Cebu’s Sinulog Festival – for God’s glory?

“The Sinulog is a religious activity and festivity. Therefore it must be pleasing and glorifying to God.” Perhaps that is what you are thinking. Maybe that is the reason why you [join] the festivity. But think again. Not all religious activities and festivities are pleasing to God. In fact, He hates many of them. And why? Because they do not really glorify Him. We read in the Bible, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)

Now, does the Sinulog glorify God? Any bold and honest enough to think this matter through will have to disagree. During the Sinulog, there is much wild party and many get drunk. For what energizes and gives life to most people in this religious revelry? It is no secret. It is wine or some other intoxicating substance, and not the Holy Spirit of God. This does not glorify God at all. The Bible says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The Holy Spirit should energize and control our lives and activities, not wine or some other intoxicating substance. For what happens when people get drunk? It leads to dissipation – a behavior which allows lack of concern or thought for the consequences of an action” (Louw-Nida Lex).

Moreover, the use of very worldly songs and music characterizes the Sinulog celebrations. That kind of music does not encourage joyful reverence and thankfulness to God. It stirs up, instead, unholy and ungodly passions. Therefore, how can it glorify God? The Bible says, “…in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…” (Eph. 5:19,20)

Furthermore, what brings many (not all) revelers together in this religious celebration? Again, it is no secret (many are ashamed to admit it) that it is not true love for another but lust. This is true of all religious revelries ancient and modern. The difference is just a matter of degree. Sexual attraction and titillation are an integral part of them. The Sinulog is known for its sexually provocative movements and dances, flesh-revealing clothes and custumes, men and women flirting with one another. In fact, it is no secret that many “motels” and “inns” designed particularly for illicit sex are very busy just before and during the Sinulog. So how in the world can this glorify God? God created sex. Enjoying sex within marriage is holy and pleasing to Him (see Prov. 5:15-21). But sex outside marriage, even just a hint of it, is surely very hateful to God. It does not glorify Him at all! (see Heb 13:4Mt. 5:27-30Eph. 5:1-7 et al.)

Then finally, and most importantly, at the center of the Sinulog festivities is the veneration of the image of the Sto. Niño. Is this glorifying to God? God says in the Bible, “I am the Lord, that is My name, I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8). Instead of giving honor and glory to the true and living God, who is invisible, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, who is now in heaven, people are venerating and giving glory to a graven image. Even if the image of the Sto. Niño which is supposed to represent the Lord Jesus (a matter that is laughable since no one would really suppose that the Lord Jesus now in heaven at any time looked like that image), it would still not glorify God. For the glory and honor that belong to the Triune God are given to a graven image. The Lord clearly forbids and greatly hates this. (see also Isa. 40:18-20Exo. 20:4-6Deut. 4:15-18Exo. 32:1ff)

If you think that the Sinulog is for God’s glory, you are just deceiving yourself. Repent and worship God in the way God says He is to be worshipped. The Lord Jesus clearly says, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The worship God demands is both spiritual (“in spirit”) and scriptural (“in truth”). Only that kind of worship is pleasing and glorifying to Him.