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May, month of flowers, festivals, and Santacruzans

WE are now well into the month of May, the “Month of Flowers” in the Philippines, for it is at this time of the year that the rains start falling after the long hot summer, turning the brown countryside green with new leaves and flowers.

May is also the Month of Festivals in many parts of the country, starting with the Pista’y Dagat in Lingayen, Pangasinan, on May 1 followed by Santacruzan processions on weekends in many towns and villages commemorating St. Helena’s finding of the Holy Cross.

Guimaras, Iloilo, holds its Manggahan Festival on May 11-22, in celebration of its bountiful mango harvest. Angono, Rizal, and Pulilan, Bulacan, celebrate their distinctive Carabao Festivals on May 14-15 in honor of their patron saint San Isidro Labrador.

Sariaya, Lucban, Tayabas, Gumaca, and Tiaong, Quezon, celebrate their colorful Pahiyas festivals on May 15 when they decorate their homes with multi-colored rice “kiping” and vegetables. Obando, Bulacan, has its three-day fiesta on May 17-19 in honor of San Pascual Baylon, Sta. Clara, and Nuestra Senora de Salambao, when childless couples praying for children dance in the streets with thankful parents and grateful farmers.

This whole month, pilgrims from all over the country, many of them walking all the way from Metro Manila, visit the shrine of Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buenviaje in Antipolo, Rizal. And on May 30, Kawit, Cavite, will hold its procession of floats decked with flowers in honor of the Blessed Virgin.

We have so many festivals honoring so many saints in this month but May is most noted for the Flores de Mayo, with countless communities holding long evening candlelight processions, with local beauties portraying over a dozen Biblical characters led by the Blessed Virgin Mother. On the last day of Flores de Mayo is the ritual pageant Santacruzan, depicting St. Helena’s finding of the Holy Cross, with her son Constantino.

The Santacruzan has become more of a beauty pageant in many cities, prompting Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, to remind the people that they should not forget its religious significance.

“The Santacruzan,” he said, “is not about beauty and about pageantry. It is about our devotion to the Holy Cross and our affection for the Blessed Mother.” He called on the people to always keep in mind that it is a religious procession and that beauty is best expressed by “by being caring and compassionate and avoiding actions that hurt others.”

It is a reminder that we should all take to heart as we celebrate with our traditional Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan processions in this month of May.

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