Examining flow through performance: the Sinulog Festival in Cebu, Philippines


Reagan Maiquez

PhD defended at: 

Monash University



This project aims to study flow through an auto-ethnography of performance of an annual cultural event. Every third week of January, Catholic devotees celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño, Jesus Christ figured as a child and king, on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. This religious event has been reinvigorated for more than three decades and is now called the Sinulog Festival. Sinulog, in the Cebuano language means to flow forcefully or move like currents. Events in this festival also evoke flow in the parades of dancing groups, devotees, religious icons, tourists, and spectacle. In this research, I describe the Sinulog from a number of perspectives and define flow as a multi-dimensional concept. My analysis explains flow not with a transnational view but at the micro-level or containment of performances at five different venues. These are the basilica, the streets during a parade and a religious procession, in a sports stadium, and inside an open area of a mall. My research suggests that a higher level of abstraction of this flow-movement emerges out of the participation of an engaged public as they performed a religious act or panaad. I witnessed this religious engagement as a massive and flowing performance of a mass-ritual, spectacular and pious processions, and a spectatorship of religious images within a shopping mall. Another form of abstraction comes from the witnessing of the dances and performances that served a commemorative function for a community during the Sinulog. Finally, flow can also be abstracted as a movement and engagement of people in an event through its live and mediated witnessing as shown by the celebratory dance of a local politician in a sports stadium. This research contributes to an understanding of flow or mobility within a local and grounded level, particularly in a festivity that occurs on an island of the larger Philippine archipelago.