Flores de Mayo

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Solemn Procession of the Holy Cross, Noveleta, Cavite during Flores de Mayo
Solemn Procession of the Holy Cross, Noveleta, Cavite
A replica of the True Cross in solemn procession during the Flores de Mayo in Noveleta, Cavite
Solemn Procession of the Holy Cross, Noveleta, Cavite

Flores de Mayo (Spanish for "flowers of May") is a festival held in the Philippines in the month of May. It is one of the May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary and lasts for the entire month.

The Santacruzan (Spanish for "sacred cross") is the ritual pageant held on the last day of Flores de Mayo. It honors the finding the True Cross by Helena of Constantinople (known as Reyna Elena) and Constantine the Great. Its observance in May is likely connected to the May 3 observance of Roodmas, which was abolished when Pope John XXIII combined it with the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on 14 September.[citation needed]


The name of the festival is derived from the Spanish language word flores meaning "flowers." Other names are "Flores de María" ("Flowers of Mary") and "Álay" (Filipino for "offering").

In the Bicolandia

In the Bicol Region, especially in Barangay Sabang, Naga, the Flores de Mayo is held every Wednesday and Saturday of May. It is headed by the Legion of Mary, Praesidium Cause of our Joy, and jointly sponsored by the Rañeses and Alcantara families. The ritual begins with the recitation of the rosary, and the last day is simply called the "katapusan".

The traditional "María" with its respective meaning is said after the recitation of the Salve Regina in Spanish and the Litany of Loreto. After the ceremony, simple snacks are given to the children who attended the devotion. Alabasyón (from the Spanish for "praising") is the term for prayers sung in honour of the Holy Cross.

In Western Visayas

The towns particularly in Iloilo has their respective puroks or streets and the barangays which has their respective chapel or house of prayer or even in the church where an image of the Virgin Mary is venerated and children gathers to have a simple catechism and teachings about the life and story of Mary, history of Marian apparitions, Christian doctrines and values, holistic values and virtues and other life's teachings. They were also taught some prayers and some songs uniquely recited only during the Flores de Mayo and the children offer some flowers before the image of the Virgin Mary as a symbol of love, affection and veneration. This is a commemoration and reminiscent of the Our Lady of Fatima apparition to the three children which first took place on the 13th of May in 1917. After awhile, they were offered some snacks. Some churches and areas are giving children some paper tickets for actively participating and doing well during the catechism in which at the end of the month of May which also coincides with the end of the Flores de Mayo, the children redeem the value of the tickets which are school supplies ready for the school opening in June. Santacruzan is usually held during the last few days of May to coincide with the end of the catechism for children.

In the Katagalugan

Amongst the Tagalog people, the custom began after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and after the circa 1867 publication of Mariano Sevilla's translation of the devotional "Flores de María" ("Flowers of Mary"), also known by its longer title "Mariquít na Bulaclac nasa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buannang Mayo ay Inihahandog nañg mañga Devoto cay María Santísima" ("Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations in the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary Most Holy").

One famous May tradition in Batangas (particularly in Lipa) is the Luglugan, or nightly devotion and party honoring the Virgin Mary. Held in structures called tuklóng, devotees offer flowers and prayers to an image of Mary every night. After the prayer, the Hermanos or Hermanas for the day will give away treats to the participants, followed by the party. The Luglugan lasts for a month until the Tapusan ("ending") which is marked with a Mass, a Santacruzan and procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and capped with a final Luglugan that lasts until the following morning.

The Santacruzan

A Santacruzan is a religio-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns, and even in small communities throughout the Philippines during the month of May. One of the most colorful aspects of this festival, the pageant depicts the finding of the True Cross by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Many movie and television personalities participate in the events and are featured in major santacruzan. This festival became part of Filipino traditions identified with youth, love, and romance.

Prior to the Santacruzan, a novena is held in honor of the Holy Cross. The procession itself commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena and her son, Emperor Constantine. After the Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem and translated to Constantinople (now İstanbul, Turkey), there was a joyful celebration for thanksgiving.

