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.

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The Acacia Grill

I was in Carcar City with friends recently to shop for espadrilles to give away for Christmas.  It was almost 11am when we got there and after an hour of shopping, I was ready for some grub.  I asked one of the shopkeepers where we can find a nice restaurant for lunch, to my utter disappointment I was directed to the local Jollibee.  She may have seen the look on my face as she hastily suggested Mang Inasal as an alternative.

It turned out, we didn’t have to look far.  When my friend came back from a visit to the loo, he said there was a grill at the opposite end of the shoe stalls.  The Acacia Grill.  Now that sounds more like it.

The place was al fresco with heavy wooden furniture.  There were a few old and sturdy acacia trees by the roadside but the restaurant was surrounded by young, shady talisay trees.  They serve familiar native dishes while the price, although slightly higher than normal, seemed fair enough considering there were very few options around.  On a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest, I am giving them a 3.o for pricing.

There were just a few diners when we got there.

We ordered grilled fish –kitong, fried whole chicken – native style, no batter, no frills, sauteed mixed vegetables, grilled chicken breast and seafood sotanghon or glass noodle soup.

I was surprised when the food was served in less than 8 minutes.  The fact that the grilled fish and kinilaw were fresh was another pleasant surprise considering how far away the place was and how I imagined the low customer turn out.  As I later saw, the place filled up in trickles.  It would seem to me that most of the diners were out-of-towners, those visiting Carcar or those coming from or going to the southern parts of Cebu.  No locals here.

The waiters who wore the requisite short-sleeved barongs were attentive.

I am giving the place a 3.0 for service.

The mixed vegetable was a puzzle to me.  It was a pile of diced carrots, chayote, cauliflower, string beans and potatoes sauteed with squid and pork.  It wasn’t chinese chopsuey, it also wasn’t the native utan or dinuldog.  It had a thin film of grease all over it.  This grease was also evident with the noodle soup.  But they both tasted good.

Overall, together with the fresh fish and the juicy native style fried chicken, I am giving taste another 3.0

This place is definitely the place to go if you are all too familiar with the Carcar lechon, Jollibee or Mang Inasal.  Where else?

My friends, Shaun, Armie and Alexa on one of the quaint wooden swinging chair