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Flores de Mayo, a festival celebrated in the Philippines during the month of May, holds deep significance as one of the May devotions dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Throughout the entire month, Filipinos pay homage to the Virgin Mary through various religious observances and festivities.
The culmination of Flores de Mayo is marked by the Santacruzan, a ritual pageant held on the last day of May. This grand procession commemorates the discovery of the True Cross by Saint Helena of Constantinople, also known as Reyna Elena, and her son Emperor Constantine the Great.
The Santacruzan is intertwined with the month of May due to its historical connection with the date of 'Finding of the Holy Cross Feastday', celebrated on May 3. Although Pope John XXIII removed this mass from the calendar in the 1960s to streamline holy days, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14 now combines the commemoration of the True Cross's recovery by Emperor Heraclius with the finding by Saint Helena.
The Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan embody the profound faith and devotion of the Filipino people. Through these traditions, Filipinos honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and pay tribute to the significant role she plays in their religious beliefs.
The festival serves as a testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of the Philippines, as well as a time for the faithful to express their love and reverence for the Virgin Mary and the Cross.
May has arrived in Bohol, filling the air with the fragrant scent of assorted flowers and bringing forth a celebration known as Flores de Mayo.
This festival holds a special place in the hearts of the people as it pays homage to the Virgin Mary and the blooming beauty of nature.
As the skies turn a delicate blue, Bohol comes alive with vibrant festivities and a spirit of reverence.
Flores de Mayo, meaning "Flowers of May" in Spanish, is one of the most cherished Christian festivals in the Philippines. Its roots can be traced back to the mid-1800s when Spanish conquistadors and friars introduced it to the islands.
In Bohol, this festival holds great importance as it signifies the farmers' gratitude for the bountiful blessings of the Virgin Mary, who provides rain and ensures the growth of crops. It is a time to celebrate nature's abundance and offer prayers of thanksgiving.
Throughout history, Flores de Mayo has been deeply ingrained in the culture and traditions of Boholanos. Its origins can be traced to the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.
The publication of Mariano Sevilla's book, "Flores de Maria," further popularized the festival across the country.
In 1867, Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan were officially observed in Malolos, Bulacan, marking the beginning of a long-standing tradition.
The month-long celebration of Flores de Mayo in Bohol is filled with colorful and enchanting rituals. Each day, townspeople gather in the church, offering prayers and flowers to the Virgin Mary before the altar.
The scent of May permeates the air as the church is adorned with a beautiful display of assorted blooms. This festival serves as a testament to the deep-rooted faith and devotion of Boholanos to their Catholic heritage.
In the provinces of Bohol, Flores de Mayo brings communities together in a profound way. Families, children, and devoted individuals fill the churches, engaging in heartfelt prayers and sharing homemade pre-packed goods.
Visitors to Bohol during this festival are often treated with generosity, receiving free snacks from Hermanos and Hermanas, who play a significant role in organizing and facilitating the holy celebration.
Games and competitions, such as coconut grabbing, pig grabbing, and marathons, add an element of excitement to the festivities.
One of the highlights of Flores de Mayo in Bohol is the grand procession of Santacruzan. This elaborate procession re-enacts the legendary quest of St. Helena to find the sacred cross, with St. Helena herself being the central figure of the parade.
The procession includes 19 Biblical figures and 21 Marian titles, all arranged in a specific order. Talented dancers and musicians accompany the procession, creating a magnificent spectacle that captivates the audience.
The town's church serves as the starting and ending point of the procession, which concludes with an evening mass and a communal feast.
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In Western and some parts of Eastern Visayas, particularly in Iloilo, the Flores de Mayo festivities are deeply ingrained in the local communities.
Each town has its designated puroks (neighborhoods) or streets, as well as barangays (villages), where a chapel, house of prayer, or even the local church houses an image of the Virgin Mary.
Children gather in these locations for catechism and teachings about the life and stories of Mary, the history of Marian apparitions, Christian doctrines and values, holistic virtues, and other life lessons.
During these sessions, children are also taught prayers and songs that are recited exclusively during the Flores de Mayo.
