Queen of Filipino Festivals
Filipinos likes fiestas. They are celebrated all-year round. All over the country, especially in the summer months, May is the merriest and the most beautiful month of the year. It is the season of colorful festivals and Flores de Mayo or Santacruzan is one such festival. Stop and smell the roses. During the month of May, in the tropical islands of the Philippines, we don't have to stop -- the fragrance of flowers floats in the air. When the rains begin to pour after a long dry spell, flowers magically bloom overnight. And being predominantly Catholic, the Filipinos celebrate the beneficial rains by giving praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The townfolk gather the colorful flowers to decorate the Parish Church altars and aisles. They bundle the blooms in exotic arrangements for the many different festivities all together referred to as the "Flores De Mayo" (Flowers of May). Many towns celebrate Flores De Mayo with the community congregating in the afternoons to pray the rosary, offer flowers to the Virgin Mary, and share homemade delicacies and snacks. Children and adults wearing their Sunday best sing and dance to welcome the rains that will water the new crops.
Santacruzan is held annually in the warm month of May and is considered to be the "Queen of Filipino Festivals". Beautiful town belles are selected to participate in this colorful pageant parade. The stars are selected not for their looks alone, but for their embodiment of traditional feminine qualities. It is a week-long street pageant in almost every town; from the dirt road barrio to the metropolis honoring beautiful Philippine maidens and their handsome escorts under the hand-carried bamboo arc’s decorated by fragrant native flowers.
May is also the month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. Filipinos turn each of the 31 days in May into a charming honor to the virginal virtues in Flores de Mayo, the flowers of May fiesta. Spiritual virtue searches to reach even the young. Every day in May, children, with cut flowers and baskets of petals in hand, march down the church center aisle. As the children march down the aisle they sprinkle the fragrant petals for Mama Mary. This custom is called alay sa Birhen. In Filipino, because it is an offering (alay) to the virgin (birhen), at the main altar, the youngsters sing hymns to Lady Immaculate, and leave their bouquet of flowers loose and dethroned.