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Sinulog: Cebu’s pride and honor

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines / 17 January 2011



Last Sunday morning in Cebu, the sun shone brightly complementing the high energy being felt on the ground.

A little rainfall served to cool the atmosphere a bit.

As early as six in the morning spectators started to gather along the route of the parade — the main streets of Cebu and in Fuente Osmeña Circle.

And as the day progressed, more and more spectators lined up along the streets for vantage position to watch  the  performances from about 50 contingents competing, 24 floats from media organizations, different products and services, 37 puppeteers from students, companies and individuals and the 24 higante (giant) models.

It was the grand event in Cebu’s Sinulog festival celebrated every third Sunday of  January.

Sinulog is a Cebuano word that means “like water current movement;” the term describes the forward and backward movement of the Sinulog dance. The dance consists of two steps forward and one step backward, done to the sound made by the accompanying band.

The highlight is the  grand parade and competition in the main streets of Cebu and in Fuente Osmeña Circle.

The main judging of each contingent took place at the Cebu City Sports Complex. For the street dance competition, judges were scattered along the path of the grand parade.  Contingents  stopped and performed their street dance routine along the way.

There were two different categories for the main Sinulog dance competition; the Sinulog-based, which is the traditional dance, and the free interpretation, which allows the participants their own interpretation of what was relevant to Sinulog.

One contingent performed a wedding- inspired number. Almost a hundred dancers swayed at each other portraying an image of provincial matrimonial ceremonies.

Another contigent danced  the Indonesian Papuan tribal war dance. They were a sight to behold and the performance breathtaking.

A teacher in Mambaling Elementary School of Mambaling, Cebu City, whose contingent participated in the free interpretation category, said that they have been rehearsing as early as November for this momentous event, and mid-December, they rehearsed from Friday until Sunday.

“We asked the students to come to the school as early as two in the morning to do one more run through of our performance and to finish their make-up, in time for the six in the morning call time of the contingents,”she said.

Their street performance was one of the most applauded as the students, grades four to six, danced in high energy, smiling widely.

The Tribu Sinanduloy of Tangub City, who has been winning the top spot for two years in the Sinulog-based category, was back, in a prayer dance. Almost half of their dancers were first timers consisting of high school and college students.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said Cebu deserves to be called Festival Island.

The festival has come a long way since the first Sinulog parade in 1980 when David Odilao, then Regional Director of Sports and Youth Development, assembled a group of students and dressed them as moromoro and learned the Sinulog dance with the beat of the drums.

The winners for this year’s event:

Sinulog-based category:
1st – Culturang Placereño of Placer, Masbate (P1 million)
2nd — Tribu Sinanduloy of Tangub City (P500,000)
3rd — Carcar City (P300,000)
4th — Sta. Catalina of Negros Oriental (P200,000)
5th — Abellana National High School (P100,000)

Free interpretation:
1st – Tribu Lingganay of Alang-alang, Leyte (P1 million)
2nd – Tribu Himag-ulaw of Placer, Masbate (P500,000)
3rd – Karatong Festival of Dulag, Leyte (P300,000)
4th – Lumad Basakanon of Barangay Basak San Nicolas (P200,000)
5th – Toledo National Vocational School (P100,000)

Best in street dance:
1st — Carcar City (P1 million)
2nd — Tribu Sinanduloy of tangub City (P500,000)
3rd — Culturang Placereño (P300,000)

Best in float:
1st — International Pharmaceuticals Inc.
2nd — M. Lhuillier
3rd — Rose Pharmacy

Puppeteer category:
1st — Angelique Mae Aranas
2nd — Giovanni Abos
3rd — University of Cebu Main Animation

Higante Category:
1st — Arnulfo Enjambre


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


Viva Pit Senyor!

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 15 January 2012






Amid chants of Viva Pit Senyor! (or Long live the Christ child!), about a hundred thousand devotees of the Holy Child joined  Saturday’s  grand foot procession in Cebu City— the eve of the Feast of the Sto. Niño.

In the island province of Cebu in southern Philippines, the most celebrated feast and patron is the Sto. Niño, an icon in the Roman Catholic faith  symbolizing the child Jesus Christ. Devotees pray to him for different petitions, and to give thanks for all the blessings they have received.

Although the Sto. Niño is not the official patron saint of Cebu, the Cebuanos still continue to celebrate the feast of the child patron with much gusto. (Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu, declared Our Lady of Guadalupe as the principal patroness of Cebu in 2002.)

The Sto. Niño statue in Cebu is believed to be the oldest religious image in the Philippines, donated by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon in 1521. The statue is said to be miraculous because it survived a great fire in 1565.

On the third Saturday of January each year, people gather at the Basilica del Sto. Niño Cebu — the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, to attend the novena in honor of the child Jesus, and the grand foot procession that follows.

The grand procession is the most awaited by the Cebuanos and Catholic devotees, next to the Sinulog Festival, which pays tribute to the Cebuano’s acceptance of Roman Catholicism and also held to honor the Sto. Niño.

