Flores de Mayo
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Flores de Mayo (Spanish: "Flowers of May") is a Catholic and Aglipayan festival held in the Philippines in the month of May. Lasting for a month, it is held in honor of the Virgin Mary. The Santacruzan refers to the pageant on the last day of Flores de Mayo, held in honour of Helena (known as Reyna Elena) and Constantine finding the True Cross in Jerusalem. That it is in May probably stems from the old, Galician date of Roodmas, which was abolished by Pope John XXIII in 1960 in favour of the present September 14 observance.
In the Bicolandia
In the Bicol region, especially in the locality of Barangay Sabang in Naga City, the Flores de Mayo is held every Wednesday and Saturday of May. It is headed by the Legion of Mary, Praesidium Cause of our Joy, and the Rañeses and Alcantara families, with the last day called as "katapusan". The ritual is started with the rosary.
The traditional "Maria" with its respective meaning is said after the recitation of the Spanish Salve and the litany. After the ceremony, simple snacks are given to the children who attended the devotion. Alabasyon is the term for the prayers sung in honour of the Holy Cross.
In the Katagalugan
In the Tagalog region, this custom and celebration started after the proclamation of the dogma of the Inmaculada Concepción (Immaculate Conception) in 1854 and after the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla's translation of the devotional "Flores de María"("Flowers of Mary"), also known by its longer title "Mariquit na Bulaclac nasa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buannang Mayo ay Inihahandog nañg mañga Devoto cay María Santísima" ("Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations in the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary Most Holy").
One famous Maytime tradition in Batangas, especially in Lipa City is the Luglugan. The Luglugan is the nightly devotion and party in honor of the Blessed Mother in their respective tuklong. Every night, devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary offer flowers and prayers to her image. After the prayer, the Hermanos or Hermanas for the day will give away treats to the participants. Finally, the nightly party is held. The luglugan lasts for a month until the Tapusan (ending) which marks the end of Flores de Mayo with a Holy Mass, Santacruzan tied with the procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Final Luglugan which lasts until the next day.
A Sagala is a religio-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns, and even in small communities throughout the Philippines during the month of May. One of the most colourful aspects of this festival, the pageant depicts the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Many movie and television personalities participate in the events and are featured in major sagala. This festival was introduced by the Spaniards and has since become part of Filipino traditions identified with youth, love, and romance.
Prior to the Santacruzan, a novena is held in honour of the Holy Cross.
The procession itself commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena and her son, the newly converted emperor Constantine. After the Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem and brought back to Constantinople, there was a joyful celebration for thanksgiving.
Order of the procession
The participants of this pageant would follow this typical arrangement:
Biblical Characters and Traditional Personifications
- Matusalém (Methuselah) - bearded and bent with age, he is depicted as riding a cart and looking preoccupied with toasting grains of sand in a pan over a fire. This is a reminder that the world is transient and will end up like the dust which he is toasting.
- Reyna Banderada (Queen with a banner) - a young lady dressed in a long red gown carrying a yellow triangular flag. She represents the arrival of Christianity.
- Aetas - represents the aboriginal Filipinos who were the very first settlers of the islands.
- Reyna Mora (Queen Moor) - represents Muslim Filipinos, owing to Mary's status in Islam and mention in the Qur'an. Islam arrived in the Philippines two centuries before Christianity and today is the second-largest religion in the islands.
- Reyna ng Saba (Queen of Sheba) - represents the unnamed queen who visited King Solomon and was overwhelmed by his wisdom, power, and riches. She carries a jewelry box. The Queen of Sheba is further associated with the Santacruzan via her inclusion in the Golden Legend in which the provenance of the true cross is determined (see article on the True Cross).
- Rut at Noemi (Ruth and Naomi) - ancestresses of King David and Jesus Christ.
- Reyna Judít (Queen Judith) - represents the Biblical widow Judith of Bethulia who saved her city from the Assyrians by slaying the cruel Holofernes. She carries the head of her victim in one hand and a sword in the other. She is also known as Infanta Judith.
- Reyna Ester (Queen Esther) - the Jewish queen of Persia, who spared her people from death at the hands of Haman through her timely intervention with King Xerxes. She carries a sceptre.
- Cleopatra - represents Cleopatra VII Philopator, the famous last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She is escorted by a man representing Mark Antony.
- Samaritana/Sta. Photina (The Female Samaritan/St. Photine) - the woman at the well with whom Christ spoke to. She carries a jug on her shoulder.
- Sta. Verónica - the woman who wiped the face of Jesus, she bears her Veil which in traditional Hispanic iconography, has three imprints of the Holy Face of Jesus instead of one.
- Tres Marías (Three Marys) - each Mary holds a unique attribute associated with the Entombment of Christ:
- Reyna Fé (Queen Faith) - symbolises Faith, the first of the theological virtues. She carries a cross.
