The Colors of Spain


I have always associated people, places and events with smells, colors, tastes. I guess this is our mind tagging them in its archive with some sort of filing system. Sinulog has always been red and gold. Growing up I have always wondered why these two colors, I have always thought they were so 80’s. Later on, I found that these are colors of Spain, our conquistadores.


Without fail, every year on the 1st day of the novenario, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino will always be decked with banderitas and swags in red and gold. Last January 10 was the 1st day of the novenario and it was gloomy and rainy. This didn’t stop devotees from showing up to complete their 9 – day commitment.


To my delight, the Basilica had prepared large umbrellas for everyone to use! In the usual colors of Spain. Good job Augustinians!



Drums Beating

Last weekend we went to the City Sports Center after almost a month of wolfing down tons of food from the holiday parties.  We wanted to start our early morning walks again.  How time flies!  When we got there, we saw that the Sinulog stage is already up and a whole contingent was hard at work rehearsing at 530am!  It is Sinulog Month and in a few weeks time, the Grand Parade.


Ofcourse, the oldies would always caution and remind everyone to focus on the solemnity and the real reason for the season – Sto. Nino.  This sounds like Christmas to me but I, erring on the side of sounding self-righteous, have always been one to celebrate this festival for the right reason.

For almost 12 years now, I have always completed the 9 day novena.  Okay there may have been years I didnt, but for those years, I made sure to join the foot procession.


So anyway, when we got home from the sports centre I went online to check out news and updates around the festivities.  I ran into an article that posted the English version of the Prayer to Sto. Nino.  Reposting here with some images of my beloved baby Sto Nino taken from exhibits around the city.

Prayer to the Sto. Nino:

O Senor Santo Niño, you are our king and our God, we worship you. You are our strong defender, we turn to you. You are the patron of Cebu, the Philippines and the world, we come to you; You have made extraordinary wonders through your miraculous image in those chosen islands, remember us. Look down at this poor soul that comes to you for help. Lead us with Your wisdom; discipline us with your truth; console us with your tenderness, protect us with your might.

We consecrate today our thoughts of you, only with you shall they be occupied; our words, only of you shall they speak; our sufferings, that we may endure them for your sake. We beg you Señor Santo Niño, illumine our understanding, kindle our will, cleanse our body, sanctify our soul. We wish what you wish, because you wish, as you wish, as long as you wish.

Grant us, Señor Santo Niño, that we may feel love toward you, be strict toward ourselves be zealous toward our fellowmen, and rightly despise the things of the world. Help us to overcome sensuality with strict discipline, avariciousness with generosity, anger with gentleness, indolence with zealous industry. Make us wise in counsel, courageous in danger, patient in adversity, humble in prosperity.


Teach us, dear Santo Niño, how worthless is the world, how sublime is heaven, how brief is time, how long is eternity. Grant us, lastly, that we may remember you, adore you, love you and serve you here on earth that we may be happy with you forever and ever in heaven.


The Long and Short of the Sinulog Grand Parade 2011

This is the opinion of someone who has closely followed the Sinulog for years, both it’s cultural and religious aspects.

I am as old as the Sinulog itself and has always been a huge fan since childhood.  I am also a dance enthusiast, although I have had no formal training. This article is from an expectator’s point of view.

This year I obliged a friend and joined him at the grandstand as he has never experienced it from that vantage point.  Now, I have done this for years as far back as the Ayala days(Cebu Business Park), although I haven’t been at the grandstand for at least 6 years now.

I’ve set his expectations that we will be needing hours of endurance sitting through an almost 8- 12 hour program and with 151 dancing contingents this year, this was assuredly an accurate estimate.  I have also told him that from my experience years ago, we’d have to sit through some really boring performances before the crowd “wowwers” come in. 

