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Cebu shrugs off liquor ban for famous festival

Mayor bows to complaints that drinking erodes Sinulog ’solemnity’

Festival participants doing a street dance (Photo courtesy of sinulog.ph) Festival participants doing a street dance (Photo courtesy of sinulog.ph)
  • Emmanuel Mongaya, Cebu City
  • Philippines
  • January 13, 2011
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A ban on alcohol sales has failed to dampen spirits of those planning to attend the "Sinulog" festival in the central Philippine city of Cebu on Sunday.

The annual celebration dedicated to Señor Sto. Niño or the Baby Jesus has featured food, drinking and street entertainment since its inception in 1980.

But this year, newly elected Cebu Mayor Michael Rama surprised many by denying the request of liquor companies to sell beer on Sunday, the last day of the festival.

His action was in response by some complaints that while religious fervor was the order of the day, at night the gathering of thousands of people turned into a drunken revel. Critics complained that the "commercialist excesses" drowned out the solemnity of the occasion.

The mayor said the sale of alcoholic drinks would violate a city ordinance, which prohibits the sale and serving of liquor within 100 meters of churches, hospitals, schools and public plazas.

Although the ordinance allows the mayor to grant special permits, Rama said he would not do so, although businesses along the parade route already licensed to sell liquor would be unaffected.

The Fuente Osmeña Circle is an ideal place to sell goods during the festivities, especially during the Grand Parade on Sunday because thousands of devotees are expected to flock to the area.

The ubiquitous barbecue and puso – rice cooked and served in woven coconut leaves – along with the lechon (roasted pig), which is Cebu’s specialty, are readily available at food stalls along the 4.5 km parade route.

While most Cebuanos have shrugged off the ban, some say that drinking is a highlight of the festivities that attracts visitors. They say the mayor needs to do more than refuse the issuance of permits to sell beer to bring back solemnity to the festival.

Related reports
Devotees flock to Cebu for ‘Sinulog’ festival
Security up in Cebu for feast of Child Jesus
Cherished Filipino festival brings English town to standstill

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