- Reyna Esperanza (Queen Hope) - symbolises Hope, the second theological virtue. She carries an anchor.
- Reyna Caridád (Queen Charity) - symbolises Charity, the third theological virtue. She carries a red-coloured heart.
- Reyna Sentenciada (Queen Convicted) - has her hands bound by a rope, she stands for the Early Christians, especially the virgins, who were martyred for the Faith. She is sometimes accompanied by two Roman soldiers.
Each figure in this group alludes to a title of the Virgin Mary or to a figure associated with her. Each of the letters of the angelic salutation "AVE MARIA" is carried by an "angel"—a girl wearing a long white dress and wings.
- Reyna Abogada (Queen Advocate/Lawyer) - defender of the poor and the oppressed, she wears a black mortarboard cap, Graduation gown, and carries a large book. Her appearance is a representation of Mary, Help (Advocate) of Christians. In some Santacruzan processions, the figure of the Doctora also makes an appearance, which may be an allusion to Mary, Health of the Sick.
- Reyna Justiciá (Queen Justice) - a personification of the "Mirror of Justice", one of Mary's titles in the Litany of Loreto. Her attributes are a weighing scale and a sword.
- Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) - bears a shepherd's staff.
- Reyna de los Ángeles (Queen of Angels) - bouquet of white flowers, escorted by angels.
- Luklukan ng Karunungan (Seat of Wisdom) - carries a Bible.
- Susî ng Langit (Key of Heaven) - two keys, one gold and the other silver, the imagery adapted from the keys on the Papal arms
- Reyna de las Estrellas (Queen of the Stars) - a wand with a star.
- Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose)- a bouquet of roses.
- Pusó ni María/Corazón de María (Heart of Mary) - a pink heart.
- Reyna del Santísimo Rosario (Queen of the Most Holy Rosary) - she carries a large rosary.
- Reyna Luna (Queen Moon) - she represents the moon, as the throne or footstool of Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse.
- Reyna Candelária (Queen of Candles) - she carries a long lit taper, symbolising Purification of Mary.
- Reyna de la Páz (Queen of Peace) - a dove.
- Reyna de los Patriarcas (Queen of Patriarchs) - a wooden rod.
- Reyna de los Profetas (Queen of Prophets) - an hourglass.
- Reyna de los Confesores (Queen of Confessors) - a scroll.
- Reyna de los Mártires (Queen of Martyrs) - a crown of thorns or a pierced heart (Mater Dolorosa).
- Reyna de los Apóstoles (Queen of Apostles) - the palm of martyrdom.
- Reyna de los Santos (Queen of Saints) - a golden wreath, symbolic of the crown of the saints.
- Reyna del Cielo (Queen of Heaven) - a flower; accompanied by two little "angels".
- Reyna de las Vírgenes (Queen of Virgins) - a rosary or a lily; also escorted by two little "angels".
- Reyna de las Flores (Queen of Flowers) - The queen of the Flores de Mayo. She carries a bouquet of flowers.
- Reyna Emperatríz (Queen Empress) - this is another representation of Saint Helena, this time as mother of the Emperor, who bestowed upon her the imperial title of Augusta meaning 'empress' or 'queen mother'.
- Reyna Elena (Queen Helena) - the last member of the procession, she represents Helena of Constantinople who found the True Cross; this is symbolised by her attribute, a small cross or crucifix that she carries in her arms. This considerably prestigious role is usually awarded to the most beautiful girl participating in the pageant. In some communities, the identity of the maiden who will be Reyna Elena is kept a secret until the day of the procession. Some towns are a bit more accommodating, boasting of three Reynas Elenas in their Santacruzan.
- Constantíno - the escort of Reyna Elena; traditionally a young boy representing the Emperor Constantine.
The procession is accompanied by the steady beat of a local brass band, playing and singing the "Dios te salve" (the Spanish of the Hail Mary) (Actually it is universally known as the Hail Mary Prayer, Sp. Oración del Ave María.) Devotees hold lighted candles and sing the prayer as they walk. It is customary for males participating in the Santacruzan to wear the traditional Barong Tagalog and that the females wear any Filipiniana-inspired dress.
After the procession in some places, there is the pabítin game (in Cavite province, it is known as "agaw-bitin") that serves as a culminating activity for the children. The pabítin is a square-shaped bamboo grille or frame to which goodies (candies, fruits, small trinkets, etc.) are tied with thin strings. This grille in turn is tied to a long rope passed over a strong branch or pole some 2 metres above the ground. Children then gather under the frame as the it is slowly lowered, and they then jump as high as they could to grab the goodies while someone jerks it up and down repeatedly until all the prizes are gone. Sometimes they add the "palosebo" game, a tall greasy bamboo to be climbed up by contestant to get his prize from the tip of it with small red banner containing P500 or higher amount.