Friday, June 2, 2017

Discovering Flores de Mayo: How Well Do You Know the Queens of Santacruzan?

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Aside from the first rain in May which is believed to possess healing powers, many Filipinos await this month for an extravagant festival celebrated in most towns across the archipelago, which is the Flores de Mayo. This celebration culminates with the Santacruzan which many, especially the young generation, aren’t aware of. For the millennials and gen z, the procession can be misleading and altogether shocking. One might ask, “Why is she holding a decapitated head?”; “Why is this queen blindfolded?” There are a lot of puzzling symbols that aren't friendly for the unfamiliar. So to help you know the queens and their symbols, here's an infographic from M2Comms.

Roughly translated into English as Flowers of May, this festival is popularly known for the parade of beauties with escorts and flower arcs. But in its essence, Flores de Mayo is a month-long celebration in honor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It started in the middle of the 19th century following the issuance of the Papal Bull in 1854 that proclaims Mary, the mother of Christ as free of any kind of sin, hence the name Immaculate.

During the festival, a special altar is set up for the Virgin Mary. Devotees would sing hymns and say prayers and most importantly, young girls would offer flowers to the Virgin Mother of Christ every afternoon following the daily novena.

The feast culminates with a pomp procession of beautiful town ladies dressed to the nines and accompanied by a handsome lad, under a decorated bamboo arc. This is what people refer to as Santacruzan. This procession is held in commemoration of the finding of the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena mother of Constantine the Great. 

It is when beautiful ladies portray female characters from the bible and female figures in the history of Christianity. In this procession, the highlight is not the ‘rebulto’ of the saints, but rather the participants who portray the saints.

If we’re to ask why it is so ingrained in the Filipino culture, a short answer would be, because we’re mostly Roman Catholics. But a good insight comes from an analysis of our native culture. As an Agricultural country in the tropics, the month of May is one of the most awaited months in the calendar because it is when the harvest is finished and the field work for the next season is already laid out. In short, it is a siesta month with a good supply of rice, fruits, meat, and vegetables: the very best time to revel in festivities.

May is also the month when most flowers blossom. With these events coupled with our penchant for pageantry and strong devotion to Mother Mary, it is not hard at all to understand why this tradition lives on to the present day--and the days to come.

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