Getting to Know Flores de Mayo: How and Why It Is Celebrated in the Philippines

The month of May has now begun. An exceptional month when the fragrance of assorted flowers floats into the air. The time when everyone remembers its name because of its connection to the Virgin Mary and the blooming flowers. A perfect moment when the land teems with bountiful blooms under the delicate blue sky. It is also when everyone wants to plan their summer vacation and dive right into a cold pool or find summer beach getaways.

Santacruzan during Flores de Mayo Festival / photo from George Calvelo 

Mother’s Day is also part of this extraordinary month – a perfect choice of time as it is also a Marian month. Setting aside all of these, there is more to May than what’s on its surface. Religious events are bound to unfold when the month of May arrives. This month also marks when Filipinos refresh the history of Christianity and the legendary quest of St. Helena to find the Holy Cross. Get to know more about this well-celebrated festival through this blog.  

Introducing Flores de Mayo – The Queen of Philippine Festivals  

One of the most celebrated Christian festivals in the Philippines is Flores de Mayo or also called Flores de Maria. It is a Spanish term that translates to ‘Flowers of May’.

How did Flores de Mayo start in the Philippines?

Spanish conquistadors and friars introduced it in the mid-1800s. It is a tribute to the Virgin Mary, who gives rain when farmers ask for it, and the celebration for it represents the farmers’ unwavering gratitude. Stories say that it makes various flowers bloom and grow new crops for food. It has been practiced for hundreds of years now, but we still observe them up to this day. In fact, it is widely observed throughout Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Furthermore, it is gaining further recognition abroad, such as in Europe and America because of the Filipino immigrants who brought it with them.

What are the traces of Flores de Mayo in Philippine history?

This forming giant of culture has long been engraved in the hearts of Filipino Catholics. It is the symbol of the country’s history and culture – a trademark that should never lose its true essence. For a bit of background on its history, this month-long holy rite began right after the dogma of Immaculate Conception was proclaimed in the year 1854. It became even more popular when it was followed by the published interpretation of Mariano Sevilla’s Flores de Maria. His book called ‘ Mariquite na Bulaklak sa Pagninilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang manga Devoto Cay Maria Santisima’ gained popularity and spread its influence across the country. In 1867, Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan has been officially observed in Malolos, Bulacan.

Festive Flores de Mayo / photo from George Calvelo  
Festive Flores de Mayo / photo from George Calvelo  

It has been dubbed as the ‘Queen of Philippine Festivals’ because it is not only celebrated for the entire month of May but is also the most-anticipated festival of all. In Filipino tradition, they will make this moment colorful, magical, and pleasing. It is so extravagant that no other celebration can surmount its grandeur beauty. The tradition follows an order of gathering the town folks during the afternoon.

People are expected to give daily prayers and flowers. The assorted flowers will be offered to the Virgin Mary in front of the altar. It will be collected until the grand procession takes place at the end of the month. You can sense the scent of May through the flowers when you enter the church. Suppose you are a foreigner who will witness this opulent festival for the very first time. In that case, you will realize how Filipinos strongly value Catholicism, and it is observable through their overflowing faith.

Flores de Mayo: A tradition passed down for generations

On the other hand, if you are a local who lives in the country’s capital, you might hear the news that Flores de Mayo is more prevalent in the provinces. You can visit any region, such as Cebu, Ilocos Norte, and Aklan. It will be less hassle if you have a house and lot to go home to. When you arrive in the province, you will be amazed at how this celebration brings townspeople together and brings out the best in them. Every day throughout the month, you will see kids and devotees inside the church praying and sharing homemade pre-packed goods.

Woman smiling in Flores de Mayo / photo from George Calvelo 
Woman smiling in Flores de Mayo / photo from George Calvelo 

If you are lucky, you will get to have a free snack given by Hermanos or Hermana roaming around the church. It is a Spanish term given to the sponsors who facilitate or manage the holy celebration. They are also the ones who provide prizes for activities and competitions in the community. Some games that most Filipinos are fond of are coconut grabbing, pig grabbing, and a marathon. Find yourself a home in Camella Homes and enjoy some of these leisure activities with friends and families.  

Participate in the Grandeur Procession of Santacruzan  

Flores de Mayo is different from Santacruzan. The latter is only a part of the whole celebration, but it is the pinnacle of the said festival. It is a grand procession that is meant to re-enact the quest of St. Helena to find the sacred cross, which makes her the main character of the grand parade. It consists of 19 Biblical figures and 21 Marian titles, and they are arranged based on a standard order and roles.

The festival of the Holy Cross is conducted on the last Sunday of May, which starts and ends at the town’s church. It is an outlandish parade that collates fine young women to participate in representing Marian titles. It is usually formed by a group of talented dancers and musicians. The brass band or a local Filipino stringed band called Rondalla will play Dios Te Salve or the Spanish version of Hail Mary.

Filipino Contemporary Formal Collection photo from George Calvelo
Filipino Contemporary Formal Collection photo from George Calvelo 

After that, devotees will be next to the line while holding a lit candle and singing the hymns of praise. The biblical figures and the Marian titles will then be organized in a specific manner. The boys or escorts are customary to wear Barong Tagalog, whereas women are expected to wear any Filipina-inspired gowns or dresses. Arches that frame the Reynas are also colorfully decorated with paper flowers and crepes.

