This year was the year that I finally got my wish after moving here almost 10 years ago.
When we moved, I remember seeing these incredibly vibrant photos of people dancing in the streets with these amazing costumes. They were always smiling faces, and to me, they were full of so much culture. I never knew the Philippines had such amazing celebrations and fiestas!
Soon after seeing these photos, I learned that Sinulog was a feast that was centered around the Feast of the Sto. Niño.
Y’all know my husband is Nino, right? Well, he’s not a Niño, but rather a Nino…and his birthday is in January, so it was a fitting celebration for us to learn more about and attend together.
This is what I learned from the Rappler IG account:
“The word Sinulog comes from the Cebuano adverb sulog which roughly means “like water current movement;” it describes the forward-backward movement of the Sinulog dance. Natives were already dancing this way in honor of their wooden idols and anitos (spirits) long before Magellan’s arrival.
The Sinluog dance steps are believed to originate from Rajah Humabon’s adviser, Baladhay. It was during Humabon’s grief when Baladhay fell sick. Humbaon ordered his native trive to bring Baladhay into a room where the Santo Niño was entroned, along with the other pagan gods of the native Cebuanos. After a few days passed, Baladhay was heard shouting and was found dancing with utmost alertness.
Baladhay was questioned as to why he was awake and shouting. Pointing to the the image of Santo Niño, Galadhay explained that he had found on top of him a small child trying to wake him and tickling him with the midrib of a coconut. Greatly astonished, he scared the child away by shouting. The little child got up and started making fun of Baladhay. In turn, Baladhay danced with the little child and explained that he was dancing the movements of the river.
To this day, the two-steps forward, one-step backward movement is still used by Santo Niño devotees who believe that it was the Santo Niño’s choice to have Baladhay dance.”
So for his birthday, we decided to go back to one of our favorite resorts.
Abaca is a small boutique resort with only six suites and three villas boasts one of the best restaurants Nino and I have been to.
We knew there would be a crazy crowds to fight. We knew that even if Abaca wasn’t in the middle of where the action is for the fiesta, we would still be able to seek the assistance of the staff of the resort to help us get where we needed to go to see this awesome celebration up front close, and personal.
Ok. So what does that mean? It means that we wanted the fun of the fiesta, but not a fiesta 24/7!
Abaca is such a gem, that when we visited this exclusive Cebu resort for the first time as a couple we didn’t leave the resort. I’m not kidding!
We wanted this mini vacay to celebrate Nino’s birthday to be an experience to remember, while also being a time in which we could rest and recharge. We allotted the first two days to explore, and the next two days to rest, relax, and enjoy happy couple time. Planning our days this way gave us the healthy balance that we wanted and needed to also nourish our relationship.
We also were really lucky that our very good friends Fannie & Dhic, and Fannie’s sister Arlene were also there to take us around and show us a good time the way the locals would do it.
Because of their home town connections, we were able to get very special passes which would allow us to even walk the parade route with the dancers and the floats. We also had great seats to see all of the stage productions as they competed for the title of Best in Show.
To be honest, both Nino and I had never seen anything like it! The stage productions had hundreds of people and hand made props that were AMAZING! Fannie explained to me how so many of these competing teams came from far and wide and would have to fundraise for their costumes, travel expenses, and moving stage props that would ultimately aid the winning team in taking home their titles.
I noticed that there was also a Gigante competition going on, the same way that it happens in Marinduque. When we go to Marinduque, I am always amazed at how they are pieced together…some with recycled materials as well!
I found this particular one to be interesting because the body was decorated and embellished with rope and twine.
Another thing I found really amazing is that many of the dancers involved in the street dance competition are CHILDREN! These kids were all decked out in their costumes under the heat. (I got sunburned it was so hot.) And there they were…all of them dancing and smiling…truly a FIESTA and celebration for The Santo Niño…I LOVE IT!
From costumes to head gear…each dance troop was more and more beautiful.
And each dance troop had a queen. She would carry The Santo Niño and dance so gracefully. Here is one of the queens who was resting before moving on to the next phase of the parade route. She touched up her make up just before the photo. Isn’t she gorgeous?
Many of the floats were adorned with flowers…but all floats had their own Santo Niño.
