The Sinulog: An Ilonggo Wedding Ritual

The Sinulog is a traditional wedding ritual performed in several municipalities in Iloilo. It is a fight dance, where the objective of the group of warriors is to prevent the wedding party from passing.

At the particular performance we witnessed, musicians played alongside the warriors as they attacked and fought each other with bolos, preventing the bride and groom from entering the reception area. The bride and groom were able to enter the reception area when their godparent approached the performers to pay for them to pass through.

There are several interpretations for the purpose of the fight dance. Francisco Lamparero, a Sinulog performer, said the performance wards off bad luck and evil spirits from the newlywed couple. Another interpretation is that it is a “ransom,” and the bride and groom cannot pass unless the godparents pay the ransom to the warriors.

Rey Carlo Gonzales, a historian and the groom in the performance of the Sinulog, shares one theory on the origin of the performance. During the pre-Hispanic period, the only way for a man to get a wife from another town is to fight her male relatives for her. As for the term “Sinulog,” a possible origin of the name may come from cockfighting, as the word ‘sulog’ means “cock.”

The 62 year-old Lamparero hails from Cabatuan, and has been performing the Sinulog for more than 30 years. He said during his younger years they also performed the Sinulog when visitors came to town or during the feast of San Nicolas. Ricks Alabi, a Sinulog performer claims that the Cortez family from Cabatuan are long-time performers of Sinulog. Gaudencio Cortez, one of the more elder performers attests to this.

Alfredo Diaz, stage director and Humanities faculty member of UP Visayas in Iloilo, said the Sinulog is also performed in other Iloilo municipalities such as Calinog and Tubungan. It is now rarely seen in weddings in the metropolis, but performers from the different municipalities keep the tradition alive by performing Sinulog during weddings outside the city.

Words by Ina Azarcon-Bolivar
Photos by Nico Primaleon and Louie Pelaez