In the Philippines, there is an abundance of flowers during the month of May. The first of May is an important day throughout the Philippines as it heralds a merry month of fiestas, flowers, dainty maidens in pretty gown, and the twin processions of the Flores de Mayo and the Santacruzan.
Filipinos celebrate a tradition known as Flores de Mayo by a daily offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, throughout the month of May which climaxes on May 31 with a glittering procession of sagalas at a Santacruzan procession.
The Santacruzan is a Spanish legacy that commemorates the discovery of the True Cross by Reyna Elena or Queen Helena of Constantinople, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. According to legend, Constantine the Great was converted to the Christian faith through the vision of a flaming cross in heaven, which is said to have led him to victory in battle. Queen Helena, the first Christian empress and who was canonized after her death, led a pilgrimage in search of the Cross, and claimed to have found it in Jerusalem in AD 324 and brought back to Rome.
The custom and celebration began after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and after the circa 1867 publication of Mariano Sevilla’s translation of the devotional “Flores de María” or “Flowers of Mary”.
A Santacruzan is a religious-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns, and even in small communities throughout the Philippines during the month of May. The celebration that was traditionally a religious affair has evolved into a paramount social event today. Many movie and television personalities participate in the events and are featured in major santacruzan.
Throughout the archipelago, every town and barrio stages its own Santacruzan which is the last celebration before the monsoon rains arrive in June. The fiesta is managed by a sponsor called hermana or hermano mayor, who recruits pretty girls to be the sagalas (maidens).
In my hometown in Alitagtag, Batangas, the nightly devotion honoring the Virgin Mary is held in a structure called tuklóng. We offer flowers and prayers to a statue of Mary every night in May. In the afternoon, we make all kinds of beautiful floral arrangements which are attached to a bamboo stick that devotees hold while kneeling forward and then offer them to Mary accompanied by prayers and hymns. After the work session in the afternoon, the Hermanos or Hermanas for the day will give the crowd meriendas before everyone head to the tuklóng. This ritual culminates with Tapusan (“ending”) which is marked with a Mass, a Santacruzan procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Cross.
I participated in Flores de Mayo festival in Bauan, my mother’s hometown at age 7. It was a two-day event. I remember I was very sleepy during the coronation. It was past my bedtime. I almost fell asleep while someone was making a speech. Then the next day, we had the parade. I remember people cheering as we passed them during the parade. As a young girl, it was a wonderful experience for me. I will always cherish that memory. I really felt like a princess. Did you notice the float has my name on it, “Princess Rosalind”. I was a princess for one day!
A Santacruzan procession and stage event ends the month of May in a distinctively Filipino style. The procession is accompanied by the steady beat of a local brass band, playing and singing the Dios Te Salve (the Spanish version of the Hail Mary). Devotees hold lighted candles and sing the prayer as they walk. It is customary at the present time for males participating in the Santacruzan to wear the traditional Barong Tagalog and that the females wear any Filipiniana-inspired dress. My escort was not wearing a Barong Tagalog. It was only a few years after the end of the WWII and Barong Tagalog was still not a typical Filipino’s formal wear.
Source: Insight Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel