The Colors of Spain

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Amen

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.!