The month of May has just started, and so does a popular festival celebrated throughout the country. Flores de Mayo, from its translation “Flowers of May,” is a month long devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by offering her flowers. Introduced to the Philippines by the Spaniards in the 1800s and was believed to be first witnessed in Bulacan in 1865, it is dubbed as the “Queen of Philippine Festivals." There are many ways to celebrate the festival - the most popular being the Santacruzan held usually on the last day of the month.
Often, the Santacruzan is interchanged with Flores de Mayo. But in reality, they are different. Flores de Mayo refers to the month-long festival; Santacruzan is the procession of “Queens” signifying St. Helena’s mythical journey towards finding Jesus Christ’s cross.
We give you three (3) important facts about Flores de Mayo to make sense of what you’ll see in the celebration:
Fact #1: Santacruzan is not a beauty pageant
Santacruzan, where escorts carry wooden arches over “queens,” is not just a parade of beautiful women. Up to 19 Biblical/historical titles and 21 Marian titles are included in the parade to show the important parts of Christian history. For a list of titles, click here.
Fact #2: St. Helena is the mother of the first Christian Roman emperor
You will surely encounter Reyna Elena and the little boy Constantino at the last arch of the parade. Reyna or St. Elena is the mother of Constatine I, the first Roman emperor who converted to Christianty.
Fact #3: Santacruzan is just one of the many celebrations and rituals done during Flores de Mayo
Aside from Santacruzan, Filipinos show their devotion by making a Novena or praying the rosary. Others, like in Visayas, catechism classes for children are held in chapels and churches where the Virgin Mary is venerated. Some conduct games like the pabitin, and give out snacks and school supplies for children.
Lately the Flores de Mayo became more of a beauty pageant rather than a religious celebration. While it can help preserve the culture, for both believers and non-believers, it is better to know the essence behind the festivity. It is also another proof that even if the festival was brought by a foreigner, we are able to make it our own.