Sinulog Festival 2019: What’s new, what to expect

Justine Adigue

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Sinulog Festival 2019: What’s new, what to expect
Attending this year’s Sinulog Festival? Here’s a simple guide to help you make the most of the celebration.

The 39th Sinulog Festival is well underway and City of Cebu is buzzing with activity.

Thousands of people from all over the world are expected to arrive to join the celebration. Familiar signs of the festival have, of course, popped up around town – the stalls of souvenir vendors lining Osmeña Boulevard, the colorful decorations, and that oh-so catchy beat of the Sinulog music.

As in the years before, various events set to take place in the next few days. You can click here to view the schedule of activities for Sinulog 2019. However, there are also a few new aspects of the festival that you must be aware of so you get the most out of the experience. 

But before delve into that, let’s first find out what makes this event so special.

Why Sinulog matters to Cebuanos

Since its inception in 1980, the Sinulog Festival has become one of the grandest and most popular events in the Philippines. But to Cebuanos, this festival is more than just about the parties and the street dancing.

It’s an important celebration of religious devotion, one that sits right at the heart of the Cebuano cultural identity. 

Photo by Line Arias

This is the time when the whole province of Cebu comes together to express its strong faith in Santo Niño. One only has to attend a novena mass at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño to see how committed the Cebuano people are to this devotion.

Photo by Line Arias

A sea of people pack into the Basilica grounds, many of them carrying their own statues of the Child Jesus – which is often newly cleaned and painted and is decked in fresh garb. One memorable part of the mass is when the song Batobalani Sa Gugma is sung. During the chorus of the song, people slowly wave their hands (and their Santo Niño statues) in the air as they look up at the altar. It’s a truly moving scene and a powerful testament to the Cebuano faith.

Then there are the devotees from different parts of the country who travel all the way to Cebu just to pay homage to the Santo Niño. Rain or shine they come, with accommodation or without. 

It is this strong faith and commitment of the Santo Niño devotees that makes the Sinulog Festival so special, and it is what will sustain the event for years to come.

What’s new in 2019

If you’re attending Sinulog for the first time or are curious about what’s new this year, here are some of the things you should remember:

No Backpack Policy

Backpacks of all shapes and sizes are not allowed inside venues of Sinulog events, including the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, where the novena masses are held. Backpacks are also banned from the Walk with Mary and the Solemn Procession.

A foreign contingent will join the Grand Parade

In December, Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak announced that a contingent from South Korea will be joining the 2019 Sinulog Festival. The performers will be from the Wonju Dynamic Dancing Carnival and they are scheduled to join the Grand Parade as guest performers.

This is the first time that an international contingent is joining the festival and it will certainly be interesting to see how they will interpret the Sinulog dance.

Liquor and street party ban

Like last year, Cebu City is once again implementing a street party and liquor ban during the Sinulog weekend. Business establishments located within a 300-meter radius from the routes of the procession and the Sinulog Grand Parade are prohibited from holding street parties and other activities that require the use of loud speakers.

Establishments within the said area are also banned from selling liquor during the Sinulog weekend.

But do not despair, there are still some parties and fun events you can join. You just have to venture further out of the city center.

Here are just a few of these events:

  • House-Kissed Music Festival, (January 18, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm) at SM Seaside City Concert Grounds
  • Klook Sinulog Beach Festival, (January 18, from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm) at Happy Beach Resort, Mactan Island
  • ETC’s Paintensity 2019, (January 19, from 5:00 pm to 3:00 am) at the MEPZ Football Grounds, Lapu-Lapu City
  • Plus63 Music & Arts Festival, (January 19, from 7:00 pm to 3:00 am) at Cebu Business Park

Signal shutoff from January 19 to 20

As in previous years, mobile phone signal will be shut off in Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City during the Sinulog weekend. But the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has assured the public that the signal shutoff will only be for certain hours of the day on January 19 and January 20.

See below for the specifics:

  • January 19 (Fluvial Procession) – mobile phone signal will be down from 3:00 am to 10:00 am for the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, and Cebu.
  • January 19 (Solemn Procession) – signal will be down from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm for uptown and downtown Cebu City.
  • January 20 (Sinulog Grand Parade) – signal will be cut off from 3:00 am to 7:00 pm for uptown and downtown Cebu City.



A professional copy editor and SEO writer, Justine has never met an undertaking too difficult to tackle.

She spends most of her free time drinking coffee, admiring cats, and hunting down cheap flights.

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