Order of the procession

The participants of this pageant would follow this typical arrangement:

Characters and Traditional Personifications
  1. Matusalém (Methuselah) - bearded and bent with age, he is depicted as riding a cart and looking preoccupied with toasting grains of sand in a pan over a fire. This is a reminder that the world is transient and will end up like the dust which he is toasting.
  2. Reyna Banderada (Queen with a Banner) - a young lady dressed in a long red gown, bearing a yellow pennant. She represents the arrival of Christianity.
  3. Aetas - represents the dark-skinned indigenous peoples of the Philippines such as the Aeta and Ati. These aboriginal groups predate the ancestors of today's majority Austronesian Filipinos by tens of thousands of years.
  4. Reyna Mora (Queen Moor) - represents Muslim Filipinos, who are concentrated in Mindanao and large cities such as Manila. Islam arrived in the archipelago two centuries before Christianity, and is now the country's second-largest religion. Mary is also honoured in Islam, and her story is found in the 19th sura (chapter) of the Qur'an.
  5. Reyna ng Saba (Queen of Sheba) - represents the unnamed queen who visited King Solomon, and was overwhelmed by his wisdom, power, and riches. She carries a jewellery box. She is associated with the Santacruzan because of her narrative in the Legenda Aurea. The work describes her as venerating the wood of a bridge she was crossing, and later prophesying its future role in forming part of the True Cross.
  6. Rut at Noemi (Ruth and Naomi) - the Moabite convert to Judaism and her mother-in-law, with whom she was inseparable. Ruth is the ancestress of King David and thus is one of four women listed in the genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
  7. Reyna Judít (Queen Judith) - represents the Biblical widow Judith of Bethulia, who saved her city from the Assyrians by slaying the cruel general Holofernes. Also known as "Infanta (Princess) Judít", she carries Holofernes' head in one hand and a sword in the other.
  8. Reyna Ester (Queen Esther) - the Jewish queen of Persia, who spared her people from death at the hands of Haman through her timely intervention with King Xerxes. She carries a sceptre.
  9. Cleopatra - represents Cleopatra VII Philopator (69-30 BC), the famous last active pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Her male escort is often taken to represent the Roman senator and general Mark Antony (83-30 BC).
  10. Samaritana/Sta. Photina (The Female Samaritan) - the Samaritan woman at the well (traditionally named Photini) with whom Christ conversed. She carries a water jug on her shoulder.
  11. Sta. Verónica - the woman who wiped the face of Jesus who bears her Veil; in traditional Hispanic-Filipino iconography, the cloth bears three miraculous imprints of the Holy Face of Jesus instead of one.
  12. Tres Marías (Three Marys) - each Mary holds a unique attribute associated with the Entombment of Christ
    1. Sta. María Magdalena (Mary Magdalene) - a bottle of perfume, as Catholic tradition once conflated her with Mary of Bethany as the woman who anointed and wiped Jesus' feet.
    2. Sta. María de Cleofás (Mary, the mother of James, wife of Clopas) - bears a bottle of oil, alluding to her role as a Myrrhbearer.
    3. The Blessed Virgin Mary - a handkerchief, for she is in mourning.
  13. Reyna Fé (Queen Faith) - symbolises Faith, the first of the theological virtues. She carries a cross.
  14. Reyna Esperanza (Queen Hope) - symbolises Hope, the second theological virtue. She carries an anchor.
  15. Reyna Caridad (Queen Charity) - symbolises Charity, the third theological virtue. She carries a red-coloured heart.
  16. Reyna Sentenciada (Queen Convicted) - has her hands bound by a rope, she stands for the Early Christians, particularly virgins, who were persecuted and martyred for the faith. She is sometimes accompanied by two Roman soldiers.
Marian Titles

Each figure in this group alludes to a title of the Virgin Mary (usually found in the Litany of Loreto) or to a figure associated with her. Each letter of the angelic salutation "AVE MARÍA" is borne by an "angel", or a girl wearing a long white dress and wings.

