The Merry Month of May

Perhaps the biggest May festival would be the Pahiyas in Lucban, Quezon. It's the most colorful and the most highly publicized event in the country at this time of the year.

With nary a week to end the month, other festivals are jostling to hog the limelight and get some exposure, to say the least. Next month the school season starts and many a community would be aching to find a reason to hang on to the last vestiges of summer.

Since May is also the month of flowers beauty pageants are aplenty. Each and every barangay has their own version of a Santacruzan and/or a Flores de Mayo. Each one often being confused for the other. I was asked this question during my tour to Lucban with the ambassadors. Both being a religious tradition the Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo are not the same event.

The Flores de Mayo is a religious celebration for our Nstra. Sra de los Flores in which little girls and sometimes boys offer flowers to our Lady as a sign of love and respect for her whilst praying the rosary. It is an homage to the Lady of the Flowers at a time when the flowers are in bloom and it is fitting to honor her with the best pick of the season.

The Santacruzan on the other hand, is a religious procession that recalls the search by Queen Helen and her son Constantine for the Holy Cross of Christ during the Inquisition. It retraces the progression of the story of Christ in the Bible through the women who are either noted for their strength of character, beauty or contribution to the story of redemption. Thus, each and every participant to a Santacruzan is given a name or character to portray. Matusalem, Reina Banderada, Justicia, Infanta Judith are just some of the names in the long line of beauties who protray them. The high point of the procession is Reina Elena... or Queen Helen, who tegether with her son Constantine supposedly wrenched ownership of the Cross from the Ottoman turks and brought it back to Europe to venerate it.

Back then the Reina Elena and the other participants were handpicked by a committee led by an Hermana Mayor from the prettiest daughters (hijas de familias buenas) of wealthy/ prominent families. It was a big social event where the daughters were decked in their finery and presented to society as some sort of coming of age. This aside from their 18th birthday celebration where they are given a rigodon de honor. This is similar to Mexico's quinceaniera where a lass is given prominence on her 15th birthday.

The Santacruzan has come a long way since then. I doubt that many know the religious significance of the procession as they are held today. Lately it has become a money pageant. The honor of being crowned Reina Elena goes to the candidate who is able to sell the most number of tickets. The ticket buyers win some grand prize in a lottery at the end of the event while the rest of the funds gathered goes to charity. Along the line, someone thought of raising funds for charity to benefit some chapel or other. And the beneficiaries are varied and as colorful as the participants.

In some areas of Pasig, Tondo and Marikina, Santacruzans are held by the gay community. Transgenders, cross-dressers and transvestites take on the roles of the Santacruzan women in outlandish fashion. Each one trying to out-do the other in terms of garishness and shock-value. The consorts are usually paid for their, "escort service." This, naturally, is frowned upon by the Catholic Church. It is neither sanctioned nor approved by the prelates of the church. But you can't really stop them from trying... someone commented that in this case they should call it the Gay month of May...

Popular Posts