Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Surviving Sinulog 2008, part 3

continued from part 2

Amidst Cebu City government’s active propaganda focusing mostly on the commercial side of the Sinulog event (see sinulog.ph!), the Basilica Minore del Sto Niño continues to dispense customary religious rites attendant to the feastday. On the second Thursday of the January, the religious festivities kick off with the novena dawn procession and daylong masses. With an endless stream of visitors trying to get inside the Basilica, the church gates even have to be regulated for safety reasons. And the queue to kiss the Sto Niño image at the shrine is next to impossible, snaking so long that it will probably take you 3 hours to reach the altar.

the Fluvial Parade
On the Friday of the Sinulog week, the image of Sto Niño is, by tradition, brought to St. Joseph Church in Mandaue City for an overnight vigil. The Holy Child is joined by the Virgin of Guadalupe icon of the Guadalupe Church in Cebu. Early in the morning of Saturday, the images are paraded in a religious procession from the Mandaue Church to the Ouano wharf for the celebrated fluvial parade. Luck would be on my side in this occasion as I work in a place that conveniently overlooks the wharf. Obviously, it would be something else too to get on one of the hundred boats or so that accompany the “Spanish galleon” bringing the Sto Niño back to Cebu City. A ceremonial reenactment of the baptism of Queen Juana in the Pilgrim Center of the Basilica awaits the cortege, followed by a mass service. Sinulog performances by select contingents cap the rites with a flourish.

the Solemn Procession
When it comes to religious fervor, nothing beats the grand solemn procession that Saturday afternoon though. The mass of people that traditionally trail the carrozas or line up along the streets are estimated to exceed two million in the last few years, rain or shine. Photo ops are practically a-begging. However, I have a different commitment and cannot play photographer. In the past 10 years or so, I join the solemn procession with family. Stopping and shooting along the way, or carrying the heavy camera gear in a crowded procession is not much of an option. It is also customary for our family to hold a mini reunion for light meals at the parking lot of the nearby Cathedral. We always try to squeeze ourselves in the front end of the procession so that we finish early and have an hour or so to rest and wait for the Sto Niño carroza to pass by (the Metropolitan Cebu Cathedral is two blocks away from the Basilica Minore del Sto Niño). Being part of the sea of people waving hands, releasing balloons, and praying your intentions as the Sto Niño passes is a moving highlight that never fails to touch even the most cynical of souls.

As expected, crowd control during the procession is a problem. Every year, the city tries to modify street entries and field more students and police authorities to man the cordons, often to mixed results. There are just too many people who would want to cram the vicinity around the Basilica to hear the holy mass and join in the frenzied Sinulog prayer dance afterwards. I think that would be one experience I really would like to try. And maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in some photography too. Hope springs eternal.

Next: Part 4

Here are more pictures of the Sinulog 2008 grand parade.

phototip: Anticipate the action. Don’t get trampled by the contingent!
Canon EOS 350D, 1/50s, f/22, 55mm, ISO 400
the Tribu Sinanduloy of Tangub City, 1st Prize Streetdancing and 2nd Prize Sinulog-based Category, at the Sinulog grand parade, Cebu City, the Philippines
The Tribu Sinanduloy of Tangub City is a crowd pleaser. Mere walking does not do it for them when moving. They perform and dance even when there are no judges. No wonder they won 1st Prize in the Streetdancing.

Sultan Kudarat
phototip: Focus on dancers who are all out in their performance. Their smiles are worth the wait.
Canon EOS 350D, 1/250s, f/5.6, 49mm, ISO 100
the Tribu Kalimudan of Sultan Kudarat, at the Sinulog 2008 Grand Parade, Cebu City, the Philippines
The Tribu Kalimudan came from Sultan Kudarat, a predominantly Muslim province. The province probably felt that they can promote tourism much effectively by joining in the Sinulog. They acquitted themselves beautifully and captured the admiration of the crowd and the photographers.

phototip: Rain produces wet ground which is useful in reflecting light.
Canon EOS 350D, 1/400s, f/4.5, 90mm, ISO 800
the Tribu Iliganon from Iligan (4th Place, Free Interpretation Category), at the Sinulog 2008 grand parade, Cebu City, the Philippines
The Pintado-inspired body “tattoo” look was popularized in recent years by the multi-awarded Basakanon tribe whose choreographer cried foul that they have been imitated by at least 7 contingents this year. Well, imitation is flattery but each presentation was different in its own way. The Tribu Iliganon, for instance, gave a more belligerent scary feel, making people recall of 300 or to a lesser extent, Apocalypto.

Canon EOS 350D, 1/250s, f/5, 180mm, ISO 100
a dancer of Tribu Mandauehan of Mandaue City, at the Sinulog 2008 grand parade, Cebu City, the Philippines
She’s not the lead dancer but like many others, Sinulog is not a time to be shy. Most Filipinos do like to be photographed.

Canon EOS 350D, 1/100s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100
the Tribu Kalimudan of Sultan Kudarat, at the Sinulog 2008 Grand Parade, Cebu City, the Philippines

phototip: Play with the focusing. DOF play can be interesting. Personally, I would have liked to focus the smiling girl behind the one in the center but I was slow in changing the focus.
Canon EOS 350D, 1/400s, f/5.6, 300mm, ISO 100
the Tribu Kalimudan of Sultan Kudarat, at the Sinulog 2008 Grand Parade, Cebu City, the Philippines

Balangay Basak Pardo
phototip: Fast shutter speed can freeze moments. I like how the beads of the dancer are caught midair.
Canon EOS 350D, 1/400s, f/5.0, 200mm, ISO 100
the Balangay Basak Pardo of Cebu City, at the Sinulog 2008 Grand Parade, Cebu City, the Philippines

Next: Part 4

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