Volunteers will bring the hand-carried bamboo arcs. There’s no need to worry because this procession will be closed by an evening mass, and the town’s mayor will provide food for all. If you are wondering how what is the general order of the procession, they are as follows:  

  1. The Biblical / Allegorical Figures:  
photo from the official website of Diocese of Raleigh
photo from the official website of Diocese of Raleigh

Aside from the much-awaited list of reynas, there are also biblical figures that are positioned in the first section of the parade. They play a vital role in this process as they are  

  1. Methuselah – a person who will portray this figure shall act like an old bearded man who cooks a grain of sand in a hot pan. It plays a significant role in the procession as it reminds us that we all came from dust and we will go back to it.  
  1. Reyna Banderada – a long red dress is the main point of this figure. A young lady who will partake in this role shall bear a yellow pennant that will constitute the arrival of the Christian faith.  
  1. Samaritana – a young girl or a woman can take this critical role that symbolizes salvation. In the bible, an outcasted woman received redemption from the Lord when she encountered Jesus in Jacob’s well. Therefore, she will carry a jug of water on her shoulder. It has a vital role in the parade as it reminds people that we are all worthy of the love of the Lord.  
  1. Veronica – another essential role in this parade will be taken up by a young woman who will bear a veil. It will represent the woman who wiped the face of Jesus that left a three-blood imprint. 
  1. Aeta – a tribal tattoo, a hair braid, or patterned clothes can be used to represent this ethnic group. Those who will portray the Aetas should know that they are the kind of people who undoubtedly believed in God and embraced the Christian faith. They can use some dark paint on the skin to better illustrate it.  
  1. The Marian Titles / Reynas or Queens:  
photo from FFE Magazine
photo from FFE Magazine

The highlight of the procession is the Reynas or queens with corresponding titles. The size of a community determines the number of Reynas who can participate in the parade. The Reynas could go up to 20 and more for large provinces or cities. Nonetheless, the crucial figures or titles that should not go off the list are:  

  1. Reyna Fe – a fine young woman who will take the role of Reyna Fe shall carry across to signify the first theological virtue of faith.  
  1. The Reyna Esperanza – carrying an anchor is crucial in this role because Reyna Esperanza symbolizes hope – a second theological virtue.  
  1. Reyna Caridad – a red heart is much needed to effectively portray Reyna Caridad’s role. She is a symbol of charity (the third theological virtue); that is why it shall not lose its red heart.  
  1. Reyna Sentenciada – a young woman shall have her hands tied with a rope as she will depict the convicted Queen. She represents all early Christians who Romans unmercifully persecute because of their faith. During the procession, she will be guarded by two Roman soldiers on both sides.  
  1. Divina Pastora – the item that needs to be brought by someone who will take the role of Divina Pastora is a shepherd’s staff or crook.  
  1. Reyna Mistica – a bouquet of flowers is brought by someone who will play the role of Reyna Mistica 
  1. The Reyna de las Flores – she is the Queen of the Flores de Mayo. She will carry a grand bouquet of flowers.  
  1. Reyna Emperatriz – this role is the mere representation of Queen Helena’s title she received from Constantinople. It is a title that signifies her role as an Empress or Queen Mother.  
  1. Reyna Elena – the most beautiful and well-respected lady in the community, will take the prestigious role of portraying St. Helena. She is the highlight and the last member of the parade that remains a secret until the day of the Santacruzan itself. Filipinos love surprises, so they find it amusing to keep the person’s identity until it’s time for the people to watch the parade. Of course, she will be accompanied by a small boy dressed as a little Constantine – the first Christian emperor in Rome.  

The True Essence of the Month-long Celebration of Flores de Mayo  

celebrities joining Flores de Mayo Santacruzan / photo from George Calvelo 
celebrities joining Flores de Mayo Santacruzan / photo from George Calvelo 

The true essence of Flores de Mayo is often wrongfully associated with the notion that it is just processional pageantry. Over the years, parish priests have raised awareness that Flores de Mayo is not just about the beauty pageant. It is not to test who is the most beautiful lady worthy of the title.

Instead, Flores de Mayo is a re-enactment of the Christian faith. It intends to show Christianity’s history and proof of Filipinos’ undying love, faith, and devotion. It is an annual festival that gives food to the body and soul.

Therefore, children should start participating at a young age to help them be reminded of the holiness of this spiritual celebration. The sanctity of this holy celebration shall not lose its goal of reminding Filipinos that they are loved and worthy.  

Have a Glamorous Lifestyle in Camella Homes  

House and Lot for Sale in Sorsogon | Camella Sorsogon
House and Lot for Sale in Sorsogon | Camella Sorsogon

Buying yourself a house and lot unit in Camella Homes can make you feel closer to your Filipino roots. When the flowers bloom in May, and you reside in any of its house models, you can enjoy visiting the nearby churches and joining its grandeur parade known as Santacruz.

Camella is a housing development that can give you a lifestyle as glamorous as the month-long festival. It is a highly guarded community with secured entrances and installed CCTVs. It is also packed with amenities such as a clubhouse, swimming pool, playground, jogging paths, and green open spaces. Since Camella Homes is an extensive housing development that spans more than 147 communities, you can never run out of options.

You can live in provinces where the most-awaited festivals happen. Camella Bogo, Camella Aklan, and Camella Savannah are just some of the places you can prize yourself with a house. You will be filled with cheers and excitement when you get closer to these colorful festivals. Visit the official website of Camella or click here.

You can find various house models that can cater to any Filipino preference. 

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