Survival Guide: 10 Tips for An Epic Sinulog Experience

Are you ready for the 2016 Sinulog Festival? Here are my tips to prepare you for the grandest celebration in Cebu.

Cebu is one of the most known city in the Philippines. Although it is generally laid back, the city transforms from quiet to crazy every third weekend of January. The Queen City of the South becomes remarkably vibrant celebrating the arrival Child Jesus locally called as Señor Santo Niño in the shores of Cebu. It is a commemoration of start of Christianity in the country. Despite the religious nature of the celebration, it includes various higlights such as Miss Cebu, Festival Queen Competition, Sinulog Idol, Photo and Film Competition, Fluvial and Solemn Procession, Grand Parade and Street Dancing and Grand Finale Fireworks display, you are sure to find something to suit your taste.

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Photo by Roland Pascua

Sinulog Festival is the grandest festival in the Philippines bringing in about 1 million visitors. As the weekend draws near, here are some tips to prepare you for the mother of all celebrations.

1. Plan your events well.

Here is a map of the Solemn Procession 

If you are more on religious events and plan on going to the Basilica to see the image of the Child Jesus, make sure to be there as early as 5 a.m. because the queue is really long.

Activities from Friday to Sunday:

January 15, 2016 (Friday) Visual Merchandising Contest (Dept. Stores and Malls)
4:00 A.M. – Walk with Mary (Area) Fuente Osmeña – Sto. Niño
9:00 A.M. – Solidarity Meeting (All Competing Contingent/Floats/ Higante/ Puppeteers) @ Cebu City Sports Center Gym
6:00 P.M. – Sinulog 2016 Dance Crew Finals @ Cebu City Sports Center
6:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M. -Coke Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
7:30 P.M. – Sinulog Festival Queen 2016 Coronation Night @ Cebu City Sports Center
8:00 P.M. – Cebu Popular Music Festival @ Cebu Coliseum

January 16, 2016 (Saturday)
6:00 A.M. – Fluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Sto. Niño
8:30 P.M. – 10:00 P.M. – Yamaha Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
9:00 A.M. -Re-enactment of the Baptism of Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon Basilica del Santo Niño
9:00 A.M. -Sinulog 2016 “Balik Baroto Regatta”
12:00 P.M. -11TH “The Street Vibration & Big Bike Rally 2016” by V-max Owner’s Group, Inc Cebu Chapter
2:00 P.M. -Solemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño
7:00 P.M. -Sinulog Fireworks Competition @ SM City Cebu
10:00 P.M. – 12:00 MN -San Miguel Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle

January 17, 2016 (Sunday) Sinulog Grand Parade
4:00 A.M. -Mañanita Mass @ Basilica del Sto. Niño
6:00 A.M. -Pontifical Mass
8:00 A.M. -Holy Mass @ Cebu City Sports Center
9:00 A.M. -Sinulog Grand Parade Carousel Kick Off
7:00 P.M. -Grand Finale and Grand Fireworks @ Cebu City Sports Center
7:30 P.M. -Party Bands, Fuente Osmeña
9:00 P.M. -Pyrospectacular Show (Pyromusical Show @ SM City Cebu)
9:00 P.M. – 2:00 A.M. – Sinulog DJ Mixing Grand Finals Night @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
12:00 MN -Sinulog Fireworks @SRP

Map for Sinulog 2016 Festival Grand Parade Route Map

If you are more for dancing and parties, here are just some of the parties happening over the weekend.535081_10206495239958529_7494243345047192356_n

2. Bring Cash.

12571415_10153784062098329_171818833_n Avoid long queues to the ATM or worse running out of money when you need drink. Make sure you have enough cash on hand. It would be wise to keep them in different places, some could be hidden inside your bra (my mother’s advice). If you want to make the most out of your dollars, I recommend you head to Alco Credit and Foreign Exchange, Inc. they offer the best rates within the city, you can find them at Raintree Mall.

3. Prepare you Sinulog Looks

Jover Alforque

You can buy cheap Sinulog shirts that you can cut and redesign. Opt for cotton and avoid wearing clothes with thick material. I discourage you from wearing jean pants, it can get heavy once it gets wet. You have endless options for accessories from feather to wooden beads. It is a great time to get your henna tattoo, you can easily find an artist along the street.The weather can get really hot and humid so do not be afraid to bare more skin. Unless you plan to go to the Basilica then you have to be covered. Do not wear expensive jewelries too unless you want to make friends with robbers. Also make sure that the bag you bring is always close to your body and waterproof.

