HERE’S my unsolicited advice for Sinulog revelers: the best accessory today is neither flipflops nor a hat.
It’s a view.
Commuting around the city for the past days, I couldn’t not see them: the bleachers, stands and other platforms positioned beside the road.
Driving home on the wee hours of the morning of Saturday, I saw men still putting up some structures that will be later filled with people, starting with the Saturday afternoon procession of the Santo Niño image and lasting till the Sinulog Mardi Gras on Sunday.
The bleachers look odd in an urbanscape almost palpably vibrating in anticipation. Unlike the waves of pennants unfurling over the sea of humanity that will blanket the main thoroughfares, these structures are skeletal, bare.
They hover beside the roads like old men summoned once again to be of service. No need to garland them with bursts of color. At the height of their greatest use, these bleachers will be invisible, crawling with spectators craning for views of swirling dancers, floats of imagination, giants, pretty faces and yet more cavorting.
Strength of materials and the power to give a vantage point: only two reasons why somebody remembers to take the bleachers out of storage.
According to Jarenz in www.skyscrapercity.com, these “retractable tiered benches for spectators… will not cost you anything except for a sun tan.”
The Sinulog Foundation Inc. has even assigned a committee of engineers to oversee the bleachers, as well as risers, judges’ stage and platforms.
The police also advised that “illegal” bleachers, put up by establishments to monopolize the view along the Sinulog carousel route, will be taken down. According to the authorities, only one firm is authorized to put up the public bleachers.
Bathed in the dingy pool of streetlights and reflections from the rain-flecked streets, the bleachers do not seem as if they have to contend with the gravity of their self-importance, on top of the crush of curious humanity.
Fixed at their stations until their use is over and dismantling alone awaits, these bleachers have seen more Sinulogs than I, residing here for 42 years, have seen. These bleachers may see twice or more that number of future events, unless rust or technology gets to them first.
I claim no intimacy with bleachers as I am phobic around crowds. The few exceptions I make to walk with a mass—for the Santo Niño, press freedom and a few pet causes—I find I prefer the view seen from the level of my eyes.
To view upwards is to assume an adoring, blind gaze; to view down is to belabor under the conceit of privilege, conferred always with a vantage point.
Trailing behind in the Santo Niño procession, I often watch that red-and-gold vision dwindle to a mere speck until it disappears while a sea of devotees break through the streets’ cordon and push me farther and farther away.
Why the need for pilgrims to wave after a figure that’s no longer within sight? If the bleachers could speak—they who are most functional when they are invisible— I think they will say: a view is not a prerequisite for faith.
In this life, few things can be more anomalous, or miraculous.
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* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Jan. 20, 2008 issues