*This post was submitted entirely by our readers. Photos from Moon Ray Lo and Tonskie Elsisura. Article by Nina A. Thanks for the submissions guys! People like you are what makes ZeroThreeTwo a treat. 

I look forward to January for a number of reasons: a new year, resolutions to make and later break, new books to blow my Christmas cash on, the end of holiday TV show hiatuses and Sinulog.

Being a 90s kid, I grew up with Sinulog, lit candles at the Basilica, witnessed the streetdance live or on television, participated in novenas and school dances in honor of the festivity, and memorized that chant by heart.

Tonskie Elsisura sinulog 2013But it was only in the recent years that I got to experience Sinulog as this big wild festivity everyone raved about. I used to scoff at the college kids who only seemed to care about the visiting celebrities and the parties, only to become them a few years later. What can I say? Peer pressure.

Now, a thousand miles away from my native Cebu, with people’s plans for the weekend all over Facebook, I can’t help but look back at my last Sinulog with a bittersweet case of nostalgia, a bottle of laughter and just half a shotglass of regret.

Last year’s Sinulog was sunny and dry. It was hot, but that was better than rain. A friend and I got our henna tattoos on Saturday—always better to get inked a day or two before Sinulog Sunday. We also joined the procession under the 3pm sun. I was a shade darker by the end of the day.

On Sinulog Sunday, I lathered sunblock all over my exposed skin and went out in my trusted sneakers. Flipflops just won’t do in a day of dust, crowds and plenty of walking. On my way to meet friends who were at Larsian’s, I went through a fish-barrel of people gathered outside Robinson’s Mall. See you in 20 minutes? Impossible.

As I ruled out mock-fainting (hoping people would rush me to Chong Hua Hospital) and tried to devise more realistic ways to get across Fuente Osmena, a burly man pushed me aside.

Iswagi! Iswagi!

He was so brusque I’d thought a celebrity was passing by. Then I came face to face with a man on the passenger seat of a swanky motorcycle, he had an entourage and suddenly people were exclaiming. He couldn’t be some famous actor, I was sure of it, because people usually screamed over Belo-bleached artistas. This man was dark and middle-aged and had a political smile (if there was such a thing). Only when he went past the crowd that I registered his name over the excited murmurs of those around me. So later, I bragged that I locked eyes with a certain J.B. *wink*

Moon Ray Lo Sinulog 2013There was no easy way to go to my friends except dive back into the crowd. Hot, cramped and with people shoving each other, it was intense to the point of maddening, but I had to laugh in spite of myself. Being skin-to-skin with strangers, inhaling their scents and breaths–you can’t get more intimate than that.

Desperate to get out, I crawled under the rope that blocked the people,  joined the parade of streetdancers, and tried hard to blend in. Security guards threw suspicious looks and blew their whistles, I wasn’t drenched in black body paint unlike the contingents. Panicked, I raised my purse and threw back a reassuring look. “Tig Makeup!” I yelled, saving myself from getting caught and thrown back into the throng of sweaty people. Somehow, I’d have to pay for this little lie.

My heart pounded until I reached the other end. Then, I relished the waves of air-conditioned chill that greeted me at the entrance of Robinson’s Cybergate. I had enough time to perfume myself before I graced my friends with excited hugs.

“Where to?” they asked me because I was the laagan-girl among us. Not back to that mad crowd, that’s for sure. We decided to go over a friend’s place and follow through their Sinulog plans instead.

A couple hours later, we found ourselves at the heart of Sinulog’s party circuit. People were woozy and wild. I could just make out the place, immediately picking up the change of atmosphere. This was a menagerie of its own: youngsters in rip-off shorts and face-paint, other 20-somethings showering beer or piss–who knows?!–from above, everyone jumping and moving around to heavy beats from giant boom boxes. There we were, Baseline.

And I had a lot of fun… apparently accounts were shared and there were some pictures to prove it. Sadly, I missed out on meeting with other friends because God-knows-what happened to my phone–or me. I got home tired but safe and woke up too soon for the Golden Globes that Monday morning. Memories from the previous day came rushing in: I did have fun but there were a few embarrassing points, but I was sure others had it a lot worse: lost phones or accidental trysts maybe. The worst I got was a headache and a painful tract infection, blame it on the junkfood. Or perhaps that was the price I had to pay for my little lie.

Papers covered the event, Tumblr was full of Sinulog stories, Facebook was booming with photos and most people walked around with their fading tattoos.

2012 went on.

Sinulog is one of a kind. It’s part religious thanksgiving, part celebration-slash-party. I couldn’t help but look back at my own experiences while foaming with jealousy over all you who have another Sinulog weekend to make memories of.

And I’m sure there will be crazier stories, crazier tattoos and crazier hungovers. But Sinulog memories are ones we hold dear–whether we remember most of them or not.

I may be a day late and an ocean away

But in my Cebuano heart

The same beat still plays

Pit Senyor!

 

 

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