January 16, 2009
What is Devotee City?
Devotee City is a free, temporary hotel at Cebu City's Plaza Independencia where visitors and devotees can stay during the Sinulog Festival. Devotees are housed in shipping containers loaned to the city by Aboitiz Shipping Company.
The facility is open for guests from today until January 19, when the festival ends.
A Million Devotees
Cebu City typically gets on the order of a million visitors for the Sinulog Festival. Hotels are packed, and those without a pocketful of money are likely to end up sleeping on the streets (thousands of people sleep on the streets of Cebu City every night of the year anyway, but that's another topic.)
Devotee City thus provides safe shelter for out-of-town Sinulog visitors who otherwise would be out on the streets, easy prey to the city's many predators. The encampment also provides some relief to the city's overcrowding and sanitation issues which are exacerbated during the festival.
You know, those 40-foot metal boxes filled with Sony Playstations and flat-screen TVs that get shipped from Ghuangzhou to Seattle, put on semi-truck trailers and delivered to Circuit City (..oops, just declared bankruptcy) where they are emptied and then re-filled with IOUs from the U.S. Government (promising that American taxpayers will be happy to pay the Chinese Government ninety-eight gazillion dollars per year until the Twenty-Seventh Century), and then returned to Ghuangzhou so the process can repeat.
The containers are also commonly used in the Philippines: for inter-island shipping, and also for importing low-end new clothing and cell-phones from China, and used clothing from Korea ("ukay-ukay.")
Thank you Aboitiz Shipping, for the loan.
Filipinos can easily convert an EMPTY shipping container...
...into a place filled with LIFE...
...and then into a HOME...
...or even into a small BUSINESS.
So drop in, you're one of the FAMILY now.
Filipino families are accustomed to living in close proximity.
Cebu City Allocation
In November, the Mayor and Council of Cebu City allocated 500,000 Pesos for the project:
P260,000 to feed 100 city government employees and other volunteers who spent a week building the encampment;
P85,000 for construction materials to be used to secure devotees from possible intruders;
P30,000 for medicine and vitamins for devotees;
P45,000 for staff T-shirts;
P40,000 for laminated identification cards and other office supplies (every guest must wear an ID card to screen out intruders.)
House Rules (posted at each container)
- 1. No one is allowed to smoke inside the quarter, smoking areas will be provided.
- 2. Bringing firearms, pointed or bladed weaons, or explosives is strictly prohibited.
- 3. Children should not be left alone in the area.
- 4. Drinking hard liquor within the premises is strictly prohibited.
- 5. Drunks are not allowed to enter the area.
- 6. No gambling allowed.
- 7. Cleanliness in quarters and surroundings should be observed.
- 8. Washing of clothes is not allowed except underwear.
- 9. Pot session inside the premises is strictly prohibited.
- 10. Silence inside the quarters should be observed.
- 11. Persons with suspicious behavior must be reported immediately to Devotee City Management for proper monitoring.
- 12. Portable toilets are provided free of charge for use of all persons staying in Devotee City. Everyone is enjoined to use them for their personal needs.
- 13. Van assignment shall be strictly observed. No request fo transfer shall be entertained unless meritorious.
- 14. Don't leave your personal belongings unattended.
- 15. Submit yourself for inspection when entering and going out of premises.
Devotee City just opened and allowed guests to begin coming in today. When I visited this afternoon, city officials were formally welcoming the guests, accompanied by singing from city staff and a Catholic mass.
You can see a corner watchtower of the adjacent historic Spanish Fort San Pedro above the presentation stage.
Devotee City residents include children...
...and everybody is part of a family.
These folks are from Pinamungahan, over on the west side of Cebu Island. Most visitors are also from different places on Cebu Island: Toledo City, Bogo, Dalaguete, etc.
Stack 'Em Up
I was thinking that shipping containers like these might provide a low-cost alternative for housing-short countries like the Philippines; until I reminded myself that at several hundred thousand Pesos per container, these cost much more than the typical nipa=style dwelling of Cebuanos, which can be built for a few thousand Pesos. Nipa huts are also much cooler than these ovens.
Saturday January 17 (tomorrow) morning: Fluvial Parade.
Saturday January 17 afternoon: Silent Procession.
Sunday January 18: Grand Parade.
Sinulog is exhausting; better take a nap to get ready!