4. Practice the Sinulog dance steps.

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Photo by Victor Kintanar

It would not be an authentic Sinulog celebration if you do not learn the steps. It is not that complicated, it is close to the basic one two step. All you have to do is move one foot forward and take two steps backward.

5. Think of Sinulog as a Marathon.

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I am not saying you have to wear your running shoes but it would be a good idea to wear your most comfortable footwear since the main streets in Cebu are closed specially on Sunday since parade starts as early as 6:00 a.m. People are forced to be more fit and you will not notice that you have been walking for hours because of the loud music, smiling dancers and happy people you meet in the road.

6. Embrace Extraversion.

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Photo by Erick John Cuevas

If you have problems with personal space, then you should forget about it for this weekend. Cebuanos are extra friendly during the festivities. You will get hugs, greetings and drinks from random strangers on the road. You will be a dot in a sea of humans. The massive crowd walking with you will test you on this too.

7. Bring Your Squad.

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Any celebration would not be fun if you do it alone. Bring your awesome friends except for the one who always complains (no one wants a kill joy). Even if you are a solo traveler, do not hesitate to talk to people. If you are a member of Couchsurfing like me, search for Sinulog events in the website.

8. Must Haves for Sunday’s Grand Parade

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Celebrating Sinulog is like hitting the beach for summer. You must bring the following essentials: Water or any form of potable liquid for Hydration, Sunscreen, Favorite Pair of Sunnies,  Fan to Keep Cool , Small Snacks for Energy, Camera for Endless Selifes/Groufies, Powerbank

9. Eat. Party. Sleep. Repeat

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When I celebrated Sinulog 2014, I hanged out with a bunch of crazy guys so I ended up partying from Tuesday until Sunday. Make sure you get rest and nourishment in between. While you want to maximize your partying or events, make sure you will be okay on Monday and not in a hospital. There was a year when I missed out on the partying because I did not have enough sleep, my body gave in on Sunday. Also, remember to drink in moderation. It is easy to get carried away but you have to be responsible enough or at least be with a responsible friend. The past Sinulog parties have caused a major uproar from the conservative people as photos of teenagers sleeping unconscious along the streets went viral in social media sites. You do not want to leave traces of your partying in someone else’s Facebook account.

10. Be Ready For Everything and Anything.

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Photo by Restie Derigay

Make sure to agree on a meeting place with your friends. During the festival, the mobile networks normally suffer lags and some messages arrive hours later. While the weather reports say the weather will be fair, make sure that you are ready to embrace the rain as well as random showers of water, beer, alcohol and even paint. These tips should give you an idea on what to expect but nothing can be completely planned in life. Do not let this unpredictability stop you, this will make your Sinulog experience more memorable. 

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With all that said and done, I wish you the best for Sinulog 2016! May the force be with you as you brave the streets of Cebu! Prititit!!! Pit Señor!

Reginald James Lorico
Photo by: Reginald James Lorico

10 Filipino Green Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

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Christmas is coming fast! Most of you are probably scrambling for gifts to give. While it is convenient to buy those usual gifts like money, clothes or tech products, you should fall into the trap. I have rounded up options for a more sustainable gift- giving.

Here are 10 gift items that are proudly Filipino made and environment friendly.

1. All Natural Bath and Body Products by Aromacology Sensi

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Nature based, organic skin care products is 98% botanical based. The company uses state of the art manufacturing facilities, and with the approval of the Bureau of Food and Drugs, Aromacology Sensi’s products are carefully crafted from all naturally-based raw materials like herbs, flowers, and fruits extracts; a true perfect blend of nature and science. They offer a wide-array of skincare products which are designed to fit Asians’ sensitive skin.

2. Aquaponic Set-up by Cebu Aquaponics

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If your loved one loves to eat healthy then this would be a good gift. For a set-up of around P4,000, you can assure that he/she gets many greens fresh from their own backyard for the incoming year.

3. Potted Herbs by Cebu Herbs

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I am a big fan of basil but there are times when it is impossible to find fresh ones at the supermarket. This is a perfect choice for those friends who are into cooking. Although, there are many dried herbs available in supermarkets, fresh is always best. The company offers a wide variety of herbs from basil to lavender and they even sell lettuce and strawberries!

