Flores de Mayo is perhaps the most popular festivity in the Philippines dubbed as the “Queen of Filipino Festivals” among its Catholic population. Being deeply influenced by Spanish traditions, Flores de Mayo is a tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The parade of queens with Reyna Elena in the leading role is a reenactment of St. Helena’s search of the cross which was used to crucify Jesus Christ at the end of his walk to calvary.
In the modern times, this important tradition is slowly being forgotten and replaced by the many foreign influences we absorb. Many Filipinos for sure just keep on hearing the term “Flores de Mayo” but do not really know what it is in its truest sense. So how does a typical Flores de Mayo is usually celebrated around the country?
Parade of beauties
Come the month of May and one will see many barangay all around the archipelago making themselves busy in preparation of the Santacruzan – a parade of queens, with the most highlighted queen Reyna Elena leading the parade and her handsome escort under the shade of a decorated bamboo arc. Beautiful young girls are being searched to take part in the Santacruzan and take the lead of the procession or the trails of devotees who moves along with the parade.
While moving with the parade of queens, these devotees are also saying their prayers and sing songs of praises all the while holding lighted candles. The chosen Reyna Elena should not only possess natural beauty but more importantly the natural charms of a true Filipina maiden.
The whole celebration of Flores de Mayo revolves mainly around religion. When rain starts to come after a long dry season, flowers and crops start to bloom. So the locals are gathering flowers of varying colors and use them to decorate their parish churches and give praise to the blessed Virgin Mary. They are also blessing their crops with dances and prayers offered to have an abundant harvest.
Before the different games called “palaro” and after the Santacruzan on the last day, a mass is always held to bless the opening and end of Flores de Mayo.Throughout the whole duration of the month-long celebration, Devout parish members called “parokyanos” are initiating a lot of praying activities. One good example is evening prayer activity called novena after the parade of queens or Santacruzan in honor of the Holy Cross.
Food for the soul and body
This month-long celebration will never be completed without the involvement of food in between activities. Perhaps, that’s very typical of every Filipino celebration. After the evening mass following the procession, the town mayor usually hosts the dinner party for the everyone that has participated. In Bugasong, Antique, a host family is assigned every afternoon in their “alay bulaklak” to donor foods such as rice cakes, boiled corn, and other Filipino delicacies. Also, the “Palaro” or games held during the day usually ends as food treat to all spectators of the different game events.
“Palaro” and other fun activities
Since it is also considered a “fiesta”, Flores de Mayo is also packed with a lot of leisurely activities available for every townsfolk to join in. One customary game that is is being played during fiestas is the “Palo Sebo” in which participants are those young lads who are not afraid of heights and can withstand a slippery surface. Another fun and exciting game is the “Pabitin” wherein children get to enjoy catching goodies, candies, or fruits from a suspended bamboo trellis moved back and forth. Other games include Coconut Grabbing (Agawan ng Buko), Marathon, “Patintero”, Pig Grabbing (Agawan ng Baboy) and other native Filipino games that come in mind.
Indeed, Flores de Mayo is one of the most anticipated festivities of our country. Getting the feel of the any of our traditional celebrations is also getting the feel of being a true Filipino.