January in Cebu City means two things: the start of the New Year, and of course, the big Sinulog weekend.
The Sinulog Festival—held every third Sunday of January in Cebu City—is a massive cultural and religious festival that commemorates the Filipino people’s acceptance of Roman Catholicism, where the very first of such spiritual conversions happened on the island of Cebu way back in 1521. In recent years, the festival has grown to such epic proportions that it has garnered worldwide attention from adventurous globe trotters everywhere who flock to the Queen City of the South in order to witness the famous grand street parade and other sidebar highlights. Sinulog has achieved a sterling reputation for the Philippines that it has held pride of place for many fun-loving travelers; putting it on equal footing alongside other huge international festivals such as the New Orleans Mardi Gras and the Carnaval Do Brazil.
Relatively new to the Sinulog scene is the huge rave experience known as LifeDance. Birthed in 2012, this intrepid outdoor music festival has steadily grown in terms of scale and ambition over the years. It has billed itself as the country’s first and largest ever ongoing al fresco music event that exclusively caters to the EDM genre and its thousands of devotees. Think of it as the Philippines’ ingénue answer to more established global EDM gatherings such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland, ZoukOut, The Big Chill, and Ultra Music Festival. Strong word of mouth plus incredible support by dedicated partyphiles from all over the Philippines has made LifeDance a major sidebar attraction for many visiting locals and foreigners during the weekend of Sinulog since its inception.
For the 2015 edition, the team behind LifeDance pulled out all the stops to ensure that they meant serious business by moving to a new and bigger venue (from the Boardwalk Complex to the Sugbu Open Grounds) and booking no less than six international headlining acts (Borgeous, Miss Nine, HookNSling, Nari + Milani, Vinai, WeRWolvz) for the one-night-only celebration. This being my third consecutive year of attending LifeDance, I decided to cover the event for my blog and focus more on scoping out the vibes of the new venue as well as capturing some nice photos for my LifeDance Hashtag Fansign project. Suffice to say that my overall experience for LifeDance 2015 was relatively great, but it was not without its faults. In a nutshell, herewith are the pros and cons:
- Bigger venue definitely handled the massive crowd capacity (more than 17,000-plus people as was announced at the festival), which is great considering this event keeps growing with every passing year.
- Production value has considerably improved in terms of the technical aspects like staging, lights and LED displays, fireworks, and sound quality. Hey, there were even drones up in the air with cameras that recorded the whole thing!
- No increase in ticket prices despite the number of international and local DJs booked for the event. This was no doubt helped in part thanks to the major and minor sponsors involved.
- New to LifeDance this year was the addition of a smaller secondary stage (handled by Petrol) where supplementary underground acts performed more edgy and alternative dance tunes which complemented the main stage where the headliners played the mainstream EDM sounds.
- Standby emergency services such as an ambulance and fire truck stationed right outside the venue, which is smart given that anything bad could happen in big music festivals.
- While the event implemented an upgraded tap-to-pay system using a special reloadable card to buy drinks, I found it despicable to have to pay 110PhP for a medium-sized bottle of water and 90PhP for a 12oz bottle of Coca-Cola. I get that this is part of how the event makes money to cover production costs and stuff, but the markups for food and refreshments at the concession stands are fucking ridiculous considering that there are supposed to be sponsors, but whatever.
- Bleachers for the VIP ticket holders. Really? You would think that those who paid extra for something that is branded as ‘VIP’ would deserve something marginally better to party on than bleachers you’d see at a public high school gymnasium, but okay.
- For those who aren’t that fortunate enough to have their own private transportation, getting home from the venue was an absolute nightmare compared to the old LifeDance location. It didn’t help that the taxis associated with the EasyTaxi or GrabTaxi app service were on very short supply in the early hours of Saturday morning when the people without cars or anyone to carpool with were starting to leave. Might I suggest having a dedicated fleet of jeepney transport services (which I think would be cheaper than hiring a bunch of taxis) after the show for the next LifeDance?
Pros and cons aside, I definitely had a lot of fun at LifeDance 2015 as I danced to the stellar lineup of DJs, bumped into some familiar partyphile faces, and met fun-loving strangers from all over the world. I hope that next year’s installment will be another step in the right direction, and that the reputation LifeDance has acquired will continue to flourish and serve as a great way to welcome Sinulog every year and boost Cebu’s tourism. Featured below are some of the shots I took at the event, including the LifeDance Hashtag Fansign Project where I asked attendees to hold up a fansign with the official LD hashtag ‘#lifedance2015’ and to create their own unique hashtags underneath it.
It’s been an absolute blast, and I look forward to LifeDance 2016 in the next 12 months!
360-degree view of the crowd at LifeDance 2015 with Miss Nine on the decks.