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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Flores de Mayo y Santacruzan 2014

Flores de Mayo is believed to have originated in the mid-1800s when the Vatican proclaimed doctrines about the Immaculate Conception. The festivity is sometimes called Flores de Maria which means Flowers of Mary, where Flores de Mayo means Flowers of May. This celebration may have been extracted from the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla’s translation of the devotional Flores de Maria where flowers are offered to the Blessed Virgin. This tradition is said to have been introduced by the Spaniards to the Philippines.

Every day for the entire month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Children and young adults with cut flowers and basket of petals in hand, march down the center aisle of the church or chapel, offering the flowers to the image of the Blessed Virgin near the altar. Hymns to the Virgin Mary are sung throughout the offering while novena prayers are said before the floral offering.

As a highlight of the celebration of Flores de Mayo, a religious festivity called the Santacruzan is celebrated in honor of St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great – the first Christian emperor, who found the relics of the True Cross or Holy Cross. The story goes to say that around 300 years after the death of Jesus Christ, Queen Helena was in search of the True Cross of Jesus. At the Calvary, she found 3 crosses, when she was 75 years old. She asked her sick servants to touch each cross and one of the three crosses she found, had caused the miraculous healing of the sick servants. That cross was believed to be the same cross where Jesus Christ died.
The Santacruzan starts with a novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the rosary prayer being offered every day. After the novena, a procession will follow which will culminate on the ninth day, the highlight of the festivity. 
This colorful pageant parade is arranged in this order:
1. Methuselah - he is bearded, curved with age, riding a cart looking preoccupied with toasting some grains of sand in a pan over a fire. This is a reminder that all that glitters will end up as dust like what he is toasting.
2. Reyna Banderada - a young lady dressed in a long red gown carrying a yellow triangular flag. She represents the coming of Christianity.

3. Aetas - represent the state of the country before the coming of Christianity. These are the unconverted Filipino pagans.
4. Reyna Mora - represents the dominant religion before Christianity (feminine of Moro from the Moslem religion).
5. Reyna Fe - symbolizes the virtue of faith - the first of the theological virtues. She carries a cross.
6. Reyna Esperanza - symbolizes the virtue of hope - the second theological virtue. She carries an anchor.
7. Reyna Caridad - symbolizes the virtue of charity - the third theological virtue. She carries a red heart.
8. Reyna Abogada - the defender of the poor and the oppressed. She wears a black graduation cap (toga) and gown and she carries a big book.
9. Reyna Sentenciada - has her slim hands bound by a rope. She is the symbol of the innocents who have been convicted. She is escorted by two Roman soldiers.

10. Reyna Justicia - an image of the "mirror of justice". She carries a weighing scale and a sword.
11. Reyna Judith - representing Judith of Pethulia who saved her city from the Assyrians after she beheaded the cruel holoferns. She carries the head of the beheaded man on one hand and a sword on the other.
12. Reyna Sheba - who visited the famous King Solomon and was overwhelmed by his wisdom, power and riches, she carries a jewelry box.
13. Reyna Esther - the biblical Jewish who secured her countrymen from death and destruction through timely intervention with the King Xerxes. She carries a scepter.
14. Samaritana - the woman who Christ spoke to at the well. She carries a jug on her shoulder.

15. Veronica - the woman who wiped the face of Jesus. She carries a bandana printed with the three faces of Jesus.

16. Tres Marias 
a. Mary of Magdala - she carries a bottle of perfume; 
b. Mary, Mother of Christ - she carries a handkerchief; 
c. Mary, mother of James - she carries a bottle of oil.

17. Marian - celebrating the many titles of the Virgin Mary.
A-v-e--M-a-r-i-a -- represented by eight (8) girls all Wearing long white dresses with wings to make them look like angels. Each one carries a letter to complete the word "AVE MARIA."

a . Divina pastora (Divine Shepherdess) - she carries a shepherdess' staff.

b . Reyna de las Estrellas (Queen of Stars) - she carries a wand with a star.
c . Rosa Mystica - she carries a bouquet of roses.
d . Reyna Paz (queen of peace) - she carries the symbol of peace.

e . Reyna de las Propetas - she carries an hour glass.
f . Reyna del Cielo (Queen of Heaven) - she carries a flower. She has two (2) angels.
g . Reyna de las Virgines - she carries a rosary and is surrounded by two (2) little angels.

h . Reyna de las Flores (Queen of Flowers) - she carries a bouquet of flowers. 

18. Reyna Elena (Queen Helena) - She is the highlight of the procession, the legendary founder of the true Cross, represented by the small cross she carries. She is escorted by her son, Constantine, under a huge canopy of May flowers. Immediately behind her is a float carrying the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, followed by a brass band that lends the festive sounds to the procession.

The procession is followed by the steady beat of rondalla, playing and singing "Dios Te Salve". The devotees walking with the procession hold lighted candles in their hands and singing the prayer.

Dios Te Salve (Hail Mary)Dios te salve Maria
Llena eres de gracia
El senor es contigo
Bendita tu eres
Entre todas las mujeres
Y bendito es el fruto
Y bendito es el fruto
De tu vientre Jesus.
Santa Maria Madre de Dios
Ruega por nosotros
Pecadores ahora
Y en la hora
De nuestra muerte amen. Jesus.

As the pageant moves along the streets, devotees holding lit candles follow, and join in the rosary, novena, and songs of praise. Oftentimes, after the evening Mass, the town Mayor hosts a dinner party to cap the celebrations. After the procession there is a pabitin that serves as a culminating activity for all the children to enjoy. Pabitin is a square trellis where goodies (candies, fruits, etc.) are hung by strings. This trellis in turn is tied to a rope and is suspended on a strong branch or pole. The children gather under the trellis and they jump as high as they can to try to pick the goodies as the trellis gets lowered to them while someone pulls it up and down repeatedly until the goodies are gone. For the Santacruzan to be more electrifying, the chosen Reina Elena is kept a secret until the day of the parade to surprise the people. It is requested that male members attending the Santacruzan wear Barong Tagalog and the women wear any Filipino costumes, if available.
This Filipino tradition ("The Queen of May Festivities"), introduced by the Spanish conquerors, is more than 100 years old and lives on even in Europe and America. Filipino Communities and Associations all over the world rejoice the Santacruzan with the same pageantry and glamour as the townsfolk in their homeland. Filipino-Americans in New Orleans uphold the tradition courtesy of The Franzuela Family. In Europe, the Euro-Santacruzan is hosted by The Filipino Community in Belgium. In the month of May, Filipinos don't need to stop to smell the flowers. The smell and scent of sampaguitas (Philippines' National Flower), kalachuchis, roses and other blooms, floats in the air.

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