Fiesta draws 8M

1/18/10 - A BIGGER venue is being contemplated for next year’s Sinulog, after the large crowd that turned up for yesterday’s festivities raised the possibility of a stampede.
“The Cebu City Sports Center is getting too small for the Sinulog. I think we have to look for a bigger venue,” said Ricky Ballesteros, Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) executive director.

He said the coliseum being planned at the South Road Properties would be better suited for the event.
The day may have started out gloomy, but the weather did not stop some eight million people from lining up along Cebu City’s streets to watch the 11-hour parade.
The crowd estimate came from Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez, who made rounds of the parade route several times.
The estimate included those who turned up for the early mass at the Basilica del Sto. Niño, where people left no free space in the Pilgrim Center that can hold 12,000.
No violence marred either the religious or cultural festivities.
However, pickpockets kept busy and worries about traffic gridlocks prompted Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to cancel the permits for street parties scheduled after the parade.
Osmeña said he was also saddened by the low turnout of out-of-town contingents and wants to make “minor” changes to the Sinulog festival to make it more appealing to delegations from other provinces.
Osmeña lauded the organizers of yesterday’s grand parade for coming up with a world-class program at minimum cost.
Sinulog 2010, which cost the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) P25 million to stage, ended without a major glitch, save for the downpour that forced organizers to delay some contingents’ performances on stage.
“I have nothing to do with this. We should give credit to all the organizers. If you were to do this in Hollywood, it would cost you millions of dollars and it’s something that cannot be duplicated anywhere because people just contributed their time and talent,” said Osmeña.
“It’s really their devotion to the Sto. Niño,” he said.
Police Chief Nerez thanked the communications groups and medical teams, who were stationed in each sector set up by the police.
The day began with overcast skies, but the sun came out before noon. The rain began past 3 p.m., briefly halting the program.
Spillover
At the Cebu City Sports Complex grandstand, police estimated there were 20,000 people inside, including those at the sides of the stage.
While the grandstand can accommodate 13,000, Chief Insp. Arnel Banzon, who was in charge of security there, said the bleachers had more the place’s capacity.
Out in the streets, Nerez noticed that before 7 a.m., the areas near Carreta, Imus and P. del Rosario lacked crowd control personnel.
During his second round, though, he was satisfied and stopped to thank volunteers for helping the police.
At least two children were found abandoned in one sector. One of them, a boy with Down Syndrome, was found by Nerez near Harrison Plaza on Osmena Blvd.
The boy’s guardians took police suggestions seriously, writing the boy’s name and a contact number on his back. The boy was picked up by an aunt, after he helped himself to some spaghetti from a policeman.
Cooperative
Another boy was also hit by a motorcycle along the Imus road.
He did not suffer serious injuries, but the medical team decided to take him to a hospital aboard an ambulance just to be sure.
Nerez noted that the crowd was very cooperative and did not insist on going over the ropes used as cordons.
While not all areas could be as tightly watched as others, Nerez said the police focused their crowd control efforts on Gen. Maxilom Ave. and Osmena Blvd., where the lanes tended to be narrower.
In earlier meetings, police agreed to have personnel ready to handle crowd control, should student volunteers leave before the parade ended.
But yesterday, there were enough volunteers as criminology students and interns were also deployed to help keep the crowds outside of the cordon. Many of the students stayed until late afternoon to manage the thickening crowd.
Some 20,000 watched the contingents from the grandstand of the Cebu City Sports Center alone, based on the crowd estimate provided by Cebu City Police Office deputy director for operations Pablo Labra.
Change
While he was grateful for the “tremendous” efforts of the organizers, the mayor lamented the absence of out-of-town contingents that joined previous parades.
So the festival will be more appealing to out-of-towners who want to promote their towns or provinces, Osmeña wants the Sinulog Festival Queen contest to be a highlight of the Sinulog week.
He said yesterday that the Festival Queen should take the place of the Miss Cebu pageant to give the Sinulog week a more exotic feel. The Miss Cebu pageant will be moved to the Charter Day week every February, if the mayor has his way.
“If I were to make any change next year, it will be very minor. I will move the Miss Cebu to Charter Day and I will make the Festival Queen the main event before the Sinulog proper because I think it’s much more dynamic and presentable with all the costumes and also because the delegations want to show off, and I think this is something that would enhance the participation of out-of-town contingents,” the mayor said.
Osmeña said the organizers should be more sensitive to what the out-of-town contingents want, which is to promote their communities.
Exotic
He clarified that the Miss Cebu fiasco last year—when the wrong candidate was announced as the winner of a contest based on texters’ votes—has nothing to do with his suggestion.
“I think people are getting more weary of beauty contests and people want to see something more exotic and the Festival Queen is very exotic... We have to consider that out-of-town contingents would want to project their own place and we’re very guilty of not doing much of that,” he said.
For Sen. Richard Gordon, the Sinulog has improved a lot since he was Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary in 2004.
He encouraged the organizers to keep on outdoing themselves to get more tourists to come to Cebu, especially since the festival creates a lot of livelihood opportunities.
“Sinulog has come a long way. Most definitely it’s better.
It has become an entertainment for the locals and the foreigners and we should promote it even more. I’m very happy that a lot has improved, the dances and the costumes and props are better,” Gordon said.

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