How Sinulog organizers, Cebu can mount a better show
With the Sinulog crowd getting “bigger” every year, 3.5 million in the last estimate, spectators who prefer to watch from the grandstand need a bigger venue.
“The sports center is getting smaller for the Sinulog,” said Ricky Ballesteros, executive director of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), who recommends that the Cebu City government expand the 12,000-capacity stadium whose seats were all sold out three days before the event.
The cost of building extra sections hasn't been computed yet but the benefit, said Ballesteros, would be much greater.
“It’s not about getting a return of investment, it’s the name Sinulog has given to Cebu. It has become global and more popular,” he said.
A post-Sinulog assessment will be done by organizers later this week but Ballesteros has an initial list of ideas for improvement:
1. Develop the Sinulog as a “festival of the arts”
2. Open a new contest for the best “andas” or carrier used by dance contingents to bear the Santo Niño
3. Reinforce the need for “cooperation” among business establishments to show “hospitality” to out-of-town contingents, especially when parade dancers need to take a bathroom break
Earlier, he told Mayor Michael Rama it was time to increase the cash prize for first place winners in the parade to P1 million cash instead of P500,000 since production costs have gone up. A delegation has up to 100 dancers.
All 12,000 tickets for grandstand seats are usually sold out before the parade, with thousands more spectators ready to pay for the lowest-priced P400 ticket to occupy concrete bleachers and watch dance contingents perform on stage.
“The area of the sports center is very small already because so many want to enter and be well seated. If we expand the facility, we can earn more because the tickets are sold out three days before the event. We sold them in less than ten days. We don't do preselling,” said Ballesteros.
Ballesteros said the contingents (51 in the Sinulog 2011 held last Sunday) have become more competitive over the years, using grander costumes and props in the limited space of the stadium.
He said he noticed that even in the streets, revelers are increasing in number.
Police estimate that more than three million people watched or participated in the parade despite a downpour and wet weather last Sunday.
When he toured the parade route last Sunday, Ballesteros said he saw the wide-laned Imus Street, which used to be hard to fill, was packed with revelers.
He said the parade's carousel route can be longer, depending on the number of contingents who sign up. But spectators who want to sit comfortably at the grandstand have also increased in number.
“With all the props of the contingents getting bigger, I think we need a bigger space as well. The props are important. They add to the production value of the contingents and bring out their creativity. Although we limit the size of the props, we don't limit the number, ” he said.
Ballesteros said no other place in the country mounts a mardi gras as big as the Sinulog, whose stature as the “Mother of all Festivals” in the Philippines reaches abroad because of the Internet and foreign media coverage.
This year, the National Geographic sent a team to cover Sinulog events leading up to the grand parade.
Ballesteros said the Sinulog is evolving into a “Festival of the Arts.”
Aside from a Miss Cebu beauty pageant, dancing contingents, puppeteer and higante making, and float decor, the Sinulog has opened a venue for contests in photography and short filmmaking.
It also gave an opportunity for singers and dancers to show their talents in the Sinulog Idol and Sinulog Best Dance Crew contest. A literary writing contest was also added.
Ballesteros said more features can be developed such as an on-the-spot painting contest and for the contingents, the search for the best “andas” or carroza .
“Usually all contingents have an andas to carry the Sto. Niño so we may as well make it a contest to also highlight the Sto. Niño which is the reason for our celebration. This would encourage contingents to enhance their props,” he said.
“Sinulog has a great impact on the economy,” Ballesteros said but added that he was also frustrated to see how some business establishments along the parade route turned away Sinulog dancers who wanted to use their restrooms.
Even if the SFI already sent notices to the establishments asking them to allow the use of their comfort rooms, some didn’t allow the dancers to relieve themselves during the parade, which ran from 9 a.m. to past 7 p.m.
“Some dancers wanted to use the bathroom badly but there were some establishments that wouldn't let them in. Ang uban siguro naka-ihi nalang gyud (Some dancers probably just peed where they were), ” Ballesteros said.
It was out-of-town contingents who told him of their ordeal.
“We have to focus on cooperation especially with the business sectors because they are also benefited by the Sinulog. With something as simple as consideration for dancers who need to use the bathroom, they should have given some consideration. It's not easy to invite a contingent.
“This is one way of showing our hospitality as Cebuanos. That is the most attractive thing we can offer to tourists so they they would keep coming back,” Ballesteros said.
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