Sinug ug Sinulog: Exploring The Two Dance Forms

“Culture is what sets man apart from the rest of Kingdom Animalia and that the best expression of culture is thru the dance.” – Ceasar Nimor

The famous festival dance was given attention in another Casa Gorordo Museum Talk on the 16th of January. The lecture focused on the origin of the Sinug and Sinulog dance forms.

Turang Dance Troupe

Sinu’og or Sinu’g is an ancient Cebuano ritual, a survivor of indigenous dance ritual despite three hundred years of Spanish domination. It was mentioned in the CGM Talk that the acceptance of Christianity is not the only factor of where the dance form came from because even before that the natives already practiced the certain rituals for their gods and goddesses of nature. In fact, the natives did not even know that they were accepting a new religion. They considered Sto. Nino as one of their pagan gods.

One of the speakers was Ceasar F. Nimor, he’s a retired Assistant Professor handling Biological and Earth Sciences, Research, Health and Kinetics at the College of Teacher Education and subjects at the Graduate School Department and Senior High School Arts and Design Track at the University of Cebu-Main. He is a Zoologist with a  Master’s Degree in Teaching – Science (MAT-S) from Southwestern University.

Being a product of Cagayan de Oro and Cebu, he has ease and familiarity with Visayan and Mindanao cultures.

He has been a folk dancer since grade school to college and over thirty years of ethnographic research in various hinterlands of the Visayas and Mindanao from which he documented traditional dances that had been performed and taught at the Annual Folk Dance Workshop for Teachers of the Philippine Folk Dance Society (PFDS).  He has also been able to learn and gather traditional dances and folklore of the other nine Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member nations during his annual self-funded trips.

Another one was Mila Catelo-Janson who comes from Surigao del Norte is a retired Physical Education and Graduate School professor of the Cebu Normal University.  Aside from teaching then, until today, she has the interest in going on field in search of unpublished folk dances.  

She was the choreographer of the Cebu Normal University Dance Troupe until her retirement.

She is presently a member of the Board of Directors of the Samahang Tagapagtaguyod ng mga Katutubong Sayaw ng Pilipinas (Philippine Folk Dance Society) – National Chapter and Adviser of the Cebu Colleges and Universities Choreographers Association (CCUCA).

Madame Mila believes that “The more we learn about our cultural heritage, the more powerful our reasons for cooperating with and respecting each other as one people.”  This is the reason why searching for endangered traditions and sharing these to everyone inspire her to conduct research.

What people have been taught about the history of Sinulog is commonly when the Ferdinand Magellan arrived and presented the image of Sto. Nino to Rajah Humabon. After that, him along with the other natives were baptized to the Roman Catholic Church. Hara Humamay (Amihan and later named Queen Juana), danced with the image and the other tribe members followed. This was considered the first Sinulog.

Tha dance steps are known to be from Humabon’s adviser, Baladhay, where he saw a little child dancing when he was sick. The child tried to tickle him with coconut leaf. This is why the dance is sometimes called Sayaw ni Baladhay– where the steps are like movements of the river or more commonly the forward, one-step backward dance step.

And from that stories, it resulted to different versions of the Sinulog like Votive Sinug and the Combative Sinug.

Votive Sinug is actually the dance for prayer– the one we see in Sto. Niño Basillica Minore, where the dancers carry candles and say a prayer. While the Combative Sinug is more of a story of the battle and the acceptance of Christianity. This is usually performed by the Turang Dance Troupe.

Demonstration by the Turang Dance Troupe

What we see during festivals are the combination of the two dance forms– always evolving and adapting from the costumes and the mix of contemporary elements.

Kyla Estoya
Kyla Estoya

Kyla Estoya is Zee Lifestyle's Editorial Assistant. She's usually throwing away confetti, binge watching sitcoms or listening to The Beatles in her free time. Follow her colorful 70s-ish life on Instagram: @qillerkueen

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