As a gesture of love, affection, and veneration, the children offer flowers before the image of the Virgin Mary. This practice serves as a commemoration of the Our Lady of Fatima apparition, which initially occurred on May 13, 1917.
Snacks are often provided to the children after the catechism sessions.
To encourage active participation and performance in the catechism, some churches and areas provide children with paper tickets. At the end of May, coinciding with the conclusion of Flores de Mayo, the children can redeem the value of these tickets for school supplies, which are typically prepared for the upcoming school opening.
Santacruzan, on the other hand, is usually held in the last few days of May, coinciding with the conclusion of the catechism sessions for children.
During the Santacruzan procession, the participants follow a general order, which typically includes the following:
The Cross or Image of Saint Helena:
This serves as the focal point of the Santacruzan. The Cross or the Image of Saint Helena holding the Cross is prominently displayed during the procession. This represents the search for the True Cross by Queen Helena.
Portrayed by a young woman, Reyna Elena is the main character of the procession. She represents Queen Helena and is considered the queen of the festival. Accompanied by a small boy dressed as Emperor Constantine, her son, Reyna Elena symbolizes the devotion and perseverance in finding the Holy Cross.
Other Marian Titles:
Following Reyna Elena, other women and girls representing various Marian titles join the procession. These titles include Reyna Fe (Faith), Reyna Esperanza (Hope), and Reyna Caridad (Charity), among others. Each title carries a symbolic representation of a theological virtue or aspect of the Blessed Mother.
It's worth noting that some organizers may choose to mix the Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo celebrations, using both the Cross and the Image of the Blessed Mother in a combined procession.
The Santacruzan festival has become deeply ingrained in Filipino traditions, associated with youth, love, and romance. Many movie and television personalities actively participate in these events, adding to the festivity and grandeur of the Santacruzan celebration.
In addition to the main titles, there are also additional titles representing Marian apparitions or dogmas. These titles, known as "Pamayanan" or communities, further enrich the Santacruzan procession. Here are some examples:
Pamayanan Inmaculada: Represents the Immaculate Conception. This title commemorates the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854.
Pamayanan La Naval: Represents Our Lady of the Rosary. This title is included in the Santacruzan due to its association with Reina del Santísimo Rosario and the miraculous victories of the Catholics over Turkish Muslims in the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, and over the Dutch in the Battle of La Naval de Manila from March 15 to October 4, 1646.
Pamayanan Asunción: Represents the Assumption of Mary. This title commemorates the dogma of the Assumption proclaimed on November 1, 1950.
Pamayanan Del Carmen: Represents Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who appeared to Saint Simon Stock in Mount Carmel, Israel, on July 16, 1251. She carries the Scapular of Mt. Carmel, emphasizing the promise of protection from the fires of hell to those who wear the scapular.
Pamayanan Dela Paz: Represents Our Lady of Peace. She carries a dove, symbolizing peace. This title is associated with Reina de la Paz, who also carries a dove, representing world peace.
Pamayanan Fatima: Represents Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared to three children in Fátima, Portugal, on May 13, 1917. She carries a rosary or wears a crucifix necklace.
Pamayanan Lourdes: Represents Our Lady of Lourdes, who appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, on February 11, 1858. She carries a large rosary.
Pamayanan Guadalupe: Represents Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to Saint Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico, on December 9, 1531.
These additional titles add depth and diversity to the Santacruzan, reflecting the various apparitions and dogmas associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Here are some additional biblical and historical figures along with their traditional personifications in the Santacruzan:
Matusalén (Methuselah) – Depicted as an old man with a long beard, he rides a cart and toasts grains of sand, symbolizing the transience of the world.
Reina Banderada (Queen with a Banner) – A young lady dressed in a long red gown, carrying a yellow and/or white pennant or the Flag of Vatican City, symbolizing the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.
Reina Aeta (Queen Aeta) – Represents the indigenous peoples of the Philippines, particularly the Aeta and Ati. She carries the Philippine flag.
