The Cebu City Government is housing 459 pilgrims with the return of the Devotee City.
Twenty container vans nestle at the city government’s Sinulog 2023 temporary housing site beside Fort San Pedro.
For years, the city has allocated a space to accommodate out-of-town devotees who visit the Queen City for the Fiesta Señor and Sinulog festivities.
Manuela Cantay, 59, says this is her 40th year of Sinulog travel from Bogo City, 97 kilometers north of the Visayas Queen City.
“Di gyud ko kalimot na 40 years na kay akong anak nga kinamaguwangan 40 na man ang edad,” she told Rappler.
(I will never forget that it’s been forty years because my eldest child is already forty years old.)
Cantay sells woven hats. Before this, she used to sell candles with her family. She associates the length of time she’s been doing Sinulog with the birth of her child.
Catay recalled how, prior to the establishment of the Devotee City, she used to sleep in sidewalks or roadside stores with her young children.
Now, it’s only her and her husband.
“Moanhi sila, di na sila manulod og Devotee [City], moanhi sila maminsta na lang,” she said.
(They come not to stay at the Devotee City, but to celebrate.)
Cantay hopes to visit the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño before her long trip home. She said her prayers this year are for the collective healing of everyone.
“Ampo nga magbalik na nya maayo na ang lakat sa panglawas sa mga tawo para mabalik na ang Sinulog. Magpadayon na gyud ang kagawasnon sa mga tawo, na mawala na to ang COVID. Nya di lang gyud ta mo kumpyansa,” she said.
(I pray for the health of everyone, for the continuation of Sinulog. That we finally be free of from COVID. But, of course, we should not be complacent.)
Delia Orungan, 67, also hails from Bogo City. Unlike Cantay, she does not come to sell goods for Sinulog. She has spent two decades as a pilgrim, offering prayers to the Señor Sto. Niño.
In the two-year suspension of Sinulog activities due to the pandemic, Orungan offered prayers in her city parish.
She confessed being hesitant to continue her tradition of visiting Cebu City again with the return of Sinulog festivities.
However, upon hearing that the Devotee City would open anew, she finally decided to take the journey.
“Naghuna-huna na lang gyud mi nga dili na lang unta mo ari. Unya ka dungog man mig balita nga naay 20 ka container van. Niingon ko na mo adto ta’g siguro kay aron makadagkot gyud ta,” she said.
(I was hesitant about returning. Then I heard about the 20 container vans. So I said, let’s go back so we don’t break our devotion.)
Cebu City councilor Francis Esparis told Rappler that there are fewer pilgrims this year because the designated area could accommodate only a limited number of container vans.
In 2020, there were 80 container vans housing over a thousand pilgrims.
There are no devotees from outside the island of Cebu this year unlike previous years. The occupants of the Devotee City hail from southern and northern municipalities of Cebu Province.
Apart from shelter, the city government is also providing the devotees with basic services like cooking areas, sleeping mats, charging stations, and water. Police forces have also been deployed in the area to ensure the security of the devotees.
The Devotee City opened last Friday, January 13 and is set to when the January 15 Sinulog ends.