Friday, April 4, 2008

Santacruzan (The Queen of Filipino Festivals)

Mula sa “Mga Pahina ni Laura,”
(Thanks to the Filipino-American Society of Central Illinois)

Filipinos love fiestas. They are celebrated all-year round. All over the country, especially in the summer months, May is the merriest and the time beautiful month of the year. It is the season of colorful festivals and Flores de Mayo or Santacruzan is one such festival.

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 the 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 to the metropolis honoring beautiful Philippine maidens and their hands escorts under the hand-carried bamboo arches adorned 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 tribute to the virginal virtues in Flores de Mayo – the flowers of May fiesta. Spiritual virtue seeks to reach even the young. Every day in May, children, will carry 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.

The festivity commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena (Reina Elena) and her son, the newly converted emperor Constantine. The Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem and brought back to Rome. There was a joyful celebration for thanksgiving.

Nine days of prayer (a novena) in honor of the Holy Cross precedes the Flores de Mayo or Santacruzan. This festival was introduced by the Spaniards in the Philippines and has since become part of Filipino tradition identified with youth, love and romance.

This colorful pageant parade is arranged in this order:

1. Methuselah – he is bearded, bent with age, riding a cart looking preoccupied with toasting some grains of sand in a pan over a fire. This is a reminder that all that glitters will end up as dust like what he is toasting.

2. Reina Bandera – a young lady dressed in a long red gown carrying yellow triangular flag. She represents the coming of Christianity.

3. Aetas – represent the state of the country before the coming of Christianity. These are the uncovered Filipino pagans.

4. Reina Mora – represents the dominant religion before Christianity (feminine of Moro from the Moslem religion).

5. Reina Fe – symbolizes the virtue of faith – the first of the theological virtues. She carries a cross.

6. Reina Esperanza – symbolizes the virtue of hope – the second theological virtue. She carries an anchor.

7. Reina Caridadad – symbolizes the virtue of charity – the third theological virtue.
She carries a heart.

8. Reina Abogada – the defender of the poor and the oppressed. She wears a black graduation cap (toga) and gown and she carries a big book.

9. Reina Sentenciada – has her slim hands bound by a rope. She is the symbol of the innocents who have been convicted. She is accompanied by two Roman soldiers.

10. Reina Justicia – a personification of the “mirror of justice.” She carries a weighing scale and a sword.

11. Reina Judith – representing Judith of Pethulia who saved her city from the Assyrians after she beheaded the cruel holoferns. She carries the head of the beheaded man on one hand and a sword on the other.

12. Reina Sheba – who visited the famed King Solomon and was overwhelmed by his wisdom, power and richness. She carries a jewelry box.

13. Reina Esther – the biblical Jewish who spared her countrymen from death and destruction through timely intervention with the King Xerxes. She carries a scepter.

14. Samaritana – the woman who Christ spoke to at the well. She carries a jug on her shoulder.

15. Veronica – the woman who wiped the face of Jesus. She carries a bandana imprinted with the three faces of Jesus.

16. Tres Marias:

Mary Magdala – she carries a bottle of perfume.
Mary, mother of Christ – she carries a handkerchief.
Mary, mother of James – she carries a bottle of oil.

17. Marian – celebrating the many titles of the Virgin Mary.

a. A-V-E, M-A-R-I-A – represented by eight (8) girls all wearing long white dresses with wings to make them look like angles. Each one carries a letter to complete the word “AVE MARIA.”

b. Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) – she carries a shepherdess’ staff.

c. Reina de las Estrellas (Queen of Stars) – she carries a wand with a star.

d. Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose) – she carries a bouquet of roses.

e. Rosa Paz (Queen of Peace) – she carries the symbol of peace.

f. Reina de las Propetas (Queen of Prophets) – she carries an hour glass.

g. Reina del Cielo (Queen of Heaven) – she carries a flower. She has two angels.

h. Reina de las Virgines (Queen of all Virgins) – she carries a rosary and is surrounded by two little angels.

i. Reina de la Flores (Queen of Flowers) – she carries a bouquet of flowers.

18. Reina Elena (Queen Helena) – the legendary founder of the true Cross represented by the small cross she carries. She is escorted by her son, Constantine.

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 and singing the prayer.

Dios te Salve (Hail Mary)

Dios te Salve Maria
Llena eres de gracia
El señor es contigo
Bendita tu eres
Entre todas las mujeres
Y bendito es el fruto
Y bendito es el fruto
De tu vientre Jesús.

Sancta Maria Madre de Dios
Ruega por nosotros
Pecadores ahora
Y en la hora
De nuestra muerte. Amen. Jesús

Alter the processión there is a pabitin that serves as a culminating activity for all the children to enjoy. Pabitin is a square trellis where goodies (candy, fruits, etc.) are hung by strings. This trellis in turn is tied to a rope and is suspended on a strong branch or pole. The children gather under the trellis and they jump as high as then can to try to pick the goodies as the trellis is lowered to them while someone pulls it up and down repeatedly until all the goodies are gone.

Note: For the Santacruzan to be more exciting, the chosen Reina Elena is kept secret until the day of the parade to surprise the people. It is requested that male members attending the Santacruzan wear Barong Tagalog and the women wear any Filipino costumes, if available.

Principal source: Dr. Felino Lazaro
Contributors: Laura B. Corpuz and Lourdes L. Pascual

Copyright 1990 All Rights Reserved

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