Faith and Spirituality

‘Our culture is not yours to modify’: Muslim community calls out Sinulog performance in Cebu

Wenilyn Sabalo

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‘Our culture is not yours to modify’: Muslim community calls out Sinulog performance in Cebu

MISREPRESENTATION. The festival queen of the Cebu Technological University Dance Troupe (center) can be seen holding the image of the Child Jesus while dressed in traditional Muslim garments.

Screenshot from Sinulog Foundation Inc. Livestream

In a statement, the Cebu Technological University expresses its 'deepest and most sincere apologies for any offense or disrespect caused by our Sinulog dance presentation' at the Sinulog Festival launch

CEBU, Philippines – Members of the Muslim community and netizens called out a Sinulog dance performance in Cebu that allegedly misrepresented the culture and religion of the Moro people.

The issue went viral after social media page Ka Fiesta TV posted a video of the performance from the Sinulog Foundation Incorporated’s livestream of the Sinulog sa Sugbo Philippines 2024 launching parade on Friday, January 12. 

In the video, the performers of the Cebu Technological University (CTU) can be seen wearing traditional Moro garments, representing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“As a Muslim, you are showcasing our Muslim [culture] but not in the right way,” Dr. Ijodin Saripada Mamacol, executive director of the Cebu City Office of the Muslim Affairs and Indigenous Cultural Communities (OMAICC), told Rappler on Saturday, January 13.

Mamacol said that members of the Muslim community were offended by the performance and condemned the use of their culture in such a way. The OMAICC head also questioned if the choreographers and organizers consulted the Muslim community before pushing through with the performance. 

Mamacol said he plans to meet with the CTU group’s choreographers and the Sinulog Foundation Incorporated to fund out why the incident happened in the first place.

In the comments section of the Ka Fiesta TV post, netizen Ayeeka-Fardah Saripada pointed out that the “Kagapir” dance which the performers seemingly attempted to replicate was wrong and that in all ethnic dances from any tribe in BARMM, men are not supposed to touch women. 

“Cebu Technological University, do some research. Our culture is not yours to modify,” Saripada said.

Concerned netizen Jewil Anne Tabiolo told Rappler that she was disheartened to see the lack of foresight that went into the performance.

“The devotion to Santo Niño is an integral part of Cebu’s identity, just as the cultural heritage of our Muslim brothers and sisters belongs uniquely to them…[the performers] could’ve done better without inadvertently causing discomfort or disrespect,” Tabiolo said.

Public apology

CTU issued a public apology on the incident on Saturday morning, January 13.

“We, the Cebu Technological University (CTU) community, write to express our deepest and most sincere apologies for any offense or disrespect caused by our Sinulog dance presentation during the Sinulog Festival Launching organized by the Sinulog Foundation Inc.,” CTU said.

The university clarified that they did not mean to offend the Muslim community and that inclusivity and understanding are the institution’s core values.

“We are committed to learning from this experience and taking steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur again. We will be conducting a thorough internal review of our performance practices to identify areas where we can improve our understanding and respect for diverse cultural and religious backgrounds,” CTU said.

The university added that they are eager to engage in open dialogue with the Muslim community and earn back their trust and collaboration in the future. 

Rappler has reached out to Elmer “Jojo” Labella, the executive director of Sinulog Foundation, for a comment on the issue but has yet to receive any reply. This story will be updated once he responds. –

Wenilyn Sabalo is an Aries Rufo Journalism Fellow for 2023-2024.

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