4. Jemel Kent’s Mushroom Kit

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Similar to the potted herbs, mushroom is a popular ingredient for many dishes. Also, if you have a vegetarian friend, these oyster mushrooms are good alternatives (think mushroom burgers). This kit is easy to grow, all you need is to cut-out the box and moisten the kit daily.

5. Unrooted Grape Canes from Gapuz Grape Farms

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Grapes in a tropical country? Yes! While most people do not think about this but grapes actually can grow in the Philippines. Take it from Gapuz Grape Farms, their family has been growing, harvesting & nurturing high-quality grapes now for 30 years! Their grapes have a California pedigree and locally grown with a pinoy twist of planting method.

6. Handmade Stuffed Toys by Conservation Sewmates

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Looking for adorable plushies to give to kids or to those who are young at heart?

“Conservation Sew Mates” was inspired by, and established with the aim to support wildlife conservation efforts. As a livelihood supplement project, Sew Mates workshops were organized to teach fishermen community to make and sell the toys to tourists.

Your purchase is helping the sustainable development of responsible ecotourism in the Philippines. All proceeds will be donated to support Physalus (a non-profit conservation group)’s whale shark research project in the Philippines.

7. Craft Kits by Craft2Go

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If you are running out of creativity on what to give an artistic person then Craft2Go craft kits is a sure hit. They offer unique, one-of-a-kind, creative craft kits for children and adults which are locally produced.

8. Bags by Siklo Pilipinas

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Backpacking around for more than a decade, avid back packer couple and artist-designer Lyndon Ecuacion and Clarice de Villa found alternative solutions in inner tube and tire rubber as a suitable material to protect gears in the adventure travel lifestyle. It is sustainable so long as humanity use wheels.

Since there is no known disintegration rates for tire rubber to decay, upcycling this material implies durability that can outlive our generation. It then evolved and blossomed into an advocacy geared towards socio-economic solutions while inspiring green initiative for our only planet and its entire inhabitant. Hence, Siklo Pilipinas was founded.

9. Bamboo Zen Speakers

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It is difficult to miss out on karaoke when in the Philippines. Without a doubt, music plays a big role in our country. You hear music everywhere, but who would have thought that a common grass like the bamboo can be used for getting the music out.

The ‘Zen Speaker’ is an innovative bamboo dock for your Smartphone; it also amplifies the music from your Smartphone. Make it more personal by costumizing the design with their favourite colour and name.

10. Bicycle by Bambike

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Cycling is getting more and more popular in the Philippines and why wouldn’t it be? It is a great cardio workout and is good for managing carbon footprints.

Bambike is a socio-ecological enterprise based in the Philippines that hand-makes bamboo bicycles with fair-trade labor and sustainable building practices. Their bamboo bike builders (aka Bambuilders) come from Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine based community development organization for the poor, working to bring an end to poverty. They have programs that include scholarships, sponsoring a preschool teacher, and a weekly feeding program for children, as well as a bamboo nursery for reforestation. Bambike is a company that is interested in helping out people and the planet, dedicated to social and environmental stewardship. Their goal is to do better business and to make the greenest bikes on the planet. Bambike Revolution Cycles: People-Planet-Progress.

No matter what budget and preference, there is always a more sustainable gift option for you. Be a more environmentally aware shopper and support Filipino products!

10 Ways To Start Eating Sustainably

Eat right! I’m sure you have heard of vegetarianism and how it helps the environment. But if you are not willing to give up your meat, should you just continue with your old ways? I say no! Here are some ways that you can eat your way to a better society and ahealthier environment. The secret is Sustainable Food.

What is Sustainable Food?

Well according to Sustain: There is no legal definition of ‘sustainable food,’ although some aspects, such as the terms organic or Fairtrade, are clearly defined.

Their working definition for good food is that it should be produced, processed, distributed and disposed of in ways that:

  • Contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods – both in the UK and, in the case of imported products, in producer countries;
  • Protect the diversity of both plants and animals and the welfare of farmed and wild species,
  • Avoid damaging or wasting natural resources or contributing to climate change;
  • Provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities.

1. Purchase local, seasonal, organic, foods.

Supporting local/regional food systems helps protect our health and the health of our communities, and helps stimulate local economies. Buying local and unprocessed or less processed foods is particularly critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmentally destructive practices and supporting local people in developing countries help in breaking cycles of exploitation and poverty.

In Cebu, you can easily head to SRP Farmer’s Market. There farmers do not deal with middle man  and do not have to pay taxes thus they earn more.

