[Photos] – Sinulog 2013, Cebu – Philippines

Sinulog Cebu City Philippines

Well.. here it is (finally).  The Mega-Gallery of my photo-safari covering two days of the Sinulog Festival in Cebu (and Mactan) for the year 2013!   While it is a week-long festival the culmination takes place with the huge parade which shuts down all of downtown Cebu to only foot traffic for the event.  Massive numbers of people for miles, many of them flying in from around the world for this big, traditional event.

I began the day before, in Mactan, during the day to catch the parade of boats along the bay that runs between Mactan and Cebu.  Later that evening I arrived at Fuente Circle in Cebu, downtown and walked much of the pre-parade route.  Fuente Circle is a circular park area inside of a large turnabout in Cebu.  For the festival they had numerous booths selling everything from food to cell phone services and Henna tattoos.  A large stage was constructed for a concert that went late into the night.  And yes.. if you ever wanted to Sinulog 2013 (35)-Bmeet lots and lots of ‘Promo Girls’.. this was the place to meet them as they represented many of the big companies in the Philippines such as Globe, Cobra Drink, Smart and others.

I enjoyed the area there for several hours until about 11pm despite the fact that I had only slept two hours the previous 24 hours.  I guess my mind wasn’t really hitting all cylinders because my first plan was to simply stay awake another 24 hours, walking and cat-napping in the park area with the hundreds and hundreds of people there doing the same.  Around 11pm I began to make my way over to Mango Square which is where, even on a regular weekend, much of the party and club action is going on.  And yes, it was in full swing with bands and stages set up in various parking lots playing everything from Club to Reggae.

Sinulog 2013 (39)I only spent about 30 minutes inside of Mango Square itself.  It was literally shoulder-to-shoulder despite the fact that all the streets for more than a mile had been cordoned off since the morning.  The streets and the Mango Square area were simply packed with people.  I love this sort of atmosphere.  There was a decent enough police presence and most everyone there was simply out to have a fun time.  After checking out the thick crowd I’d have to get through (with my backpack full of camera gear) I decided it was best I make my way back to Mactan for some sleep and return in the morning for the big parade.

But deciding is one thing.. moving through an ocean of people is quite another.  There in the waves of people, semi-darkness and loud music I suddenly felt an arm slip in from behind me and pull me close.  At first glance I thought it was a drunk Filipina who had gotten hold of me.  Nope.  It was a very attractive ladyboy who had his/her eye on me apparently and was laying claim to me as I tried to move through the crowd.  Screaming into my ear over the noise ‘she’ said, “You look so alone.. I will keep you company.  I will take GOOD care of you all night!

Hmmm, okay.. how to handle this in a polite manner?  I figured if I just pushed my way through the crowd she would sort of peel away and I’d make a break for it once I got to the sidewalk.  Well, no luck of that happening.  With her arm around my waist and me clutching my camera bag and new aluminum tripod she stuck right by me.  “The good thing is this is still a manageable situation.”, I remember telling myself.  I seem to attract ladyboys like a magnet here.  Maybe because I’m a foreigner.  Maybe because I have a kind face.  Maybe because I don’t check to see if it’s a ladyboy before giving a smile and a wave as I go through the crowd.  But no, this was not as manageable a situation as I thought.

‘We’ made it to the sidewalk and who should appear?  Another ladyboy who was this one’s close friend.  And I gotta admit, even cuter than the first one and the first one was no slouch either.  So now.. I have a ladyboy on each arm and they are pretty much escorting me through the thinner crowd into the street telling everyone to move out of the way so we can pass.  I told them it was all very nice to meet them and all but I really had to get going.  “But where are you GOING?” they asked.  “Well, probably a hotel or home.. still not sure which.”  That was a mistake.  They said they knew of a motel just down the street and grabbed my arms even tighter.  I then told them I was going to get a taxi and return to Mactan.  They wanted to come along.  I said no, I really need to get sleep for the big parade in the morning.  They countered by saying it sounded like what I needed was a massage and they were both every bit as giddy as they were anxious to take turns giving me one.

Seeing as I was getting nowhere with them I resorted to simply being blunt.  I stopped , turned around and told them both, “Look.. here’s the thing, you’re both very wonderful, helpful and all but.. if you’re looking to maybe make some money for a ‘massage’, it’s just not gonna happen.  I gotta get home and I don’t want to waste your time.  So.. thanks for the walk but, I gotta go.”