I think a third of all the groups last Sunday were boring.  Sinulog is old, old to me that is and I believe it is really just for first time tourists. I just thought that the choreographers would consider a few things for the coming years.  What I gathered from years of watching the winners are these:

1.  Be original.  All, I mean ALL the winners always come in with a fresh original idea.  It can be a storyline, the costume, the theme and use of props that have never been seen since.  The problem with most choreographers is that they  take “inspiration” from the prior year’s winners, not knowing that there are 2-3 others doing the same thing.  In the end, they all look the same. 

I will never forget how the San Diego dancers started the bouffant skirts and the baroque decor and the whimsical wings.  Or the Lanao del Norte team and theirwide salakot hats and their use of their ethnic musical instruments.  Not to mention their very colorful and detailed costumes.  Or the Tangub team with their old-world charm and very original and authentic dance steps.  Nowadays, these themes are copied in many varied forms. 

The Lumad Basakanon team also is very original what with their costume, headdresses(wooden beads and wigs), their choreography and their annual themes.  It is only that this group has never put in something fresh for a couple of years now that they are starting to loose their winning touch.

Some of the other notables in recent years are the Pintados of Leyte, Iligan(one time winner), the Buyuganons of Abuyog Leyte, Alcoy(with their small black bird and an environmentalist theme), the Tawo tawo festival and Carcar.  All of them bring in fresh ideas and themes mostly from their local festival.

I was very disappointed to see three groups using the same story line this year.  All of them Sinulog – based.  The storyline about a child sideswiped by a vehicle prompting the need for the Holy Child’s intervention.

2.  Put lots of surprises.  Yeah, yeah.  I believe in theory most choreographers know this.  But what makes the cut is the timing and execution of these surprise elements. Most winning teams time these surprises with the music.  Usually they also drop the suprise after a series of very quick routines and then BAM!  – the suprise.  These winners also execute them in a smart and snappy split second move.  What I noticed with most of the contingents, those who didn’t win, is that although they came ready with their bag of tricks, either the timing is off or the execution is really not there at all.  A delayed snap of a prop would be all it takes to ruin the surprise.

3.  Choreography.  Some choreographers think they can just get away with huge visuals.  To please the crowd yes, but to win, no.  The panel of judges these recent years now include national performing masters.  This means they have the eye for true art.  Nothing beats original choreography.  And if you are doing a theme adopted from a folk dance, at least lend some integrity to the dance and stick to it.  Research also lends credibility to the whole production.

4.  Visuals.  The games have changed.  Props have gone bigger and bigger every year as more contingents use platforms and cut-outs that can conjure up many varied forms.  I saw one lsat Sunday that can be snapped three ways, from a paisley pattern, to a squid and then to become the image of the Holy Child.  Aside from the props, the wise use of color and sheen and sparkle in the costumes also make for a winning group.  Patterns (some very minute)and headdresses can make a small group seem big in numbers.

One interesting observation I have is that some contingents have as many props men as they have dancers.  WOW!

5.  Music.  I remember how pleased I was as a kid to have heard the beat of bamboo and flute on top of the usual drum beats.  It was very refreshing.  I now cannot remember what contingent that was and what year.  But the wise use of music and its arrangement, timing it with the choreography can make a big difference.  When a crowd of dancers come out, as if in a fiesta, the sound of trumpets signal to the audience that it is a merry time. The suspense in drum rolls, the delicate sound of birds, the flute, etc., these are all the small details that make a big difference.

The Sinulog Foundation now conducts seminars to choreographers in a move to up the ante.  Among others, they emphasize the importance of integrity in the production by doing research, key points in choreography, and overall how to give a WOW production.

I sincerely hope that our local choreographers take advantage of this opportunity and maybe in the coming years, we shall see them step up to the challenge of the visiting contingents.

The King’s New Clothes

Last Christmas my mom asked me something very different as a gift.  She wanted new vestments for our Sto.Nino.  Our Nino (image of the Holy Child of Prague) is very small and has been with the family since 1981 when Pope John Paul visited Cebu City, Philippines.  He has never changed his vestments and has only been taken out of our home in the past 3 years for the annual procession.  Prior to that, I never thought about bringing him with me for the procession or having a change of clothes made for him.  This request from my mom was a pleasant idea.  Why not?

