A parade of extravagant costumes, coordinated dances, marching bands with belting horn sections and entrancing drum beats that make you want to move. This all followed by a street party of epic proportions where rum and beer flowed freely like open taps and the music never stopped. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousand people in a constant state of trance descend on Cebu City flooding the streets and dance until the sunrise. Most of the city halts, streets are closed while traffic is at a standstill on the remaining ones. Accommodation loaded I managed a spot. I was here and I was ready.
I don’t necessarily plan my trips around festivals, but it is a definite bonus when one happens to land on my time there. Sinulog, the queen of all Filipino festivals on the third Sunday of every January conveniently was taking place four days after I arrived in the Philippines. The decision was obvious. Well it wasn’t even really a question after having it described to me as a mash of Holi, Songkran, Mardi Gras and Carnival, but ultimately a religious festival celebrating the pagan past along with the strong acceptance of Catholicism introduced by the Spanish hundreds of years ago. I’d be an idiot not to take advantage of this opportunity to see how this all played out.
We left Le Village hostel (great place to stay by the way) and led by some of the staff we made our way to the parade. A throng of people at least half a dozen deep lined the street probably for hours prior protecting themselves from the sun as they were in it for the long haul. The parade went on for the majority of the day with countless performances, floats and displays making their way across the city. The sidewalk too crowed to really make much headway, we jumped the rope. It started with a subtle walk inside to move along quicker, but before too long turned into joining in and dancing our way along. We just needed to blend in as best as a bunch of foreigners can and all was fine. The parade was a stop and go affair while performances took place we had front row seats. Slowly but surely a couple got carried away, stretching the limits a bit too far and we were escorted from the street. Bound to happen sometime.
After a taste of the parade, we went down a side street to see what took place away from the main event. Debauchery to sum it up. Drinking and smoking were not allowed in the presence of the parade, but just around corners the complete flipside was there. Immediately everyone got a taste of rum poured down their throats from someone hailing us in. The first one is always the hardest. After a long night previously this was the kick start I needed. Stopping at a handful of bars and pop up tents we slowly found one where we stayed put for the remainder of the day. Location that is, no one stopped moving for hours. The booze kept flowing, beer being sprayed like champagne, water hoses soaking crowds, powdered paint began to fly and the music was constant along with the incessant yelling of Pit Senyor, the phrase of the day (which later I learnt meant to call, ask and plead to the king).
Day slowly turned to night. The all-out peaceful riot was decimating the streets and it wasn’t over yet. I was on my way back to the hostel, attempting to walk through the crowd like I’d never seen at Mango Square. An ocean of people moving in waves and the hurricane continued until morning. I made it back around 10:30pm as many were getting ready to go back out. Unsuccessfully trying to remove the paint and yet again my beard was stained like after Holi, but green this time. Another unforgettable day in the Philippines and festival behind me. A few farewells as I dropped face down in my bed. Early bus rides were my nemesis but a necessary evil as I headed north to the island of thresher sharks…