Sinulog is the biggest festival that Filipinos looking forward to every January. The grand event is in Cebu City but the whole country celebrates this commemoration to different areas of the Philippines. Some of the towns glorify in a small event while other areas are also celebrating magnificently. Although Cebu City has the grandest celebration, other cities, and towns like Kabalankalan City, Maasin City, Balingasag Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro City and Butuan City rejoicing the said festival on their own in a massive way. Years ago, I had the privileged joining Cebu City’s Sinulog that I lost count on how many times I partied. This year, with the introduction of my dear cousin about Kabalankan’s own version of Sinulog, I thought observing the said festival in this city would be interesting.
Where is Kabalankan City Located? Here's a map for you.
Sinulog Festival is an annual cultural and religious festival held in the month of January, which is the third week in Cebu City and 4th week in other places where Cebu City serves as the center of the Santo Nino Catholic celebrations in the Philippines
Kabalankalan City culminates at the same time on the third week of January with the grand celebration on weekend. Major parade where each village of the city represents the Tribal Dance on Sunday, feasting with the people by the famous street dancing. They are popular for putting charcoal with oil to the people’s face and body. This celebration in Kabalankalan is called as “Sinulog sa Kabankalan“
Since this is my first time to be in the city, I wanted to surprise myself and expect nothing. The decision of coming over here started in the first week of January of this year, which unfortunately all the hotels and places we inquired to stay are fully booked. Because of this we then made a choice of traversing on the festival day at the earliest bus schedule from Dumaguete City.
Come the festival day, we’ve traveled 4 hours from Dumaguete City, leaving at 2 AM and arrived at our destination at 6 AM. I was traveling with my 3 other buddies who are gay, two of them wears sexy lady dress which I truly love watching them having it on. Expecting nothing about what this city can offer, we agreed on moving from one street to the other corner by walking so we could have a glimpse of this place. Fair enough, our early arrival bombarded us with a great smile of the local who never hesitated to cheer us up along the street. I felt uncomfortable at first as I thought they were catcalling us since I am with my gay friends, but that proves me wrong, when they approach us, they are so friendly and gently giving us pointers on how to enjoy the day. They’re concern that we do not have a place to stay, they said the best idea is for coming home late at night taking the last bus to Dumaguete. I love how they graciously smiling at us speaking their own sweet Ilonggo language which we didn’t understand any words yet, we’re liking the way they speak. Lastly, they never forget telling us that the people in the city are kind to everyone including towards ladyboys, so we shouldn’t be afraid of.
Roaming around the city before the festival started, our impression on how the locals are helping one another from checking the street for dancers and the main complex for dance competition are beyond our expectation. Checking mini stores sets each of the main streets of the event where vendors compiling the items for selling and food to serve. Seeing numbers of early comer police officers and armies who are widely monitoring to maintain the solemnly organize affair.
When the main event starts, I could not even feel any chaotic situation. The government probably have given the firm instruction to the city on how else they’ll strictly implement in organizing especially during a tribal street dance competition. I salute the organizer of this Sinulog in Kabankalan.
Truly different from my experience in Cebu City’s Sinulog where we bumped closely from one person to the other and had that feeling of getting tired losing the air to breathe because the crowd is just uncontrollable.
People started flowing in the street as the 9 AM street dance schedule is about to begin. While we quickly take a visit to the church showing a respect by lighting a candle, honoring the Santo Nino of this town which Catholics normally do every festival. After which, we seek some good food to eat just to fill our stomach enough for the entire morning.
The tribal showdown and street party opening is at the plaza which is enough for the crowd wandering every corner of it. As soon as the 9 o’clock strikes, the participants for the tribal street dancing launched their individual tribal music. We were informed that the participants are contingents from each village of the city.
Although I have also been told days before, that I must wear black from head to toe to avoid the black dirt that people will put into our body, I didn’t even bother in fact I wear the light colored shirt. I thought we will be painted with a small amount of charcoal quickly to our face so I thought things will just be alright. I never realized how amazingly-fun it will be when the street dancing started, the crowd also starts painting our face and surprisingly to our body too. It has been believed that no one should get annoyed as it’s their way of making fun during this feast. Our happiness came rolling in our hearts every time we encounter locals bringing their huge smile when seeing us or bumping us as they love covering everyone with black charcoal. Every street dancers have assigned people to them who are bringing those black paint which they mentioned its a combination of charcoal and oil. Because of this, there were countless of people asking for my friends having a photo or a video with them, which I am so delighted watching them (though they’d love me on it too I sometimes refuse)
This happens to us from 9 AM until around 12 noon non stop strolling every street corner everywhere our feet lead us to. We took a break at a cafe, had pizza and cold drinks then headed back to Dumaguete.
Do I recommend experiencing this Sinulog in Kabankalan? Yes, I suggest you must. Though we stayed for 12 hours only, we certainly know that the fun didn’t end there. We actually went back home at 2:30 PM with the black paint on our body. This festival is way too different from the grandest one in Cebu. If you prefer a different kind of Sinulog feast, this might be for you. But also nothing is wrong in celebrating Sinulog in Cebu, the fun is also entertaining there. And one more thing, locals are so inviting as well to their home.
- Book a place to stay before November, we were told by the hotels and inns we inquired via phone that they are fully booked starting early November. It’s better to stay for the weekend to fully enjoy every event they have.
- Wear an ALL BLACK comfortable outfit, a t-shirt, shorts and a sneaker can best suits in especially there is an indefinite time of walking
- Bring sling bag or any pouch that you can easily carry with essentials, WET WIPES helps a lot at a later day.
- Bring umbrella in case the rain will keep pouring
- Water to keep you hydrated
- Never get irritated or annoyed when someone suddenly painted you with black charcoal. Or else you will be such a loser.
- If you come from Bacolod or Dumaguete, it is possible to enjoy just for a day
- Be alert and vigilant (this is self-explanatory, just a reminder)
Author: Ferna Mae
Ferna is from the Philippines who travel spontaneously. Thrives to be more independent in her own skin. She first traveled The Philippines before she embarked to other countries. She believes that by traveling, her undying crave for learning excites her in a more profound way. Her flexibility had proven her that time is genuine. As a former tour guide in the Philippines, she hopes that her travel experiences will give value to the aspiring travelers. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org,