We never got around to it until after the Christmas Holidays and the novenario was well on its way.  After 30 years, our Nino will have a fashion make – over.  His old garments consisted of a white tunic and a red cape made from some felt material with modest trimmings.  He lost his orb and scepter in the recent years that we have been taking him out for the procession.  His crown is broken on one end and has lost its sheen. 

 It is indeed time for a change.

My mom has already made arrangements with a lady named Sephine (short for Josephine) just outside the Basilica.  So after attending the 4th novena mass, we went to her stall and discussed the specifications of the new outfit. I had no idea that the garment making for the Nino’s was a thriving cottage industry.   According to Sephine, it is only around Christmas up to the Sinulog when they are really busy wih their business so they try to make the most of it. 

The making and fitting of the new garments would take around two hours but since we had to run some errands, we agreed to come back the next day for our Nino.

I was very happy to see him the next day.  Dashing in his new white tunic and dark red velvet cape.  The cape has nice gold trimmings and embroidery. His crown is now repainted a matte gold.  However the broken side will never be restored.  According to Sephine, they also clean the whole statuette and repaint the parts that have been damaged thru the years.  A definite no-no though is to touch up the face or the whole head.  She adds that the head is the true indicator of the idol’s antiquity or age.  Our Nino now also has a new scepter and orb in his hands.

Here’s our beautiful Nino and his new clothes!  Ready for the celebration of his fiesta.  Viva Senyor Sto. Nino.!

Carcar Photoblog 2

Carcar brings to mind ampao(blocks of rice crispies), bocarillos(candied coconut meat) and chicharon(pork cracklings).  It also conjures memories of prominent old Cebuano families and their even older houses.  So it was a pleasant surprise for me to learn that there was a public swimming pool in the early part of the 20th century in this town(well, technically a city now).  It is just that Carcar to me has always been an old provincial town, and a public pool is so urban chic, most especially during those days.  In part 1 of this series, I did mention that the City Musuem (which was a dispensary for the longest time) was originally a clubhouse.  This swimming pool is just behind that building and I would surmise that this was a main attraction to the clubhouse.

Again, the famous Mayor Mercado commissioned this very forward thinking social center during the 1920’s.  Built around it is a two – storey pavilion with beautiful lattice-work.  I can only wonder how it was during those days when it was anything but grey. 

(Seen from this side, the ground level is chopped into individual dressing rooms.  It was also said that prior to the dispensary becoming a museum and the restoration work began, these dressing rooms housed the local juveniles as well)

To the right of the ground level are gazebos where I believe picnickers would enjoy refreshments, the rest of the area is lined with individual dressing rooms, separate ones for men and for women.  

The pool itself look to be around 5-6 feet deep on the shallow side and maybe up to 10-12 on the deep end.  I can only guess as the guide also did not have any estimation.  Two concrete posts jut out in the middle of the shallow end, as per our guide, it used to support the diving board. 

I wonder if the pool was tiled during those days.

Carcar Photoblog 1


It was a day after the town fiesta in the name of their patron Sta. Catalina which was also Thanksgiving Holiday (Pacific Standard Time) for those of us in the call center industry.  My team and I decided to take advantage of this long weekend to bond.  The team rented a private resthouse and partied like there was no tomorrow.  We all had a blast.

Shaun followed later that day and slept over.  The next day, when the rest were getting to head back to Cebu, he and I decided to stay awhile and explore Carcar.

We discovered that it was one of four heritage towns in the entire country.  While Silay, Vigan and Taal are Spanish heritage towns, Carcar is more American owing much to Mayor Mercado in the 1920’s who was an architect himself.   Although you will see Spanish Mestiza architecture, these are side-by side Victorian architecture.

The most prominent of the Spanish era houses was the Balay na Tisa. The architecture itself is not Spanish but very Filipino.  It has a roof made of tisa (clay material) tiles, high ceilings, large windows with the ventanillas(mini windows) below them. All these serve to deflect the heat and make it more adoptable to the temperate humid climate.  Th ground floor is made of stone.

