Sinulog is a dance ritual in honor of the miraculous image of the Santo Nino. The dance moves to the sound of the drums and this resembles the current (Sinulog) of what was then known as Cebu's Pahina River. Thus, in Cebuano, they say it's Sinulog.
More than just the meaning of the word is the significance of the dance. Historians now say that Sinulog, which is of pagan origin, is the link between the country's pagan past and its Christian present. Let's trace its history.
Historical accounts say that before Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan came to Cebu on April 7, 1521 to plant the cross on its shore and claim the country for the King of Spain, Sinulog was already danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos. Then Magellan came and introduced Christianity. He gave the Santo Nino (image of the Child Jesus) as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu's Rajah Humabon who was later named Queen Juana. At that time, not only the rulers were baptized but also about 800 of their subjects. Unfortunately, however, shortly after the conversion, Magellan went into a reckless adventure by fighting the reigning ruler of Mactan, Rajah Lapulapu, with only a handful of men. He died in the encounter. That was on April 27, 1521.
The remnants of Magellan's men were however able to return to Spain to report the incident and the possibility of conquest. It took 44 years before a new group came and started the formal Christianization of the islands. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565. His ships bombarded the village and in one of the burning huts, one of his soldiers named Juan Camus found inside a wooden box the image of the Santo Nino lying side by side with native idols.
Historians now say that during the 44 years between the coming of Magellan and Legaspi, the natives continued to dance the Sinulog. This time however, they danced it no longer to worship their native idols but a sign of reverence to the Santo Nino which is now enshrined at the San Agustin Church ( renamed Basilica Minore del Santo Nino). Of course, through the years since 1521, the dance was a small ritual danced by a few in front of wooden idols or before the Santo Nino. In fact, at the Santo Nino Church where the image is consecrated, only the candle vendors could be seen dancing the Sinulog and making offerings. During the Santo Nino fiesta which falls on the third Sunday of January, children dressed moro-moro costumes also dance the Sinulog. This was really no big event for Cebu City.
In 1980, however, David S. Odilao Jr., then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (MYSD), organized the first ever Sinulog parade. He invited the physical education teachers for a meeting to discuss the organization of a Sinulog street dance parade. Nang Titang Diola of Mabolo was invited to give a demonstration at the Cebu Doctor's College. The steps were analyzed and further enhanced by steps used by the candle vendors who performed in front of the church– The Basilica del Sto. Niño. With seven schools and universities, the physical education teachers spearheaded the first Sinulog Street Dance Parade. With financial support from then MYSD Regional Director David Odilao and Department of Education Culture and Sports, the schools were given an era to represent the history of Cebu from the primitive times to the present. Member schools of the Cebu Physical Education Association the University of San Carlos, Southwestern University, University of San Jose-Recoletos, University of Cebu, University of Southern Philippines, Cebu Institute of Technology and Cebu Doctor's University. The street dance parade started from the Plaza Independencia and caught the imagination of the City of Cebu, which then thought of making the Sinulog a festival that would rival other festivals being held yearly in the country.
Thus, under the direction of Cebu City Mayor Florentino S. Solon and through the help of Manuel S. Satorre Jr., the late Juan B. Aquino Jr., also late Xavier Ledesma, Robert Grimalt and Antonio R. Aseniero Jr., Odilao turned over the Sinulog project to the Cebu City Hstorical Committee under Kagawad Jesus B. Garcia Jr. through Garcia's committee, the Sinulog organization came into being. The first task of the organizing committee was how to conceptualize the festival and make it a big event.
The committee then came up with the idea of having a Sinulog logo that would identify the event yearly if it were to be institutionalized. The group didn't however want to use the Santo Nino image itself because this would have been a sacrilege. And it had to look for something that would identify the project.
This was the coat of arms of the Santo Nino, which is quite visible as they are being embossed in the benches, architecture and banners of the old San Agustin Church. The coat of arms of the Santo Nino bears a two-headed hawk, the mark of the House of Hapsburg (Hamburg) in Europe which then ruled most of the known world from the 15th century to 20th century. Spain was under the Hapsburg dynasty when it sent the expeditions out across the globe to spread the Faith and expand the influence of the dynastic house to be unknown lands beyond the oceans.