3rd Sunday of January
The festival features a street parade with participants in bright colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and native gongs. Smaller versions of the festival are held in various parts of the province, also to celebrate and honor the Santo Niño. There is also a "Sinulog sa Kabataan" performed by the youths of Cebu a week before the parade. Recently, the festival has been promoted as a tourist attraction, with a contest featuring contingents from various parts of the country. The Sinulog Contest is usually held in the Cebu City Sports Complex.
The Sinulog celebration lasts for nine days, culminating on the final day with the Sinulog Grand Parade. The day before the parade, the Fluvial Procession is held at dawn with a statue of the Santo Niño carried on a pump boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City, decked with hundreds of flowers and candles. The procession ends at the Basilica where a re-enactment of the Christianizing (that is, the acceptance of Roman Catholicism) of Cebu is performed. In the afternoon, a more solemn procession takes place along the major streets of the city, which last for hours due to large crowd participating in the event. It is noted that excessive alcohol consumption is commonly observed at this event.
On the feast day at the Basilica del Santo Niño church, a Pontifical Mass is celebrated by the Cardinal with the assistance of several bishops of Cebu. Most devotees go to the Basilica to attend the mass before heading out to the streets to watch the parade.
The word Sinulog comes from the Cebuano adverb sulog which is "like water current movement," which describes the forward-backward movement of the Sinulog dance. The dance consists of two steps forward and one step backward, done to the sound of drums. The dance is categorized into Sinulog-base, Free-Interpretation. Candle vendors at the Basilica continue to perform the traditional version of the dance when lighting a candle for the customer, usually accompanied by songs in the native language.
The Sinulog dance steps were believed to originate from Rajah Humabon's adviser, Baladhay. It was during Humabon's grief when Baladhay was driven sick. He then ordered his native tribe to bring Baladhay into a chapel where the Santo Niño was enthroned. Moments later, surprisingly, Baldhay was heard shouting and was found dancing with outmost alertness. Baladhay was questioned as to whether why was he awake and was shouting. Baladhay explained that he found a small child, pointing to the image of the Santo Niño, on top of him and trying to wake him up. He, at great astonishment, scared the child away by shouting but couldn't explain why he was dancing the movements of the river. Up to this day, the two-steps forward, and the one-step backward movement dance is still used by the Santo Niño devotees believing that it was the Santo Niño's choice to have Baladhay dance.
On April 7 , 1521, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived and planted the cross on the shores of Cebu, claiming the territory for Spain. He presented the image of the child Jesus, the Santo Niño, as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Rajah Humabon. Hara Amihan was later named, Queen Juana in honor of Juana, mother of Carlos I. Along with the rulers of the island, some 800 natives were also baptized to the Roman Catholic Church. At the moment of receiving the idol, it was said that Queen Juana danced with joy bearing this image of the child Jesus. With the other natives following her example, this moment was regarded as the first Sinulog.
This event is frequently used as basis for most Sinulog dances, which dramatize the coming of the Spaniards and the presentation of the Santo Niño to the Queen. A popular theme among Sinulog dances is Queen Juana holding the Santo Niño in her arms and using it to bless her people who are often afflicted by sickness caused by demons and other evil spirits.
Arrival of López de Legazpi
After Magellan died on April 27, 1521 on the shores of Mactan, the remnants of his men returned to Spain. The Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565 and occupied the villages ruled by Rajah Tupas. In one of the huts of the burning village, one of López de Legazpi's soldiers named Juan Camus found a wooden box containing the statue of the Santo Niño lying amongst several other native idols. Historians later said that during the 44 years between the arrival of Magellan and López de Legazpi, the natives of Cebu continued to dance the Sinulog but no longer to worship their anitos (god) but to show their reverence to the Santo Niño.
The Augustinian friars that accompanied López de Legazpi in his expedition proclaimed the statue performed miracles and built a church on the site where it was found. The church was called San Agustin Church, later renamed to Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.