The Carcar City Musuem is one of the buildings that is more American – Victorian.  It has a beautiful facade with intricate lattice-work.  It used to be a clubhouse complete with a swimming pool at the back.  It was then turned into a dispensary between 1937 -2005 when it was turned into a museum.

What could be more American than a bandstand at the town center?  The bandstand-rotunda was commissioned by Carcar’s most famous Mayor Mercado around the 1920’s.  The very first settlers in Carcar were from Valladolid, a seaside baranggay.  They wanted to get away from the Moro raiders so they moved inland to where the rotunda stands now.  The rotunda was said to have been built to mark where these first settlers set up camp.

How We Lost to Camsur (3rd Part)

What we have, what we don’t and what is(not) happening. 

One of Bohol’s thrust is eco-tourism, Camsur’s is nature and sporting events while Boracay clearly is enjoying the fruits from its beaches.  While Bohol has and Boracay clearly wanted to preserved their shorelines, we chopped ours with barbed wire fences and walls posturing as wave breakers.  While Boracay has learned its lesson from the E. coli scare in 1997, we’ve done nothing to clean our waters, Talisay and Lilo-an, anyone?

Whatever natural blessings these other destinations have, Cebu also has.  For crying out loud, Camsur had to CREATE a waterpark.  It is also not so much as what a place already has but what is HAPPENING.  Camsur has IRONMAN, now for Cebu, aside from Sinulog, what else do we have?  For example, Olanggo Island.  It is known for bird watching during the wet season.  Not many people have tried this activity.  It is sad considering how near Olanggo is from Mactan island.  What about a free or subsidized ferry boat ride?  Just like Statten Island’s in NYC?  Amazingly, the Talima resort, with its meager offering of fun with three inflatable “toys” draws more crowds than bird-watching.  With all the water around us, has anyone ever thought of a water sporting event in Cebu?  What about our diving industry?  What has the local government ever done to support it?  A strong partership between these private groups and the local government can create wonderful ideas for pushing Cebu’s tourism industry. 

I envy Davao’s well manicured parks.  The Sto Nino Shrine, Matina HIlls and the People’s Park.  Cebu on the other hand, allegedly cannot even afford to light the Fuente Osmena oval and make its fountain flow regularly that the Lhuillers have to “sponsor” these expenses.  Allegedly, Cebu was also hardpressed to finance the electric bill of the 2nd Mandaue – Mactan Bridge.  The Heritage Monument in Parian, just across my bedroom is funded by the National Government.

I could be wrong but I don’t think money is the issue here, I believe its the lack of political will to really make things happen.

In summary, how did we lose to Camsur?  Cebu is dirty.  Although we have a rich culture and heritage, we have left most of them to neglect.  Although we are blessed with natural resources, we are not maximizing their potential and in most cases, we are slowly destroying them.  Although we have a strong private sector in the tourism and hospitality industry, we have not supported them in a way that encourages long – term benefits for both parties(the businessmen and the government). 

Let’s clean up, continue to enhance infrastructure, provide for alternative source of income for the “locals”(vendors and pickpockets), save heritage buildings(including the Osmena Mausoleum), save our natural resources (beaches and mountains), support the local tourism industry (I don’t mean the big chains but the local resorts, diving shops, small travel agencies, the souvenir shops, the native crafts industry, etc), create, if not support, EVENTS that provide for experiences and memories for our tourists, not just sights to see.  Lastly, for our local government, to stop the bickering and stop the focus on business for personal gain, but instead redirect attention to a strong income source for the city. – tourism.  The alarm is on, it is time.

How We Lost to Camsur (2nd part)

In the first part of this series, I wrote about how Cebu lost to Camsur and started to point out some of the issues our local government needs to address if we are to regain our top spot in tourism.

Here, I continue with some more issues…

The problem with street vendors.  I remember a long time ago when then Mayor Osmena tried to “clean up” the street vendors outside the Basilica to ease up the traffic.  The best they were able to do was convince these vendors to set up shop within the yellow railings and not overflow into the streets.  Now, there are no more alleyways for pedestrians.  Although pedestrians plying the area behind the Basilica (D. Jakosalem) do not cause as much traffic anymore it is still the same difference. 

