Photo by:Yes, the Best of Cebu

For the years in which this Sinulog festival was conducted, has it forgotten the seriousness of its import in a commemoration that focuses on the Sto Nino?

The recent controversy on the opening day of Cebu’s Sinulog Festival featuring a dance purportedly “from BARMM” by the Cebu Technological University has gone viral.

Outrage poured in that ranged from offending cultural sensibilities, ignorance of history and religious blasphemy.

The anger, justified, came swiftly and from some, unforgiving that generated an apology – an apology that is tepid at best, couched in general terms was published  in The Freeman and Cebu’s Sunstar.

What lessons did that controversial dance generate from  such a hyped festival dedicated to the Sto. Nino? 

It is not enough that a choreographer knows how to organize movements and patterns. He needs to educate himself, to do research, to be honest, especially if the dance is sourced from a different culture other than his own.  

 In other words, don’t feign innocence as the apology suggests. 

From Conceptualization to its execution of a dance takes a long process. Does this suggest that the choreographer and organizers should not be aware of what they were doing? Did they even take pause to consider the significance, the history, and the symbolisms of the dance from a culture they were trying to take from?

 Spectacle and razzle dazzle at the expense of a group of people could never justify the free interpretation and innovation from a culture that is not owned by Cebuanos, much less from a university that we presume teaches Philippine History.

Cebu is a metropolis, and its progress must be an inspiration to many. And this reminds me, and I digress a bit, how Humabon and his wife were baptized and given the miraculous Sto. Nino by the conquistador, Legaspi.

Photo by:Yes, the Best of Cebu

I remember the late Fr. Miquel Anselmo Bernad, SJ had asked in an essay if the natives were aware of their conversion to Christianity. Well, Humabon must have been pragmatic as well, for he saw it would be to his advantage to befriend a bigger force against Lapulapu and as an animist, what was one more addition to another god in his people’s pantheon of gods?

So, is it this cavalier attitude (like Humabon’s) of holding a festival and losing its deep essence by not moving forward in understanding the creative process and how the entire festival is managed?

And not only are the Muslims offended but as a Catholic with Cebuano ancestors, relatives, and friends, I am just as offended that the revered Sto. Nino is thrown into this controversy and all because an ignoramus of a choreographer and his ilk failed to consider the consequences of appropriating a dance fraught with cultural nuances and symbolisms.

 Innovation or adaptation is good, mind you, but it comes with responsibility. Aside from this and most importantly, the true essence of the sinulog festival has been reduced to mere commodity, its serious import lost to everyone.

Our country is drowning with festivals in our effort to generate revenue from tourists so that festivals have become homogeneous, and the only difference would be the product being promoted. Soon we’ll have Festival of Pearly Shells, Festival of Squids or Festival of Bananas ad nauseum — all for profit in our consumerist world.

 In this case, the Mindanao Creative& Cultural Workers Group, Inc. (CCWG) posts, starting today, comments and reactions by some of our friends and an old article by this writer on the singkil. – cfgo, mccwg

Photos: Yes, the Best of Cebu

MCCWG 2023


CHRISTINE F. GODINEZ ORTEGA is a retired full Professor and Director of the Office of Publication & Information, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City. She finished her AB English and American Literature and MA in Creative Writing (major in Poetry) at Silliman University and her Doctor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing major in Fiction with High Distinction at the De la Salle University, Manila. She has served as Editor of the MSU-IIT

Christine Godinez-Ortega

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