This is a unique year for myself in that it is the first occasion in which I have been in Cebu, Philippines during their observance of “Sinulog”.
My first response to the coming of this event in which the majority of Cebuano’s observe, was one of hesitation. Although I learned that the event was an observance of the transition that Filipino’s made from paganism to Christianity in the 15th Century, some of the article of their celebration were troubling to me.
According to the history of Cebu, on April 7, 1521 Ferdinand Magellan landed on the shores of the current Mactan Island, just offshore from the main island of Cebu. Magellan ordered the planting of the Cross on the shores of Cebu making claim to the land for Spain.
Magellan presented an image of of Jesus as a child to Hara Amihan, the wife of Rajah Humabon, the rulers of the island of Cebu. In response to Magellan’s appearance before them and as a witness of Jesus Christ to His death and resurrection, the King and Queen were baptized into the Christian faith.
The Queen Hara Amihan changed her name to Queen Juana in honor of the mother of Carlos the 1st, King of Spain. Over 800 of the dwellers of the island were also baptized on that day as Christians.
When Magellan presented Queen Juana with the statue of the baby Jesus, it is said that she danced with joy holding the image of Jesus in her arms. A repeat of this event is still performed in the Sinuog dance today by some of the women who dance during the festival. This dancing with the image of Jesus was the first “Sinulog” performed on the island of Cebu.