If you want to know the price difference:

1 kg of Lettuce at Farmers Market = P40-60

1 kg of Lettuce at SM Supermarket = P120

2. 2.Buy food produced by environmentally friendly farms.

Sustainable agriculture can feed the world without damaging the environment or threatening human health.

3. Keep animal product consumption to a minimum.

The University of Queensland suggests at least one meat-free day per week.

4. Buy only seafoods that are caught or farmed in a sustainable manner. Deciding what seafood to order at the restaurant and what to purchase at the supermarket can shape the future of our global marine environment.

Who does not enjoy seafood? I am a fan of crustaceans and I enjoy fresh fish but the recent fishing practices have greatly affected the marine environment. From shark-finning to illegal fishing, our love for seafood is causing destruction to our oceans. So before you order, check if it is sustainable seafood.

Ocean or tuna? When you consider the pro’s and con’s , Ocean should be the primary option. It’s been 2 years since I gave up eating tuna. Why? Eight out of the nine local canneries in the Philippines scored poorly in terms of traceability, transparency, and sustainability. Just think of it a can of tuna that sells for P20-40 per can is costing the lives of sharks, sea turtles and other marine life because they end up as by catch. What about Century Tuna? Century Pacific Food, Inc. has joint ventures with Thai Union, the world’s largest canned tuna supplier with alleged human rights and environmental abuses along its supply chain. Sign the petition here to the world’s biggest tuna company.

5. Minimize food waste.

According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten. In a world full of hunger, volatile food prices , and social unrest, these statistics are more than just shocking: they are environmentally, morally and economically outrageous. So next time you are at a buffet, think realistically and do not let your emotions take over. Always remember what your mom tells you, finish your food and take food in moderation.

 

 

 

 

6. Not purchasing bottled water.

Buy reusable water bottles! Plastic water bottles are one of the top marine litters. Here in the Philippines, we have ATM’s or Automatic Tubig (Water) Machine that is a coin-operated water dispenser. I make it a point to always bring my water bottles and if I bought bottled water each day for a week that would already mean 7 bottles. Now add it up exponentially by the number of people in this planet!

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 7. Eat in a way that promotes health and well-being (consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and avoiding artificial ingredients).

Philippine television will always have advertisements of sodas, fastfoods and other junk foods. It is no different from other countries and this constant brainwashing has made us crave for all these foods.

I rarely eat in fast food places, it is because I have seen several documentaries and I am not a fan of processed foods. As a nurse, I have always been conscious about what I eat.

If you find it hard to fully ditch some food items, here are some healthy swaps that you can do.

8. Know the cost of cheap food.

Cheap food can be misleading.

Here are some information that you do not know about cheap food:

  •  Exploitation of cheap laborers who will work long hours in inhumane conditions because they are trapped in a endless cycle of poverty.
  • Mass farming depletes the soil of nutrients and promotes erosion, so farmers have to keep expanding as they burn out their existing fields (which leads to the further destruction of natural habitats)
  • The extinction of a great variety of seeds as food scientist hone in on one genetically modified “superseed” resistant to problems like drought and insects
  • The rise of monocultures where one, dominant crop is at risk of a single threat wiping it out completely
  • Air and water pollution from the by-products of massive food processing plants, commercial farms, and factory feedlots, which makes the air we breathe and the water we drink hazardous to our health
  • Carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels to keep all of the food system machinery moving; which leads to global warming and unpredictable climate changes (which ironically has repercussions on farming and crop yield!)
  • The use of viruses to break down the molecular structure of food to manipulate the genes (GMOs), a scientific practice we don’t have the longevity or the research to know if it’s really safe
  • Overproduction caused by commercial farming means an overabundance of cheap food, which leads to either lots of wasted, unused food or just the opposite: lots of overconsumption and a myriad of health problems including diabetes and heart disease
  • Food becomes less about nourishing people and more about profiteering; and big corporations are likely to disregard health and societal concerns in the pursuit of more and more money (their deep pockets also allow them to have very powerful lobbyists and essentially to buy out our government)
  • With every dollar spent you are telling manufacturers that it’s okay to keep doing things in the same, unsustainable ways.

9. Grow your own food.

Can you imagine how much savings you will incur if you save all the seeds? I started saving seeds from tomatoes and I have now a seedling from two avocado seeds that I saved, it was not even hardwork.

Here are other kitchen staples that we can easily regrow.