  1. Reyna Abogada (Queen Advocate/Lawyer) - defender of the poor and the oppressed, she wears a black mortarboard cap, Graduation gown, and carries a large book. Her appearance is a representation of Mary, Help (Advocate) of Christians. In some Santacruzan processions, the figure of the Doctora ("female doctor") also makes an appearance, which may allude to "Mary, Health of the Sick".
  2. Reyna Justícia (Queen Justice) - a personification of the "Mirror of Justice", her attributes are a weighing scale and a sword.
  3. Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) - bears a shepherd's crook.
  4. Reyna de los Ángeles (Queen of Angels) - bears a bouquet of white flowers, and is escorted by angels.
  5. Luklukan ng Karunungan (Seat of Wisdom) - carries a Bible.
  6. Susì ng Langit (Key of Heaven) - bears two keys, one gold and the other silver, a design adapted from the keys on the Papal arms.
  7. Reyna de las Estrellas (Queen of the Stars) - holds a wand topped with a star.
  8. Rosa Mística (Mystical Rose)- carries a bouquet of roses.
  9. Pusò ni María/Corazón de María (Heart of Mary) - holds a pink heart.
  10. Reyna del Santísimo Rosario (Queen of the Most Holy Rosary) - she carries a large rosary.
  11. Reyna Luna (Queen Moon) - she represents the moon, which serves as the footstool of Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse.
  12. Reyna Candelária (Queen of Candles) - she carries a long, lit taper, symbolising the Purification of Mary.
  13. Reyna de la Paz (Queen of Peace) - holds a dove, real or otherwise.
  14. Reyna de los Patriarcas (Queen of Patriarchs) - bears a wooden rod.
  15. Reyna de los Profetas (Queen of Prophets) - bears an hourglass.
  16. Reyna de los Confesores (Queen of Confessors) - holds a scroll.
  17. Reyna de los Mártires (Queen of Martyrs) - bears the Crown of Thorns or a pierced heart, representing the Mater Dolorosa.
  18. Reyna de los Apóstoles (Queen of Apostles) - holds the palm of martyrdom.
  19. Reyna de los Santos (Queen of Saints) - a golden wreath, symbolic of the crown of the saints.
  20. Reyna del Cielo (Queen of Heaven) - a flower; accompanied by two little "angels".
  21. Reyna de las Vírgenes (Queen of Virgins) - a rosary or a lily, the latter signifying chastity; also escorted by two little "angels".
  22. Reyna de las Flores (Queen of Flowers) - The Queen of the Flores de Mayo. She carries a bouquet of flowers.
  23. Reyna Emperatríz (Queen Empress) - represents Saint Helena of Constantinople, particularly her title of Augusta ('empress' or 'queen mother'), which Constantine bestowed on her in 325 AD.
  24. Reyna Elena (Queen Helena) - always the last member of the procession, she represents Saint Helena herself, whose Invention of the True Cross is symbolized by a cross or crucifix that she carries in her arms. This considerably prestigious role is usually awarded to the most beautiful girl or important matron in the pageant. In some communities, the identity of the woman playing Reyna Elena is a closely-guarded secret until the Santacruzan itself. Other places are more accommodating, allowing three Reynas Elenas in their processions.
  • Constantíno - the escort of Reyna Elena, representing her son Emperor Constantine. This role is almost always played by a small boy in princely raiment.

The procession is accompanied by the steady beat of a local brass band, playing and singing the Dios te salve (the Spanish version of the Hail Mary). Devotees hold lighted candles and sing the prayer as they walk. It is customary for males participating in the Santacruzan to wear the traditional Barong Tagalog and that the females wear any Filipiniana-inspired dress.


After the procession in some places, there is the pabítin game (in Cavite, it is called "agaw-bitin") that serves as a culminating activity for the children. The pabítin is a square-shaped bamboo grille or frame to which goodies (candies, fruits, small trinkets, etc.) are tied with thin strings. This grille in turn is tied to a long rope passed over a strong branch or pole some 2 metres above the ground. Children then gather under the frame as the it is slowly lowered, and they then jump as high as they could to grab the goodies while someone jerks it up and down repeatedly until all the prizes are gone. Sometimes the palosebo (the local version of the greasy pole) is also played, where a tall bamboo pole is smeared with grease which participants must climb to get a small red banner or a bag with a prize, such as 500 or a higher amount.

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