Letter to the King of Spain
After Juan Camus found the Santo Niño in the burning village, López de Legazpi was said to have included the incident in his report, entitled "Relation of Voyage to the Philippine Islands":
"Your Excellency should know that on that day when we entered this village (Cebu City), one of the soldiers went into a large and well-built house of an indio where he found an image of the Child Jesus (whose most holy name I pray may be universally worshipped). This was kept in its cradle, all gilded, just as if it were brought from Spain: and only the little cross, which is generally placed upon the globe in his hands, was lacking. The image was well kept in that house, and many flowers were found before it, and no one knows for what object or purpose. The soldier bowed down before it with all reverence and wonder, and brought the image to the place where the other soldiers were. I pray to the Holy Name of his image, which we found here, to help us and to grant us victory, in order that these lost people who are ignorant of the precious and rich treasure, which was in their possession, may come to knowledge of Him."
Since 1521, devotion to the Santo Niño has grown and has taken root in Philippine popular piety, particularly in the Visayas; pilgrims from different parts of Cebu and the rest of the Philippines make their yearly journey to the church to take part in the procession and festival. Starting in 1980, the Cebu City government organized the Sinulog Mardi Gras and eventually gave incentives to tribal dance groups.
The first Sinulog parade was held in 1980, organized by Dávid Odilao, then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports, and Youth Development. The parade was composed of students dressed in Moro costumes, dancing the Sinulog to the beating of drums.
The idea caught and thus, under the direction of the Cebu City Mayor Florentino Solon with the help of several influential Cebuanos, Odilao turned over the Sinulog project to the Cebu City Historical Committee under Kagawad Jesus Garcia. It was the task of the Committee to conceptualize the Sinulog festival and make it into a yearly event from then on.
In 1981 the following year, the concept of the Sinulog Parade was actualized, involving practically every sector in the Cebuano community. Marking its difference from another popular festival, the Ati-Atihan in Aklan, the Sinulog focuses not on the ritual itself but on the historical aspects of the dance, which, as it has been said, represents the link between the country's Pagan past and the Roman Catholic religion.
Sinulog coat of arms
The Cebu City Historical Committee, which was responsible for the conceptualization of the Sinulog as a provincial event, decided to adopt a logo for the Sinulog to identify it as an institutionalized yearly event. They turned to the coat of arms of the Santo Niño which consisted of a two-headed hawk that was the mark of the ruling House of Habsburg in Europe. The emblem represented the twin purpose of the Habsburg dynasty as "Champion of Catholicism and Defender of the Faith." At the time when Spain sent expeditions to the Philippines, they were under the Habsburg dynasty.
The Sinulog committee then incorporated the two-headed eagle to a native warrior's shield. The native shield is supposed to symbolize the Philippines resistance to colonization while the Santo Niño's coat of arms printed on its face represented the country's acceptance of Roman Catholicism.
 Sinulog in Macao
The Santo Nino de Cebu Fiesta was first conceived in Macao, in the last quarter of the year 2000 with Lito Escote , Louie Silagpo and a handful of devotees at the New Allied Cleaning Services, Ltd. office, with the inspiration and guidance of Rev. Father Carlos D. Saligumba, SOLT.
The first fiesta then was held in 2001 at the Saint Joseph Parish Church on the 3rd Sunday of January. It was on the second fiesta that the idea of the Sinulog came about. So, in 2003, the Sinulog in China made its debut on January 19. The affair was a surprise beyond all expectations. It was bigger than anyone expected. Bishop Lai officiated the Mass. The Macau Government threw in its support through IACM (Civil and Municipal Bureau) and MGTO (Macau Government Tourist Office). TDM (Teledefusao de Macau), Journal Tribuna and Clarim also came to help spread the news that indeed the Santo Nino is finally in Macao.
Ang salitang Sinulog ay nagmula sa salitang Cebuano na may ibig sabihin na, "tulad ng agos ng tubig." Itinutukoy dito ang sulong-urong na lakdaw padyak ng sayaw ng Sinulog. Ang mga mananayaw ay kadalasang sumasayaw ng pasulong at paurong kasabay sa tiyempo ng tambol.
