CEBU – Cebu is ready for the annual Sinulog Festival where at least 4 million devotees are expected to join the grand two-day parade and procession.
Sinulog Foundation executive director Ricky Ballesteros said it's all systems go for one of the biggest religious events in Asia.
"We’re now ready for the Sinulog," he said, highlighting the Santo Niño procession on Saturday and the grand parade on Sunday.
The 4 million or so devotees are expected to flock to the procession where thousands of other replicas are also joining the traditional walk to the basilica.
"Sa haba ng procession, ‘yung ulo ng parada nasa basilica, pero ‘yung dulo nasa basilica din," Ballesteros said.
The route where the Santo Niño will be paraded is 6.1 kilometers long. It will be an estimated 7 hour-long procession starting from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., when the Santo Niño is expected to be back inside the basilica.
Today until Sunday, a holy Mass is held almost hourly at the pilgrim center.
Santo Niño miracle
One of those who will join the procession will be Juliet Quejada, who has been a devotee of the Santo Niño for almost a decade. She started believing in the miraculous powers of the holy image when her granddaughter was struck by a kidney disease.
Quejada said her granddaughter, Julien, started to get well when she brought her to the basilica, and weeks after, the disease was gone.
"It was a miracle nga sabi ng mga doctor," Quejada said. "Kaya kahit mataas ang alon pinupuntahan talaga namin ito."
Quejada and her family came all the way from Leyte to join the procession. She was with Julien, who was intently looking at the Santo Niño displays beside the church.
On Sunday's grand parade, there will be 42 dance contingents and 40 floats that will move like a carousel in Cebu City's major streets.
"It’s a 10-hour nonstop parade of beautiful production," Ballesteros said.
He added that some contingent spent about P3 million to 5 million just for the competition, which offers a million pesos as a grand prize.
For the two-day event, at least 2,000 policemen and 8,000 crowd control personnel will be deployed by authorities, said the foundation.
Suspended gov to join Sinulog
It will also be on Sunday when suspended Governor Gwen Garcia is expected to dance along with the Cebu contingent.
The family of Garcia has mixed feelings about her joining this year's Sinulog.
But her mother, retired Regional Trial Court Judge Esperanza Garcia, advised her daughter to fulfill her devotion to the holy child.
"It might bring her good luck and good fortune, if not, it might bring misfortune to the family," she said.
Garcia admits that her mother's advise carries a big weight in her decision.
Garcia fears that the capitol will be padlocked when she goes out to prevent her from staying in her office.
But her brother, Byron, said he has been planning security measures for Garcia and the possibility of an encounter with authorities when that scenario happens.
"Hindi ako susuko, I will die for my sister," he said.
Garcia is still contemplating on whether to dance or not but she said she is willing to take all risks, and that her devotion takes precedence over anything else.
"I’m ready to sacrifice even to the point of taking pain and embarrassment,” she said.
Garcia said there are threats that she will be mobbed, and stones will be hurled against her along the way once she goes out to join the festival.