Tracing the Santacruzan's
Heady and angelic is May only because two things
happen this month: Flores de Mayo and the concerted
effort of flowers to bloom at almost the same time.
You may argue that the Philippines has no marked
season like spring for flowers to bloom. More flowers
seem to appear in May, nevertheless.
Even with the change in temperature brought about
by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the narra trees that
stand like sentinels still bloom at the same time.
And still in May.
Their tiny flowers yellow the dusty street and
powder the air with their light scent.
If you stop for a second you can transport
yourself elsewhere depending on how pregnant your
Flowers of May, the literal translation of Flores
de Mayo (Spanish), is a big social affair in the
Philippines. Although the emphasis seems to be on
flowers, the significance is really in religion.
Flores is actually a series of highly rouged
community celebrations that typically coincide with a
town's fiesta and in honor of the town's patron saint.
It starts like bush fire in one town and then the
next, and the next. The fiestas in May demand a
Santacruzan as highlight.
Flowers that festoon an arch through which the
queen, her princes and princesses must walk under
make up the motif of the celebration.
Sometimes the flowers seem to compete for
attention, but not for long. Neither should the
zagalas' beauty distract the devotee from the real
meaning of the activity.
If the Flores de Mayo is in honor of Mary, the
Santacruzan has its story too.
The Holy Cross, as what santa cruz means, is said
to have come from Saint Helena, the mother of Roman
It is said that Constantine saw a sign on the sky
shaped like a cross. The "handwriting" in
the sky read: In hoc sino vincit or with this sign,
you shall conquer.
Now, that would embolden anyone - conqueror or not!
Helena made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in
search of the cross on which Jesus Christ was said to
have been nailed. Eureka! She found it and brought it
back to Rome along with the dismantled marble
staircase from the palace of Pontius Pilate where
Jesus Christ had gone up and down.
It was also said to be the same marble where drops
of His caked blood remain.
Pieces of the Santa Cruz were cut to sizeable
pieces and set in various reliquaries all over
Another legend has it that Constantine had a piece
too, thus extending his power. But the marble
staircase was sent to Rome where one can still see it.
True to the vision, Constantine ruled supreme all
over the Roman Empire.
A shrewd tactician and strategist, Constantine
married the idea of religious outreach with military
conquest. It was through this that he became supreme
ruler over the Roman empire.
He was crowned emperor in A.D. 312. What made him
unique was that he did not come from imperial lineage.
In his time, emperors seldom inherited the throne.
Military muscle and skill for intrigue were the
points weighed to assume the monicker as Ruler of the
It was Constan-tine who institutionalized
Christianity for the whole Roman empire. Those who
embraced the religion were no longer persecuted nor
fed as snacks to lions.
With the power in his hands, Constantine made
Helena an Augusta of Rome, ranking her as Empress.
The Santacruzan, a remembrance of the quest for
the Holy Cross, reached Philippine shores during
When exactly is vague. Which is good on hindsight;
this way, the romanticism (pun not intended) will
Where else can you find a merry mix of biblical
and historical personalities, dressed in rich fabrics,
than in the Santacruzan. It showcases characters
bearing the attributes of Mary (as stated in the
Litany), the Virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit
and other abstractions.
It is a fitting punctuation mark - a period or an
exclamation point - to the month-long observance of
Flores de Mayo.
This is the 21st century, however, I will wager a
serving of pizza that women long for a place in the
To be queen or princess for a day would be an
affirmation of one's beauty, stature and culture.
Only what the town considers to be the best can
fill the ticket in this short season. Hearts that get
rejected need not pine after the dream like a Weeping
There's next year, but who can say where the wind,
or tastes, will go then? (Sunnex)