Buildup to Sinulog

Wednesday

Most of the westerners one sees in Cebu are retired males, often accompanied by wife and children. There is a smattering of younger men accompanied by bar girls. Occasionally there are sightings of backpackers, i.e. young budget travelers.

This morning I passed by the Starbucks clone and was surprised to see a solo female backpacker, the first one I had spotted in country. Later I saw two backpacker couples in quick succession. That night at a restaurant I frequent it had at least twice the number of patrons and they were in larger groups than usual. Then it dawned on me, that people were arriving for the Sinulog fiesta this weekend.

Back at the hotel I saw a sad looking couple, he on the phone and her staring off into space, looking for a room no doubt.  A month ago I was looking for a room in a budget hotel in the uptown area and the only ones that were not booked for Sinulog were the one I’m in and the ones with a scary lack of security.

Thursday

Westerners everywhere. I saw more in my morning 200 yard walk to resupply on water, pick up the daily fiction short story collection (also known as a newspaper) and attempt to walk past Julie’s Bakeshop without buying at least one chocolate crinkle. Retail businesses that have parking lots facing the parade route are filling the lots with booths. One of the discos has put up an outdoor stage and sound system to handle the overflow.

My favorite place for grilled seafood has listed the bands for the coming weekend. There is live acoustic music every night, usually two acts. Saturday and Sunday both have four acts listed, an earlier starting time and a closing time that means either the neighbors are going to have no choice but to party into the wee hours – or at least listen to one.

Many more people in my hotel lobby, longer waits for the elevator. People are actually eating in the hotel cafe.

The major streets have had banners since before last weekend, more banners are being put up.

Shoot – I almost forgot to check if I had enough cash to make it through the weekend without visiting an ATM. I expect they’ll all be empty by Sunday.

Friday

More of the same. The street in front of my hotel is difficult to cross during rush hour. Today it was easy, as everyone was barely moving. The rest of the day it was as busy as rush hour usually is. Before crossing I usually look for a group of girls to follow, thinking basic human instinct will prevent them from being run down. Today even the girls were looking concerned. I stood on the side of the road for several minutes weighing whether it was worth it to cross and come back for a couple chocolate crinkles. My hotel lobby and parking lot are ridiculous.

Saturday

What the f? Where is everybody? The street is as empty as it is when I look out my hotel room window late at night. This is the same street that was dangerous to cross yesterday at the same time of day

There are two events today, a water parade recreating Magellan’s landing. His expedition brought the statue of the Christ child that later miraculously survived a church fire and is the basis for the festival.   The second event is a 7 kilometer reverent processional where 1 to 1.2 milion people will follow the statue from one church to another.  I expect that part of town is as crowded as uptown is empty today.

Street vendors selling parade related trinkets appeared today.

My hotel is in the middle of a rectangle with tomorrow’s parade route passing on four sides. I’ll be able to walk to any of the four streets in 3 to 10 minutes. Given the size of the expected crowds, I’m going to stock up on munchies for the room in case I decide returning to the room is better than standing in an endless line for lunch.

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