Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu on April 7, 1521. His arrival marked an eminent turning point in Philippine history. Magellan planted the first cross on Philippine shores and, by doing so, claimed the country for the King of Spain. When the king of Zubu (Cebu) Rajah Humabon, his queen Hara Amihan, and 800 subjects were baptized into Catholicism, they became the first Christians of what is now Asia’s largest Christian country.

The more things changed, the more they stayed the same

Prior to Magellan’s arrival, the Sinulog was a ritual that the natives danced in honor of wooden idols. The dance continued after the country’s first Christianization in 1521—no longer to idols—but in honor of Santo Niño, the child Jesus. Similar to this is the dance and offering of candle vendors in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. Children dressed in moro costumes would also dance the Sinulog during the Santo Niño fiesta on the third Sunday of January.

A devotion gives birth to a fiesta

In 1980, Nang Titang Diola of Mabolo in Cebu was invited to demonstrate the Sinulog dance in the Cebu Doctor’s College, and her steps were analyzed and enhanced with steps used by the candle vendors. Member schools of the Cebu Physical Education Association were invited to represent—through dance—the history of Cebu from the time of the natives to the present. These schools were the University of San Carlos, Southwestern University, University of San Jose-Recoletos, University of Cebu, University of Southern Philippines, Cebu Institute of Technology, and Cebu Doctor’s University. With this representation and under the leadership of then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (MYSD) David S. Odilao, Jr., the first Sinulog festival, the Sinulog Street Dance Parade, was born.

A parade dances its way to popular imagination

The parade that took place in the Plaza Independencia danced its way to the imagination of the City of Cebu, which then thought of creating a festival to rival other yearly festivals in the country. Under the direction of then Cebu City Mayor Florentino S. Solon and with the assistance of Manuel S. Satorre, Jr., Juan B. Aquino, Jr., Xavier Ledesma, Robert Grimalt, and Antonio R. Aseniero, Jr., Odilao turned the Sinulog project over to the Cebu City Historical Committee under Kagawad Jesus B. Garcia Jr. Through Garcia’s committee, the Sinulog organization came into being.

Community effort and increase in stature

Organizing Sinulog 1981 drew in all sectors of the Cebuano community. To distinguish it from the popular Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan, the organizers decided to portray the Sinulog in a parade. Seven floats were created to show seven different periods of history. Following each float were dancers in costumes depicting the respective period. Everyone danced the same beat. The Sinulog parade started at 1 PM at the Cebu Provincial Capitol and ended past midnight at the Fort San Pedro and Plaza Independencia area. The show continued until the wee hours of the morning.

In 1983, the Sinulog was new and contest participants were purely from Cebu City. In the last two decades however, the festival played host to stirring and winning performances from cities and regions all over the country such as Surigao, San Carlos, Southern Leyte, Agusan del Sur, Camiguin, Iligan, Tangub City, Tacloban, Ilo-ilo, Paranaque, Maga, Masbate, Sultan Kudarat, and Butuan, among others.

An ancient dance grows through the sands of time

The Sinulog has evolved from the dance of a pagan people to a festival of global interest. The audience is ever-increasing: 1.4 million in 2017, 2 million in 2018, 3.5 million in 2019. Today, it is the largest tourism event in the Philippines and among the grandest festivals in Southeast Asia. Through the sands of time, the Sinulog has stayed true to its purpose: an expression of Filipino religiosity. As it became then, so it still is today: in honor of Señor Santo Niño.

Our story is the narrative of a nation. Pit Senyor!

Sinulog Foundation, Inc.

Cebu City Sports Center

Osmea Blvd., Cebu City




Cebu City Sinulog Governing Board

SHS-B Batch 1985 Foundation, Inc.

Oakridge Business Park

880 AS Fortuna St., Mandaue City