Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan are two of the most colorful religious-cultural Filipino festivals celebrated every month of May all over the Philippines.
Flores de Mayo
Flores de Mayo means flowers of May. It is a month-long flower Festival celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the time of the year where kids, while enjoying their 3-month long summer break from schools, are given a chance to learn Catechesis and develop their love of the Blessed Virgin Mary by daily devotions, prayers and floral offerings.
The Norther Illinois University, in one of their web publications about Southeast Asia (www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/Cynthia/festivals) cited two reasons for the origin of this devotion. It may have started on the mid-1800s when the Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in his constitution Ineffabilis Deuson 8 December 1854. And after the publication in 1867 of Mariano Sevilla’s translation of the devotional Flores de Maria or Mariquit na Bulaclac na sa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang manga Devoto cay Maria Santisima (The Flowers of Mary or the Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations During the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary the Holiest).
The Santarcruzan is the Filipino version of the principal feast of the True Cross. This is the celebration depicting the search of the Holy Cross by Emperor Constatine’s mother, Queen Helena. www.seasite.niu.edu described the Santacruzan as a “religious-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns and even small villages throughout the Philippines during the month of May. One of the most colorful May-time festivals in the Philippines which commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena (Reina Elena) and her son, the newly converted emperor Constantine. After 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 traditions identified with youth, love and romance.”
The Feast of the Cross like so many other liturgical feasts, had its origin at Jerusalem, and is connected with the commemoration of the Finding of the Cross and the building, by Constantine, of churches upon the sites of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary. In 335 the dedication of these churches was celebrated with great solemnity by the bishops who had assisted at the Council of Tyre, and a great number of other bishops. This dedication took place on the 13th and 14th of September. This feast of the dedication, which was known by the name of the Encnia, was most solemn; it was on an equal footing with those of the Epiphany and Easter. (www.newadvent.org)
Why, then, the Filipinos observe the Santacruzan in May and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September? There may be no accurate answer to this question. But one of the most logical may be found in Catholic Encyclopedia’s Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix: ”Constantine’s vision of the Cross, and perhaps another apparition which took place in Jerusalem in 346, would seem to have been commemorated in this same feast. But its chief glory is its connection with the restoration of the True Cross to the Church of Jerusalem, after it had been carried away by the Persian king, Chosroes (Khusrau) II, the conqueror of Phocas, when he captured and sacked the Holy City. This Chosroes was afterwards vanquished by the Emperor Heraclius II and in 628 was assassinated by his own son Siroes (Shirva), who restored the Cross to Heraclius. It was then carried in triumph to Constantinople and thence, in the Spring of the year 629, to Jerusalem.”
This could had been the spring of Constantinople since Jerusalem has only summer and winter seasons. And the springtime in Constantinople (presently Turkey) is from April to June. The Philippine Santacruzan may had been a celebration of the restoration of the True Cross to the Church of Jerusalem.
Veneration of the Holy Cross
The Cross to which Christ had been nailed, and on which He had died, became for Christians, quite naturally and logically, the object of a special respect and worship. St. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 1:17: “For Christ sent me not to baptize; but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christshould be made void”; in Galatians 2:19: “With Christ I am nailed to the cross“; in Ephesians 2:16: Christ . . . . “might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross“; in Philippians 3:18: “For many walk . . . enemies of the cross of Christ“; in Colossians 2:14: “Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross“; and in Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world”.
It seems clear, therefore, that for St. Paul the Cross of Christ was not only a precious remembrance of Christ’s sufferings and death, but also a symbol closely associated with His sacrifice and the mystery of the Passion. It was, moreover, natural that it should be venerated and become an object of a cult with the Christians who had been saved by it.(www.newadvent.org)
Article sources: filipino.com.au, seasite.niu.edu, newadvent.org . Photo source: duszmtorres