Reina Mora (Queen Moor) – Represents the Muslim Filipinos, who are concentrated in Mindanao and major cities. She symbolizes the presence of Islam in the Philippines.
Reina de Saba/Reina Sheba (Queen of Sheba) – Portrays the unnamed queen who visited King Solomon and carries a jewelry box. She is included in the Santacruzan due to her veneration of a beam that would become part of the True Cross.
Rut y Noemi/Reina Ruth and Reina Naomi (Ruth and Naomi) – Depict the Moabite convert Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. They represent faithfulness and carry their respective symbols.
Reina Judith (Queen Judith) – Represents the biblical widow Judith of Bethulia, known for her bravery in saving her city. She carries the decapitated head of Holofernes.
Reina Esther (Queen Esther) – Represents the Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people from genocide. She carries a sceptre.
Cleopatra – Depicts the last active pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and is often accompanied by a male escort representing Mark Antony.
(Reina) Samaritana/Santa Photina (The Female Samaritan) – Represents the Samaritan woman at the well who spoke with Jesus about the Water of Life. She carries a water jug.
Santa Verónica/Reina Verónica – Depicts the woman who wiped the face of Jesus and carries a veil with miraculous blood imprints.
Tres Marías (Three Marys) – Depict the women associated with the Entombment of Christ, each carrying a unique attribute.
Reina Fé (Queen Faith) – Symbolizes Faith, carrying a cross or crucifix.
Reina Esperanza (Queen Hope) – Symbolizes Hope, carrying an anchor.
Reina Caridad (Queen Charity) – Symbolizes Charity, carrying a red heart or the image of the Sacred Heart.
Reina Sentenciada (Queen Convicted) – Depicted with bound hands, symbolizing the Early Christians who were persecuted for their faith. She may be escorted by two Roman soldiers.
These biblical and historical figures, along with their personifications, contribute to the richness and diversity of the Santacruzan procession, showcasing various aspects of faith, history, and cultural traditions.
Additional Marian titles and their personifications in the Santacruzan. Here are the remaining titles:
Reina Abogada (Queen Advocate/Lawyer) – Represents Mary as the advocate and defender of the poor and oppressed. She wears a black mortarboard cap and graduation gown, carrying a large book.
Reina Justícia (Queen Justice) – Personifies the title "Mirror of Justice" and carries a Scale of Justice and a sword.
Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) – Portrays Mary's care for Christians and carries a shepherd's crook or an image of a lamb.
Reina de los Ángeles (Queen of the Angels) – Symbolizes Mary as the Queen of Angels and carries a bouquet or garland of flowers, accompanied by ladies dressed as angels.
Luklukan ng Karunungan/Asiento de la Sabiduría (Seat of Wisdom) – Carries the Bible, representing Mary as the Seat of Wisdom (Sedes Sapientiae).
Susì ng Langit/Clavé del Cielo (Key of Heaven) – Bears two keys, one gold and one silver, symbolizing the key to heaven and Mary's role in welcoming mankind to the Kingdom of God.
Reina de las Estrellas (Queen of the Stars) – Holds a wand or baston with a star, alluding to Mary as the Stella Maris (Star of the Sea).
Rosa Mística (Mystical Rose) – Carries a bouquet or garland of roses, symbolizing the crown of roses given to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Pusò ni María/Corazón de María (Heart of Mary) – Represents the Immaculate Heart of Mary, holding a pink heart or the image of the Immaculate Heart.
Reina del Santísimo Rosario (Queen of the Most Holy Rosary) – Carries a large rosary, symbolizing devotion to Mary and the importance of the rosary.
Reina Luna (Queen Moon) – Represents the moon as a footstool of Mary, carrying a wand or baston topped with a crescent moon.
Reina Candelaria (Queen of Candles) – Carries a long, lit taper symbolizing the Purification of Mary or the Menorah, representing the Seven Sacraments, Virtues, or Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Reina de la Paz (Queen of Peace) – Holds a dove, symbolizing world peace or the Holy Spirit.
