The Philippines is rich in tradition handed down by our ancestors. Festivals are part of the Filipino culture which are largely influenced by Spanish religious practices. Some festivals are in honor of a patron saint or major events in the life of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Filipinos love fiestas. They are celebrated all-year round. Visitors, both local and tourists, are always welcome to celebrate the festivities which are special occasions for Filipinos to extend their hospitality and friendship.
All over the country, especially in the summer months, May is the merriest time of all. It is the season of colorful festivals and Flores de Mayo or Santacruzan is one such festival. Another festival to watch out for is the Lucban Festival in the province of Quezon.
The Santacruzan is a big event for many towns. Traditionally, it is a way to give thanks to God and to the Virgin Mary for the rains that begin to bless the land and cause the flowers to bloom. But the central event of the festival is the procession of religious statues. For Filipinos, there is no limit to expressing their utmost devotion to the Mother of God. During this month of May, petitions and prayers have more chances of being answered.
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. It depicts the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. A nine days prayer ( novena ) is said in honor of the Holy Cross precedes the Flores de Mayo or Santacruzan. It is a week-long street pageant in almost every town, from the dirt road to the metropolis honoring beautiful Philippine maidens and their handsome escorts under the hand-carried bamboo arches adorned by fragrant native flowers.
May is also the month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every day in May, children will carry flowers and baskets of petals in hand and march down the center aisle of the church before the start of the 6 pm mass... As the children march down the aisle -- they would sprinkle the fragrant petals for Mama Mary. This custom is called " Alay sa Birhen " in Filipino. It is an offering ( alay ) to the virgin ( birhen ) at the main altar.
The procession is followed by the steady beat of rondalla playing and singing " Dios te Salve ". The devotees walking with the procession hold lighted candles in their hands singing the prayer. Let me share with you the lyrics of the song.
Dios te Salve ( Hail Mary )
Dios te Salve Maria
Llena eres de gracia
El senor es contigo
Bendita tu eres
Entre todas las mujeres
Y bendito es el fruto
De tu vientre Jesus.
Santa Maria Madre de Dios
Ruega por nosotros
Y en la hora
De nuestra muerte . Amen. Jesus
After the procession there is a " PABITIN " ( just like the pinata in Mexico ) that serves as a culminating activity for all the children to enjoy. Pabitin is a square trellis where goodies are hung by strings. This trellis in turn is tied to a rope and suspended on a strong branch or pole. The children gather under the trellis and they jump as high as they can to try to pick the goodies as the trellis gets lowered to them while someone pulls it up and down repeatedly until the goodies are gone.
This event is worth watching !! Go and watch a santacruzan now!!