Now, I thought that was fairly clear and to the point.  Their only response was, “What??.. you don’t like us?”  The other one chimed in, “Am I not sexy for you??”  Exasperated I just threw up my hands as I left and said, “Been fun!.. but, gotta go!!  Bye!!!“, and I made my way down the road as they returned to Mango Square in search of a new distraction.  But now, I had to travel over a mile of blocked roads to find a taxi and it was already after midnight.  I finally found one somewhere around 1a.m.  I got home around 2a.m. and was up again, showered and downing some coffee by 8a.m.  By 9:30a.m. I had gotten a taxi from Mactan to the cordoned off zone of Cebu and began taking photos again.

It was a long, long 48-hours but I had a fantastic time mixing into the crowd and walking right in the parade to get my photographs.  Several Japanese photographers and I kept jockeying for prime spots during the day but it all worked out fine.  There was FOOD Sinulog 2013 (50)everywhere and I even located a clean bathroom along the parade route.  I took a one-hour break at the mall for a chance to sit down and then was at it again until the parade ended around 5pm.  At one point I was in a crowd so thick that I was at times moving with my feet barely touching the ground.  I just sort of ‘floated’ in a literal ‘sea’ of humanity.  I must have walked at least six to seven miles, maybe more since I covered the parade route three times over the two days.  I slept pretty good that final night, about ten seconds after I hit the pillow.

So now, here is the gallery with about 2/3rds of the photos I took.  I hope you can get a feel for the festival with them and perhaps someday experience it for yourself.  It is held every January around the 3rd week.  Details are at the official Sinulog Website.  Enjoy!

Henry (Reekay) V.


Author: Reekay V.

Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat and spent 1999 living in Vietnam.

Share with me my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Hopefully you find my observations helpful in your own adventures.
— Reekay


  1. GREAT PICS, HENRY! Enjoyed looking at them. I am sure there were a lot of proud parents that week. Everyone had smiles 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, it was a fantastic outing. The parade participants were in the hundreds and the crowds several thousand. I love big crowds for festive events. It was kind of my gift to myself for my 50th birthday. I’d been looking forward to going to Sinulog since the year before so it was great to finally, actually be there in the midst of it all!

    2. Yes, it was a fantastic outing. The parade participants were in the hundreds and the crowds several thousand. I love big crowds for festive events. It was kind of my gift to myself for my 50th birthday. I’d been looking forward to going to Sinulog since the year before so it was great to finally, actually be there in the midst of it all!

  2. Maybe when a ladyboy who clearly is trying to pick you up asks, “Where are you going?” Just say, to meet your wife or girlfriend. Maybe, then they’ll get the message..

    1. Good one! Although after no sleep for almost 24 hours I was kinda walking around in a daze by that point. I could have just curled on the sidewalk and fallen asleep right there, I was so tired. But it all worked out fine. 🙂

    1. Thanks!! I hope to be doing even more photography now that I’m in Bohol of the beaches at sunset. I’d photograph at sunrise but.. I’m never up that early. ha!

  3. Henry you have to treat ’em ladyboys the same treatment i give my buddies when they try to rough me up, pinched their man tits as hard as you can and see if they will bother you again.
    Anyways, nice pictures hopefully i can plan our backpacking trip next year to coincide with this festival…it’ ll be fun.

    1. Ha!, yah that would probably work.. but then again, they might like it. haha!! The one thing I would have done different and will do if I get to attend next year is I would have gotten a room the night before along the parade route. Even during the festival a room could be had for about $20 USD. I did check at a place out of curiosity, a small hotel called ‘Casablanca’ located just down the block from the National Bookstore in Mango Square but they were all booked up. Having a room would have saved me almost the same money as I spent in cab fare getting back to my studio in Mactan and returning again several times. Plus it would have been nice to drop in and take a shower after hours of walking, sweating, etc. There are lots and lots of what they call ‘Pension Houses’ which have super cheap rooms. But kinda on the seedy side and while I’ve had good luck the two times I used one, I’ve heard some have bedbugs. A much better place is the Mercedes Hotel near Pier 1. It’s about $20 a night, very clean, very professional, breakfast buffet for about $2.50 and has an internet cafe for 25cents an hour. Pretty sweet deal.

  4. Try visit my island camiguin and tell me all about it best month to go April and may because it’s HOT the ocean is like oil it doesn’t move see ya 2016 if I’m still alive

Comments are closed.