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The Franciscan Youths (YOUFRA) of Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor: Feeling triumphant after giving their share to the community. Tree planting and clean up activities are one of the regular activities of these youth to help mitigate the adverse effects of climate change following their weekly formation at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor. (pia-siquijor/Rizalie Anding Calibo)
Central Visayas Region

PIA Press Release
Friday, January 13, 2012

Balikbayans watching Sinulog celeb increases every year

by Fayette C. Riñen

CEBU CITY, Jan. 13 (PIA) -- The number of balikbayans arriving in Cebu to witness the Sinulog Festival are increasing annually every year. This year, 300 returning Filipinos permanently based in the United States are here to witness the grand parade on Sunday.

In a program dubbed ‘Balik Cebu,’ balikbayans who arrived on separate dates since Jan. 10 have been treated to a VIP welcome upon arrival at the Mactan Cebu International Airport where on one instance, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, together with Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT) 7, were present to personally receive them.

The balikbayans camke from different parts of the US like Las Vegas, California, Seattle and other countries.

Upon arrival at the airport, the balikbayans are treated to a rondalla play and are greeted by a welcome committee with the initial words of ‘Maayong Pag-abot’ which means “welcome.”

Balikbayans are donned with leis and entertained by Sinulog dancers while an express service lane for Customs and Immigration are given for their convenience as part of the special welcome treatment.

Under the program, the returning Filipinos will also be treated to a Balik Cebu Dinner Party and Handumanan (memories).

A “Balik Cebu” assistance counter has also been set up at the Ayala Mall while the balikbayans will have a reserved area at the Cebu City Sports Center to watch the participating contingents of the Sinulog Mardi Gras.

Balik-Cebu chairperson Tetta Baad said since the program was launched 10 years ago, the volume of returning balikbayans grew on a yearly basis, which clearly indicates that the Sinulog Festival is gaining more popularity abroad.

Rama said since Dec., balikbayans from other parts of the globe are already in Cebu to spend Christmas with their loved ones. These balikbayans extends their vacation until the Sinulog period.

This indicates that the number of Filipinos based abroad who are in Cebu to watch and participate in the Sinulog Festivities is not limited to the over 300 balikbayans in the ‘Balik Cebu’ program.

Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 Regional Director Rowena Montecillo said the number of balikbayans coming home is projected to increase by 25 percent in four years or in 2016.

Montecillo said balikbayans are the ambassadors of Philippine tourism abroad. (PIA-Cebu)

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