Historians have renowned that before the first Spaniards came to Cebu , the Sinulog was already danced by the natives in respect of their wooden god called anitos. Then, on April 7, 15 21 , the Portuguese navigator, Fernando de Magallanes arrived and planted the cross on the shores of Cebu , claiming the territory in the name of the King of Spain. He then offered the image of the child Jesus, the Santo Niño, as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu 's Rajah Humabon. Hara Amihan was later named, Queen Juana in honor of Juana, Carlos I's mother. Along with the rulers of the island, some 800 natives were also baptized to the Christian faith.
This event is often used as foundation for most Sinulog dances, which presents the coming of the Spaniards and the presentation of the Santo Niño to the Queen. A famous theme among Sinulog dances is Queen Juana holding the Santo Niño in her arms and using it to bless her people who are often worried by sickness caused by demons and other evil spirits.
The celebration traditionally lasts for nine days, ending on the ninth day when the Sinulog Grand Parade reveals. The day before the parade, the Fluvial Procession, a water-parade, held at dawn from the Mandaue City wharf to Cebu City wharf with the Santo Niño carried on a pump boat decorated with hundreds of flowers and candles. The procession ends at the Basilica where a re-enactment of the Christianizing of Cebu follows. In the afternoon, a more formal procession takes place along the major streets of the city, which last for hours due to large crowd participating in the religious event.
The Sinulog festival is one of the grandest, most distinguished and most colorful festivals in the Philippines . The major festival is held each year on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City to honor the Santo Niño, or the child Jesus, who used to be the patron saint of the whole province of Cebu (since in the Catholic faith Jesus is not a saint, but God). It is fundamentally a dance ritual which remembers the Filipino people's pagan past and their recognition of Christianity.
The festival features some the country's most colorful displays of ceremony and pageantry: participants clothe in bright-colored costumes dance to the rhythm of drums and native gongs. The streets are generally lined with vendors and pedestrians all wanting to witness the street-dancing. Smaller versions of the festival are also held in different parts of the province, also to celebrate and honor the Santo Niño. There is also a Sinulog sa Kabataan, which is performed by the youths of Cebu a week before the Grand Parade.
Recently, the cultural event has been commercialized as a tourist attraction and instead of traditional street-dancing from locals, Sinulog also came to mean a contest highlighting groups from various parts of the country. The Sinulog Contest is traditionally held in the Cebu City Sports Complex, where most of Cebu 's major provincial events are held.