Sinulog is a dance ritual in honor of the miraculous image of the Santo
Niño. The dance moves two steps forward and one step backward to the
sound of the drums. This movement resembles the current (Sulog) of what
was known as Cebu's Pahina River. Thus, in Cebuano, they say it's Sinulog.
More than just the meaning of the word is the significance of the
dance. Historians now say that Sinulog, which is of pagan origin is the
link between the country's pagan past and its Christian present. Let's
trace its history.
Historical accounts say that before Portuguese navigator came to Cebu
on April 7, 1521 to plant the cross on its shore and claim the country for the King of Spain, Sinulog
was already danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and
Then Magellan came and introduced Christianity. He gave the Santo Niño
(image of the Child Jesus) as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of
Cebu's Rajah Humabon who was later named Queen Juana. At that time, not
only the rulers were baptized but also about 800 of their subjects.
Unfortunately however, shortly after the conversion, Magellan went into
reckless adventure by fighting the reigning ruler of Mactan, Rajah
Lapu-lapu, with only a handful of men. He died in the encounter. That was
on April 27, 1521.
The remnants of Magellan's men were however able to return to Spain to
report the incident and the possibility of conquest. It took 44 years
before a new group came and started the formal Christianization of the
islands. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565. His
ships bombarded the village and in one of the burning huts, one of his
soldiers named Juan Camus found inside a wooden box the image of the Santo
Niño lying side by side with native idols.
Historians now say that during the 44 years between the coming of
Magellan and Legaspi, the natives continued to dance the Sinulog. This
time however, they danced it no longer to worship their native idols but
as a sign of reverence to the Santo Niño which is now enshrined at the
San Agustin Church (renamed Basilica Minore del Santo Niño).
Of course, through the years since 1521, the dance was a small ritual
danced by a few in front of wooden idols or before the Santo Niño. In
fact, at the Santo Niño church where the image is consecrated, only the
candle vendors could be seen dancing the Sinulog and making offerings.
During the Santo Niño fiesta which falls on the third Sunday of January,
children dressed in moro-moro costumes also dance the Sinulog. This was
really no big event for Cebu City.
In 1980, however, David S.
Odilao, Jr., then Regional Director of the
Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (MYSD), organized the first ever
Sinulog parade. He gathered a group of students, dressed them up, taught
them how to dance the Sinulog to the beating of the drums. It was a small
parade really which went just around the Basilica but it caught the
imagination of the City of Cebu which then thought of making the Sinulog a
festival that would rival all other festivals being held yearly in the
Thus, under the direction of then Cebu City Mayor Florentino S. Solon
and through the help of lawyer Manuel S. Satorre, Jr., Juan B. Aquino,
Jr., Robert Grimalt and Antonio R. Aseniero, Jr., Odilao turned over the
the Sinulog project to then Cebu City Historical Committee under Kagawad
Jesus B. Garcia, Jr. Through Garcia's committee, the Sinulog organization
came into being. The first task of the organizing committee was how to
conceptualize the festival and make it a big event.
The committee then came up with the idea of having a Sinulog logo that
would identify the event yearly if it was to be institutionalized. The
group didn't however want to use the Santo Niño image itself because this
would have been a sacrilege. And it had to look for something that would
identify the project. This was the coat of arms of the Santo Niño which
is quite visible as they are being embossed in the benches, architecture,
and banners of the old San Agustin Church.
The coat of arms of the Santo Niño bears a two-headed hawk, the mark
of the House of Hapsburg (Hapsburg) in Europe which then ruled most of the
known world from the 15th century to the 20th century. Spain was under
the Hapsburg dynasty when it sent the expeditions out across the globe to
spread the Faith and expand the influence of the dynastic house to the unknown lands beyond the oceans.
The royal origin of the Hapsburg started with the ruling family in
Austria in 1276 and for centuries until 20th century the ouse ruled most
of the kingdoms in Europe. The Hapsburgs established the Holy Roman Empire
in 1452 and it was at the height of their power under Charles I of Spain
(who was also Holy Roman Emperor knwon as Charles VI) that the first
expedition under Ferdinand Magellan which discovered the Philippines for
Spain was sent initially to look for the Spice Island. The second
expedition under Miguel Lopez de Legaspi was sent by his son, Philip II
who ruled Spain for 42 years from 1556. In fact, the Hapsburg rulers
continued to hold power until 1700 not only in Spain but also in the
colonies under the Spanish regime while the Austrian line of the Hapsburg
dynasty also ruled Central Europe until about the same time.
Thus, the Hapsburg emblem , now the coat of arms of the Santo
was influential in many kingdoms in that time. The two-headed hawk emblem
was in some of the banners brought by Magellan's men to Zubu settlement in
1521. The same emblem was carried all the way from that time, through the
Legaspi expedition 44 years after Magellan, on to others that would come
to the country in those days, such as te Loaisa, Saavedra and the
The emblem of the two-headedhawk at the peak of the power of the
Hapsburg dynasty represented the twin purpose of the House, which was to
stand as "Champion of Catholicism and Denfender of Faith."
With this backgrounder, the Sinulog committee used a native warrior's
shield on whose face is imprinted the coat of arms of the House of
Hapsburg that now represents that Sinulog logo as interpreted by Miss
Olive Templa, who conincidentally is a Cebuana.
The native shield figure symbolizes the country's continued resistance
to colonization. It speaks of the Filipino's patriotic readiness to defend
the country from all forms of foreign incursion and to resist any move
that may endanger the country's selff-determination.
The coat of arms of the Santo Niño on the face of the shield on the
other hand, traditionally symbolizes the country's acceptance of
Christianity as it was brought to the settlements in 1521 by European
Sinulog '81 was then organized. Practically all sectors in the Cebuano
community got involved. To distinguish the festival from the popular
Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan, the organizers decided to use the parade to
depict the history of the Sinulog, which, as had been said, is the dance
which links the country's pagan past and Christian present. Seven floats
were created to depict seven different periods of history. Each float were
followed by dancers wearing costumes depicting the periods. They all
danced the same beat the Sinulog parade started at 1 P.M. at the Cebu
Provincial Capitol and ended about midnight at Fort San Pedro-Plaza
Independencia area. And the show continued until the wee hours of the
This made Sinulog the country's biggest spectacle. So every year
thereafter, the Sinulog parade and activities became bigger and better.