In a statement sent, Anthony Gerard Leuterio, founder and president of Filipino Homes, said pushing for a hastily done facility could make or break Cebu’s reputation as a destination.
“If we want to showcase Cebu Sinulog worldwide, it is risky to rush a venue that is not properly planned. Consider all the risks,” Leuterio said, airing his concern on security, convenience and the overall festival experience.
His company Filipino Homes has been consistently embarking on real estate shows abroad selling Cebu as a second-home destination. Leuterio said he always highlights Cebu’s month-long Sinulog celebration as one of Cebu’s best assets and a natural crowd drawer that turns a tourist into an investor and eventually a property owner. He said he is concerned at how the comeback of this grand festival would be viewed around the world.
“This is the biggest Sinulog comeback, and never experiment with something that has not yet been proven,” he said. Leuterio noted that the SRP venue is “half-baked” without proper planning on security, and parking, among others and that it would be better to consider going back to the old route and venue at the Cebu City Sports Center.
“If we are not prepared, then don’t push it. We need to go back to the best venue, the old one. You cannot just build an 8,000-capacity stage in eight days,” he said. In other countries, festival preparations are a big deal, “preparations are done years before.”
Not against SRP
Leuterio clarified he isn’t against SRP as the new venue, “holding it now, isn’t just the right time.”
“I am not against changing the venue of the Sinulog Grand Parade so long as it is planned for a year. This is the biggest and grandest event in Cebu and the Philippines. You cannot just transfer it to a vacant area and let the public sacrifice (for all the inconveniences),” he said.
Leuterio’s sentiments reinforced earlier comments of Ricky Ballesteros, former executive director of Sinulog Foundation Inc., about SRP as the new venue.
“Just visited the venue to see for myself the progress of work…With very little time left, so many things to be done plus the unpredictable weather… Make Cebu City Sports Center ready as the fallback venue,” he said in his Facebook post on Saturday, Jan. 7.
Ballesteros agreed that SRP is still the best alternative venue for future Sinulog activities but “not this time.”
“Maybe in the future when all necessities in holding big events and festivals like Sinulog are already in place. But if the organizers are already fixed on deciding to hold the Sinulog in SRP, why not consider Cebu City Sports Center as a plan B, if the venue is not yet ready and if the need arises, there’s a ready fallback venue,” he said, stressing though that “organizers should listen to stakeholders, especially to spectators and dancers.”
Cebu’s business leaders, meanwhile, are hoping for a successful run of Sinulog activities amid the controversy.
“Let’s give our City the chance to prove they have adequate preparation for next week’s festivities. Sometimes change is difficult but I welcome the initiative to hold it in SRP as this will promote our new business district. I recall years ago, the Sinulog route passed through the Cebu Business Park when it was still new,” said Charles Kenneth Co, president of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“After two years of hiatus, we hope for a successful celebration of the Sinulog. We leave the choice of the venue to the wisdom of the organizers and the local government,” said Kelie Ko, president of Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
At least two million spectators are estimated to witness the Sinulog Grand Parade 2023.
The SRP is a 300-hectare reclamation area in Cebu City. Touted as a new business district, the reclaimed area that also connects Cebu City and Cordova, Mactan via the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway is home to many integrated mixed-use developments like SM Seaside City, City di Mare, Nustar Resort and Casino and South Coast City owned by the country’s blue chips.