Both the feast of the Child Jesus and the Sinulog are legacies of Spanish colonization–the cross used in tandem with the sword. They symbolize, therefore, the defeat of our ancestors’ beliefs and culture and their being gobbled up by a foreign religion and pratice. That Cebu City is making the fiesta and the Sinulog a proud moment is thus ironic.
Dwelling on the past, however, is counter-productive in the long run. Since 1521, Cebu has evolved and that evolution has hardened with time. We have become Catholics, the religion of our colonizers, generally not by force. And we have embraced Catholicism tightly, although we added to it the acceptable practices of our pagan forebears.
The masses at the Basilica del Sto. Niño and the Sinulog grand parade that ends at the Cebu City Sports Center, has become spectacles in themselves. This just means that despite its negative beginnings, majority of Cebuanos have forgotten the celebration’s colonial beginnings or have chosen to gloss it over.
Which reminds me of my experience as an organizer in the hinterlands of Cebu City. I criticized the countryside folks practice of slaughtering pigs for the Kalag-kalag instead of selling them to augment their meager income. One farmer calmly told me that this is something they could not do without, that despite their poverty, this was something they could not do without.
That is what we call faith, something that a Marxist mind could not accept. That is why religion is considered an opium, one that muddles people’s view of reality. But faith is something some folks hold on to and which even a determined believer in materialist dialectics could not easily pry off.
One may have misgivings about Fiesta Señor and the Sinulog, but one should respect the faith of believers.
–Candido O. Wenceslao, January 22, 2007