This rather ineffective compromise brings to mind the street vendors of Colon.  It was 2007 if I am not mistaken when the 12th Asean Summit was held in Cebu, what the City Government did was to gather these streetvendors, organized them (although by that time, they may already have unions themselves), wooed them with Christmas gifts and then, tried to paint all their stalls an ugly yellow and green.  The best they ever did was to organize these stalls INTO the pedestrian lanes again, causing very tight pedestrian traffic that’svery conducive for snatchers and pickpockets. 

Colon was then branded as “Chinatown” where chinese lanterns were hung and students from Chinses schools were asked to line the streets and cover the not – so – nice spots.  They even had “fake vendors”.  Actors and actresses dressed in Chinese costumes pretending to peddle fruits and other items.  It was a show. 

Why not put something in place to ensure long term, sustainable development in protecting Colon?  I cannot help but admire how Senator Gordon have turned Subic around, and in so doing, he was also able to provide for jobs for his people.  My proposition is not to kick these vendors out of the streets, but rather, in trying to clean up Colon, maybe we can provide jobs for them instead?  Just about now, we are in dire need of garbage collectors, street sweepers, traffic enforcers, police, etc.  Why not make these available to them as an alternative.  Also, I cannot help but notice there are many vacant spots and uninhabited buildings in the downtown area.  Can we not organize these vendors into these instead?  Maybe swap deals with the land and building owners?  I am reminded of Tutuban, Divisoria and Baclaran with their airconditioned buildings where vendors are organized.

REp Osmena can be iron fisted.  I grew up in Sanciangko and cannot forget how the Tartanillas and all their Kutcheros were unceremoniously banned from plying the city streets. owing to the traffic they cause.  Rep Osmena then, did not have any care for whatever happened to them.  I should say, if he or Mayor Rama exercises the same will with the Colon street vendors, I don’t see why Colon cannot be restored to its old glory.  I believe, all these years, Osmena and Rama, just plain did not care.

Traffic in Colon?  Just like the tartanillas, the vendors and the pedestrians, traffic is caused just as much by the jeepneys whose official routes cross Colon Street.  It is ironic how, after trying to address the traffic problems in downtown Cebu many years back, now Rep Osmena is regressing.  There was a proposition for a rail transit system to be put up, and he blocks it and criticizes it a whole lot.  The SRP, which could be a very good alternate route for public transport going south, is exclusive to private vehicles only.  Again, Osmenas mandate.  Instead, what Rep Osmena is supporting is a bus system to add to the already jeepney congested downtown streets. 

Police visibility.  I wonder what policemen do.  This is because, other than those we see inside precincts or in patrol cars we see, I don’t see them anywhere at all.  Tourists, especially western ones visiting Asian countries, are very concerned about safety.  If we are to position Cebu as a world – class destination, we need to go all the way.  Where are the policemen?  I remember my first time arriving in NYC, I emerged from a subway unto Bryant Park or 42nd street(I am not sure anymore), I had a terrible time finding my way to my hotel and all I needed was ask a policeman.  A single block can have as much as 8 policemen, a pair for each side.  That is not mentioning the street cameras.  I cannot believe that NYC had the highest crime rate over 15 – 20 years ago.  I felt very safe walking its street and even the subways.  Recently, I see kiosks around the city, ostensibly to house police personnel.  Sadly, most of the time they are empty.  Yes Mr. Mayor, I pass by them everyday, one below the flyover near TESDA and the one in Colon marked as Brgy Carbon.  If we ever run into trouble, we fend for ourselves.  No police in sight. 

And what about the city’s crime rate?  While not necessarily the worst, downtown Cebu and the city’s jeepney rides are notorious for pickpockets and snatchers.  And as the holiday season approaches, we can also expect more street beggars and homeless children plying the streets with their “carols”. 

(To be continued…)