Bangsamoro leaders calls out Sinulog dance for ‘cultural insensitivity’

Jan. 15, 2024
Screenshot from Sinulog Foundation Inc. livestream

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Moro leaders and netizens criticized one performance during Cebu’s Sinulog opening ceremony last Friday that interpreted a Moro dance they said was “insensitive” and “inaccurate”.

A video of the performance posted on the Facebook page Ka Fiesta TV showed performers from the Cebu Technological University (CTU) representing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) by interpreting the singkil, a traditional Maranao dance.

Netizens particularly from the Moro community called out the performance for its cultural appropriation and misrepresentation of Moro culture. The university has apologized for this in a statement on Saturday.

Sinulog organizers reportedly planned that the opening festival would include cultural performances representing the country’s 17 regions to be performed by the universities of Cebu.

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim also weighed on this matter in a statement released on Saturday, pointing out that the inclusion of Bangsamoro and Muslim elements was misplaced.

“Obviously, the Sinulog Festival is a deeply religious event of our Christian brothers and sisters which we respect. However, the inclusion of Bangsamoro and Muslim cultural arts and symbols in that festival is indeed misplaced,” Basilan Representative and former governor of the ARMM Mujiv Hataman explained the “historical inaccuracy” in CTU’s depiction.

“We see the CTU students dancing and holding the statue that symbolized their faith. Let me make this clear: There’s no credible or official historical account that the Bangsamoro people have been subjected to the colonial rule of Spain,” Hataman said in Filipino.

The Sinulog is the religious and cultural festival of Cebu province celebrating the child Jesus or the Santo Niño. The festival is one of the biggest events in the country, drawing thousands of visitors and tourists to witness events marked with festive dancing.

Ebrahim acknowledged the “enthusiasm and interest” of CTU to embrace the Moro culture in their performance, but he wishes that “such expressions should come with genuine sensitivity and deep understanding of the unique and vibrant Bangsamoro cultural context.”

Hataman said while the performance was “regrettable”, he advised that festivals and performances should “ensure that cultural representations are respectful, accurate and contribute positively to our shared understanding of our nation’s rich heritage.”

“Let us celebrate diversity with accuracy and respect,” he added. “It’s important to recognize the history of one’s art, culture, or tradition, especially in celebrating the Sinulog Festival to praise the diverse cultures from our regions. History books have narrated the strong resistance of the Bangsamoro people especially in Mindanao against Spanish colonizers.”

CTU in its statement posted on their Facebook page, apologized for their performance that “have been perceived as insensitive or disrespectful towards (the Muslim) culture and religion.” 

“We assure you that there was absolutely no intention to cause harm or offense, and we are truly sorry if any aspect of our presentation came across as such.”

“We value and respect the rich cultural and religious diversity of our community, including the significant contribution of the Muslim community to Cebu’s vibrant tapestry. Inclusivity and understanding are core values of our university, and we strive to celebrate all cultures with sensitivity and awareness,” the statement added.

The university said they are open to dialogue with Moro leaders to build a “more inclusive and respectful university, and… to earn back (the) trust and collaboration” of the Moro community. (

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