According to the organizing committee, this year’s procession passed a  longer 6.8-kilometer route. The change was intended to give many people the opportunity to feel what it was like for the Sto. Nino procession to pass by their homes.

Devotees paraded along the main streets of Cebu, carrying their own Sto. Niño statues. Those without statues simply swayed their raised hands from left to right while the band played tunes that gave praise to the Holy infant.

Spectators eagerly flashed their cameras as  they lined the sidewalks of Cebu’s main streets, secured by ropes and guarded by volunteers and ROTC students.

The procession started around one in the afternoon and ended at past seven in the evening.

Manang Ella, who has been a Sto. Niño devotee since her husband passed away, said that this yearly procession is the Cebuano’s way of showing the most miraculous patron their appreciation and gratitude for the countless blessings He has given them.

For her, the sacrifice of walking from the Basilica up to the city center and then back to the church, is also her way of making up for the weekends and months she had failed to attend mass.

Manang Ella always brings her old black Sto. Niño to the yearly procession. Even if the gold-plated crown and accessories of the statue are already tarnished, she refuses to buy a new one because she had that statue in her possession for so many years, and it has given her countless blessings.

For many of the Cebuanos, it doesn’t matter how their Sto. Niños look like. Some of them only have the small ones usually seen near the wind shields of taxis and jeepneys.

They are thankful for the blessings they have received because of  their faith and  devotion to the Christ child.


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


Singapore restaurant serves Malaysia’s specialty dish

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Published in Yahoo Philippines and VERA Files | 04 August 2011



There’s a Singaporean restaurant in Quezon City that serves a Malaysian dish as its specialty.

The restaurant is Singapore Chicken Rice and the dish is Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak is a Malaysian national dish and consists mainly of anchovies, cucumber, peanuts, rice soaked in coconut milk, fried chicken and chili sauce.

Nasi Lemak is a Malay word that means ‘fatty rice.’ It originated from the process of cooking rice soaked in coconut.

The preparation of Nasi Lemak is similar to the Filipino way of serving rice and chicken in a banana leaf, together with all the other garnishes. It’s a nostalgic feel of sinangag and chicken adobo.

In Malaysia, Nasi Lemak is sold along the streets of Kuala Lumpur. The stores selling them resemble the ‘jolly jeeps’ of Makati City that offer different food choices. Although Nasi Lemak is also available in restaurants, the locals prefer the street version; the taste is better, like home-cooked.

Here’s how Nasi Lemak is prepared: they scoop cup rice, place it on a banana leaf, put nuts and slices of cucumber on the side, hard boiled egg on the other, cut strips of chicken and add the hot spicy sauce on top of everything, and then fold the banana leaf.

The smell of chili sauce and fried chicken greet the senses once you open the banana leaf. The crunchiness of the peanuts, the bitter sweet juice coming from the cucumber, the spiciness and coconut flavored rice compliment each other very well.

The dish is also popular in Singapore and Indonesia.

Singapore Chicken Rice restaurant in Cubao, Quezon City serves Nasi Lemak on a plate with the rice, peanuts, anchovies and cucumber separated from each other. Sliced fried chicken is arranged on one side with the sweet chili sauce on one corner of the plate.

Their version of Nasi Lemak closely resembles the authentic taste of the original Malaysian dish. It may not have the exact kick like the one being sold on the streets of Malaysia and Singapore, but the experience is definitely worth trying.

Singapore Chicken Rice also have Kaya Toast — mini toasted sandwiches filled with butter and kaya (a mixture made of coconut milk, eggs and sugar). The sweet creamy delight is a good starter before you eat Nasi Lemak. Another dish on their menu that is equally famous as Nasi Lemak in Malaysia and Singapore is Mee Goreng, or spicy fried noodles. Mee Goreng is made of thin yellow noodles (in the streets of Malaysia they use Maggi noodles) fried with garlic, onion, chicken, prawn, vegetables, tomatoes, pickles and egg.

Those who want to try cooking their own Nasi Lemak, here’s the recipe from “Rasa Malaysia: Easy Asian Recipes”:

1. Just like making steamed rice, rinse your rice and drain. Add the coconut milk, a pinch of salt, and some water. Add the pandan leaves to the rice before cooking.

2. Rinse the dried anchovies and drain the water. Fry the anchovies until they turn light brown and put aside. 3. Pound the prawn paste together with shallots, garlic, and deseeded dried chilies with a mortar and pestle. You can also grind them with a food processor.

3. Slice the red onion into rings.

4. Soak the tamarind pulp in water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind constantly to extract the flavor into the water. Drain the pulp and save the tamarind juice.

5. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the spice paste until fragrant.

6. Add in the onion rings. Add in the anchovies and stir well.

7. Add tamarind juice, salt, and sugar.

8. Simmer on low heat until the gravy thickens. Set aside.

9. Clean the chicken, cut them into half and season with salt. Deep fry.

10. Cut the cucumber into slices and then quartered into four small pieces.

11. Dish up the steamed coconut milk rice and pour some anchovies on top of the rice.

12. Serve with fried chicken, cucumber slices, and hard-boiled eggs.


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


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