Bago pa man dumating ang mga Kastila, ang Sinulog ay sinasayaw na ng mga Filipino sa Cebu sa kanilang pagbibigay-bunyi sa kanilang mga anito. Noong dumating Ferdinand Magellan sa Cebu noong 1521, si Rajah Humabon, kasama ang kaniyang asawa na si Amihan gayun din ang mga 800 mga katutubo ang ninais na mabinyagan bilang Katoliko. Ibinigay ni Magellan ang imahen ni Santo Niño sa asawa ni Rajah Humabon at pinangalanang Juana. Ang pangyayaring ito ay hindi lamang nagpakilala kay Santo Niño sa mga taga-Cebu kundi ito din ay naging isang napakahalagang karanasan: ang representasyon ni Reyna Juana, hawak ang imahen ni Santo Niño na binabasbasan ang kanilang mga tauhan upang mailayo sila sa sakit at masamang espiritu at maging importanteng bahagi ng sayaw ng Sinulog.
Noong dumating si Miguel Lopez de Legazpi at ang kaniyang mga tauhan sa Cebu noong 1565, isa sa mga sundalo ang nakatuklas ng isang kahon na may imahen ni Santo Niño. Ito ay napapaligiran ng bulaklak at mga pigurin ng mga anito. Ayon sa mga mananalaysay, ang mga pagbabago, mula sa pagsayaw ng Sinulog, sa pagsamba sa mga anito hanggang sa pagbubunyi kay Santo Niño ay naganap sa loob ng 44 na taon sa pagitan ng pagdating ni Magellan at Legazpi.
Idineklara ng Augustinian order na ang naturang imahen ay milagroso at itinatag nila ang simbahan kung saan ito nadiskubre. Ipinangalan ito na San Agustin Church hanggang pinalitan ito sa Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.
Ang debosyon sa Santo Niño ay tumagal at sumulong sa kultura ng Pilipinas sa pagdaan ng mga siglo lalo na sa rehiyon ng Visayas. Ang mga pilgrimo ay naglalakbay taon-taon sa Basilica upang makilahok sa prusisyon at sa kapistahan. Noong 1980, ang lokal na pamahalaan ng Cebu ay nangasiwa sa pagsasaayos ng Sinulog festival. Ang direktor noon ng Ministry of Sports and Youth Development na si David S. Odilao, Jr., ay nagtatag ng grupo ng mga estudyante at tinuruan sila ng sayaw ng Sinulog kasabay sa tiyempo ng tambol at pinagsuot ng moro-moro costumes upang makilahok sa pinakaunang parada ng Sinulog. Sa tagumpay ng pinakaunang kapistahan, ang event na ito ay isinagawa kada-taon.
Ang iba pang bersyon ng Sinulog ay makikita sa iba't-ibnag parte ng Cebu. Dahil sa commercialization ng pistang ito, ang Cebu ay ang nangungunang destinasyon ng mga turista tuwing buwan ng Enero sa Pilipinas.
Tampok noong ika-20 ng Enero 2008 ang pinakamalaking parada ng Sinulog sa buong Cebu. Sa pagsisimula pa lamang ng Enero ay hitik na sa makukulay na palawit, istrimer, at tindahan ang lungsod. Ayon kay Ricky Ballesteros, Direktor na Tagapagpaganap ng Sinulog Foundation, 10 mula sa 11 kalahok na bayan ang nagpadala ng pangkat para sa Sinulog. Kabilang dito ang bayan ng Bienvenido, Bohol; ang mga lalawigan ng Misamis Oriental, Sultan Kudarat, at Camarines Sur; ang mga bayan ng Sharif Kabungsuan, Maguindanao; at Upi, Hilagang Cotabato.
Binuksan noong 11 Enero 2008 ang eksibit ng mga retrato na pinamagatang "Through the Years" sa SM Cebu, Ayala Center-Cebu, at sa Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Ang nasabing pagdiriwang ay senyales din ng pagbubukas ng magardong pagdiriwang.
Opisyal na Websayt ng Sinulog sa Cebu. (hinango noong Enero 19, 2009).
Philippine Country. (hinango noong Enero 19, 2009).
Araw. Issue Number 1. Maynila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2004.
Mosqueda Jr., Mars M. "Sinulog Festival fever hits Cebu City" na mula sa Manila Bulletin, Tomo 421, Bilang 8, 8 Enero 2008, p. 13.
Hango mula sa Sinulog noong 26 Disyembre 2007.