Each of the girls also had boys as partners. The dancing was amazing…and they seemed like they had an endless source of energy…inspired by the Baby Jesus, Himself.
Having these special passes made it easier for us to move around. I swear if we didn’t have them, I know I would be miserable. The crowd was so large that you would be forced to go wherever the crowd was going as a group. Having VIP passes (that I learned you can purchase from the city) made it a truly pleasurable experience. If I had my big camera it would have been even better because my photos would be super clear.
After a long day of walking all over the city, Nino and I were ready to go back to Abaca. We had asked the car and driver to stay near by so that we would be able to move around the city and go back to Mactan when we were tired. This was probably the best thing we could have ever done.
We also used all of the restaurants in The Abaca Group as stopping points during our walking and for our meals. We love their food and the concepts of all of their restaurants so this was a no brainer. It made it all the more pleasurable for the inner foodies…
At some point, Fannie was trying to convince me to look for some street food to indulge in…I didn’t get a chance to do that, but maybe I can try that next year?
By this time, we were ready to call it a night. All that walking was tiring, and we just wanted to relax in the air conditioned villa.
We got up early the next morning to visit three more places on our list.
- Basilica Minore del Santo Niño
- Basilica del Santo Niño Museum
- Magellan’s Cross
Here are the photos from our second day of Sinulog activities:
I am so amused how there is something for everyone during these festivals. In one family, you might have someone who is very prayerful and renewed spiritually by attending the services, the masses, and the lighting of candles, and on the other hand, you might have a little one who would just love to have a Lightning McQueen balloon…
VIVA PIT SENYOR!
Whenever I go into a new church I say my prayers and make three wishes. I learned this from my mother while we were traveling around Italy when I was 18 years old. It always feels like such a special moment when I enter a church for the first time. I am reminded not just to ask for some help with my wishes, but to also give thanks for the many blessings that I have received due to His goodness.
These ladies were all dressed the same and standing outside the gates of Magellan’s Cross. For a nominal Php10 a candle you could ask for one of these ladies to say a prayer for you. Once they say their prayers for your and your family, you can toss your candles inside the gates.
I really found the entire process intriguing. I also felt like she really meant all of the prayers asked for me too. I was touched.
A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on
After making sure to visit all of these places, we built up quite an appetite. Our friends suggested a local restaurant so we could get our fill before doing a little shopping. I had planned on visiting a store I found on Instagram, and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be distracted with any hunger pains! hehehehehehe.
This lunch was awesome. Nino and I actually wanted to try another restaurant from The Abaca Group, but it was a good thing that our friends insisted on some local fare so we could enjoy different flavors.
Again, this just gives us another reason to go back and try Tavolata during another visit to Cebu.
Look for my separate post on Bao Bao Babies. This was the only other stop I wanted to make before heading to the 7D Dried Mango Factory, and then before heading back to our home away from home, Abaca.
Heading back to the hotel, I was already looking forward to my spa treatments. It was the perfect way to end the very busy three full days in Cebu with friends, learning more about the rich Filipino culture that is intertwined and influence by a deep spirituality and stronger base in faith.
I know that Nino enjoyed himself, just as much as I did…we were pampered, and hosted in a way that only Abaca can take care of us, and we got to spend some one on one time to enrich our relationship.
So we were surely refreshed as we were already thinking about our trip back to Manila and the kids as we were winding down for the night…
But not before we indulged in a little time by the pool…
Taking in a little sun by the water…
The Abaca Group has 7 different restaurants that serve up great food with even better service. I’m so happy for this dynamic duo, Jason and Anna, knowing that it was just 8 years ago when they opened their doors to the Abaca Resort adjoined to their Abaca Restaurant. Now they have 7 restaurants that we can explore!
I suppose one could say that our experience would have been much different if we stayed closer to the town center and were surrounded by all the sights and sounds of what the fiesta encompasses.
But I think the fact that we stayed with Abaca was the reason why we enjoyed ourselves so much. The staff’s attentiveness made it easy for us to move around the city, figure out places to go, and left us with very little to worry about in terms of logistics.
Nino and I were able to invest the time in the activities that we wanted to see and participate in first hand, and we were able to spend time with friends, eat fantastic food in at least four of the seven restaurant concepts from The Abaca Group and RELAX.
Which is exactly what we needed…