto. Nino and Sinulog here in Stavanger, Norway last 22 January 2012. Proud to say that the crowd is getting bigger every year. Sinulog dance became so popular that we were even invited to perform in non-pinoy religious events. We’ve been doing this for 11 years now, always explain the Sinulog background every year but there are still fellow pinoys asking, “Ay, ano ba yan?” The worst is when they learned that the mass is in Cebuano, they walked out. But I’m so glad that even we have this celebration during winter time, a lot of devotees brave their way through snow, ice even storm just to be with our Senyor. VIVA SENYOR SANTO NINO!

    Jan 24, 2012 | 5:11 am

  9. bisdakRN says:

    Im even waving my hand at the Niño while looking at your pictures! Goosebumps!!!! Proud to be 100% bisdak :-)

    Jan 24, 2012 | 6:36 am

  10. Betchay says:

    Red and gold…so festive…Viva Sto. Nino! Sosyal ang fluvial parade unlike any other in the Philippines…..Yachts ba naman and sailboats ang mga nakasunod! :) I really shouldn’t miss this next year!

    Jan 24, 2012 | 8:33 am

  11. ami says:

    Oh, I thought the original statue is the one in glass at the left side of the church while facing the altar.

    Jan 24, 2012 | 8:37 am

  12. Marketman says:

    ami, from what I understand, it’s not the one most people line up to see… it’s further above the altar for safety reasons…

    Jan 24, 2012 | 8:40 am

  13. iampandora2 says:

    I remember the 2011 procession. The rain poured heavily (mini floods appearing in areas with bad drainage) but that didn’t stop people from continuing on…

    Sinulog is back in the air here in Cebu… the red/yellow banderitas are back up in Mango Avenue. :)

    Jan 6, 2013 | 6:27 am


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