 

10. Be willing to give up convenience.

According to CDC, the average American eats away from home four times a week, and studies have shown that can translate to putting on 8 extra pounds a year. The more you eat away from home, the more the pounds can add up. Making small changes when we’re eating out or on-the-go can make a big difference in our health – and our waistlines.

In addition to that, fast food is not as convenient as we think, sure it saves you all the hassle when on a rush but it incurs later with long-term health effects.

THE WRAP-UP

When you weight the pros and cons of sustainable eating, you will realize why it is logically sound to shift. These 10 steps are lifestyle changes that you can slowly adapt to. Little by little as you progress, the changes you make will help lessen the impact we have in our environment and society because of our lifestyle choices.

With any decision, always choose the sustainable option.

“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

My Wardrobe Checklist for Backpacking

Planning to go on a month-long trip? Follow my wardrobe checklist for backpacking.

I always worry about my luggage when traveling. My obsessive-compulsive side always want to make sure I do not bring too much and most of the time, I barely reach half of my luggage limit.

“The old school of thought would have you believe that you'd be a fool to take on nature without arming yourself with every conceivable measure of safety and comfort under the sun. But that isn't what being in nature is all about. Rather, it's about feeling free, unbounded, shedding the distractions and barriers of our civilization—not bringing them with us.” ― Ryel Kestenbaum, The Ultralight Backpacker: The Complete Guide to Simplicity and Comfort on the Trail
“The old school of thought would have you believe that you’d be a fool to take on nature without arming yourself with every conceivable measure of safety and comfort under the sun. But that isn’t what being in nature is all about. Rather, it’s about feeling free, unbounded, shedding the distractions and barriers of our civilization—not bringing them with us.”
― Ryel Kestenbaum, The Ultralight Backpacker: The Complete Guide to Simplicity and Comfort on the Trail

I am lucky to always travel light. When I went for Malaysia for Ms. SCUBA International 2013, I managed to fit in 25kgs. my heels, customes and even all my dive gears. The problem most ladies face when doing long-term travel is trying to fit everything into a small luggage. I can recall the sight of my Bb. Pilipinas 2013  co-candidates during our three-day stay in Shangri-La. I felt that I barely brought stuff since I only carried a medium-sized duffel bag while the rest brought ones as huge as dive equipment bags (TBH I will never know what was inside those bags).

This year, I went to Tacloban and packed for a month of volunteer work. A month-long wardrobe in a 50 L backpack? How did I survive?

Here is my list:

TOPS

You can try to have 2 of these in bright colours to add more life to your usual neutrals.
If you are doing PR work, best to have some dressy tops.

4 Tank Tops

4 Shirts – 2 short-sleeved and 2 long-sleeved

Choose ones made from light materials.

1 Windbreaker

Jeans can be heavy though.
You can mix both to create a juxtaposition of sophisticated and casual.

3 Pair of shorts

2 Long Pants/Trousers

1 Pair of Leggings

A-line is safest.

1 Long Skirt

3 Brassieres

You can also choose to bring Nubra (silicone adhesive bras), they are easy to wash and wear.
Basic Undies

4 Pairs of Underwear

1 Sarong/ Cover-up (30 Ways to Use Your Sarong)

Less space consumed by microfiber towels compared to standard cotton ones.

1Towel (Microfiber is best)

1 Pair of Sneakers or Rubber Shoes (Hiking shoes are not as good looking but they do their job well)

1 Pair of Flip-Flop

1 Pair of Ballerina Flats (For sophistacated moments.)

These are my basics and you can choose to add clothing items depending on where you will be doing volunteer work. If you are backpacking in the Philippines, I suggest you bring ones made of cotton because the humidity will make you sweat like a pig, a pair of joggers to keep out mosquitoes at night.

Having a hard time deciding which to take? Let George Clooney inspire you or check out this Pinterest Board.

Find Your World

I chanced upon this video while I was travelling around the worldwide web, feeding my insatiable thirst for new articles. This video spoke to me because I have always shared the same belief, to not stick to one thing.

Maybe I just have commitment issues or have this Peter Pan complex that always needs to live like a kid seeing a candy store for the first time.

Being a science geek I’d like to think that life is one big science experiment and everyday is a chance to try new things. It is too short to stick to what is safe. Imagine eating the same meal thrice a day for a month?

Life is all about the risks and adventures. If you never try, you never fail or win. Nothing could be worse than a life of what ifs. Do things that scare the hell out of your soul. Take my challenge. Go out and find your world.