Reina de los Patriarcas (Queen of Patriarchs) – Bears a wooden rod or staff, symbolizing authority and representing the ancestors of the Israelites.
Reina de los Profetas (Queen of Prophets) – Holds an hourglass or clock, symbolizing time and Mary's connection to the prophets.
Reina de los Confesores (Queen of Confessors) – Carries a scroll or a purple candle, symbolizing the Sacrament of Confession.
Reina de los Mártires (Queen of Martyrs) – Bears the Crown of Thorns or a pierced heart, representing the martyrs who died for their faith.
Reina de los Apóstoles (Queen of Apostles) – Holds the Palm of Martyrdom, symbolizing the triumph of the apostles and martyrs.
Reina de los Santos (Queen of Saints) – Bears a golden wreath, symbolizing the Crown of the Saints, accompanied by two ladies dressed as saints.
Reina del Cielo (Queen of Heaven) – Holds a flower, accompanied by two ladies dressed as angels.
Reina de las Vírgenes (Queen of Virgins) – Carries a rosary or lily, symbolizing purity, accompanied by two ladies dressed as virgins.
These Marian titles add depth and symbolism to the Santacruzan procession, highlighting various aspects of Mary's role and virtues.
Reina de las Flores (Queen of Flowers) – She represents the Queen of the Flores de Mayo and walks under a flower-adorned arch. She carries a grand bouquet of flowers, symbolizing beauty and the blooming of life.
Reina Elena (Queen Helena) – She represents Saint Helena, who found the True Cross. She carries a cross or crucifix, symbolizing her discovery. This role is often given to a beautiful girl or an important matron. Constantino - The escort of Reina Elena, representing her son Constantine the Great. This role is typically played by a young male, dressed in princely or royal garments.
Reina Emperatríz (Queen Empress) – This role represents Saint Helena's title of Augusta or queen mother, bestowed upon her by Constantine. However, it is best to omit this title to avoid duplicating the representation of Saint Helena in the procession.
During the procession, a brass band traditionally accompanies the participants, playing and singing the Dios te salve (Hail Mary) hymn. However, in modern times, speaker trucks playing popular prerecorded songs or directly from streaming online apps may accompany the procession. Males participating in the Santacruzan typically wear traditional Barong Tagalog or suits, while females wear Filipiniana-inspired or Renaissance/Baroque-inspired queen's dresses.
These prominent titles and the accompanying traditions contribute to the cultural richness and festive atmosphere of the Santacruzan procession.
Afternoon came and the Cathedral was a flurry of activities.
A decade of the Rosary was said, then the Flores de Mayo novena with flower offerings; and then the procession of the image of the “Lady of All Nations” followed by beautiful teen-age and little girls, some representing the different nations of the world while others carry the different names attributed to the Blessed Virgin.
The lay faithful, composed of the parents (mothers mostly), church workers and members of different church organizations, joined in.
A Pontifical Mass followed right after the procession. His Excellency Most Rev. Christian V. F. Noel, D.D. Bishop of Talibon was the main celebrator. He was assisted by Msgr. Jonathan D. Pacudan, Rev. Fr. Adonis L. Madanguit, Rev. Fr. Randy N. Boiser, and Deacon Mark Neil Eronico.
The Bishop, during his homily, read, word for word, a homily of Pope Francis on the Blessed Virgin; translated it line by line and gave the homily in the vernacular.
Pope Francis called on all the Catholic faithful to turn to Mary for she is the Mediatrix of All Graces. She is our mother. She knows what we need.
We have to turn to her for everything for she is our mediator and Jesus never refuses his mother anything!
During Mass, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was crowned and at the end of the Mass, the little angels offered her a shower of floral petals.
To cup it all, a children’s bazaar was held the next day. All those who attended the month long activities were given tickets and allowed to exchange them with their desired school supplies during the bazaar. The kids were also treated to refreshments.
Now that the Month of May activities have ended, and after a month-long catechesis, it is expected that the kids are now armed with more knowledge on Catholic prayers and practices which would, hopefully, make them better Christians and Catholics through and through!!! (by: ellen marie o. buno)