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In the Philippines, the month of May is one of the merriest month in the year. Aside from being known as the ‘fiesta month’, May is known for ‘Flores de Mayo’. Flores de Mayo is literally the Spanish term for ‘Flowers of May’. Now, it is the Filipino celebration held in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the most beautiful flower of May.
Flores de Mayo is a month-long festival. Its activities include (1) daily offering of flowers to the Reina de las Flores, (2) praying of the rosario cantada (singing of musical pieces which punctuate each mystery of the recitation of the rosary), (3) daily celebration of masses, and (4) a 9-day novena. While most parishes do the grand sagalahan on the last day of the month, some do it on other Sundays of May to give way to other May fiestas. During the sagalahan, chosen young ladies dressed to the nines join the evening procession. Each dons a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as per the Litany of Loreto. These titles include Regina Pacis, Regina Martyrum, Regina Confessorum, Regina Patriarcarum, Regina Scrantisimi Rosarii, etc.
📷 Leo Angelo de CastroItong bulaklak na alay ng aming pagsintang tunay, palitan mo Birheng mahal ng tuwa sa kalangitan!” Flores de Mayo
They walk along the streets alone without male consorts. The finale and the ‘queen’ of the ladies is the Rosa Mystica. The title Reina de las Flores is reserved to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the same image used during the daily floral offering. Nowadays, some parishes call this event Flores de Maria where Marian images are included in the said procession aside from the Reina de las Flores.
Flores de Mayo is different from Santacruzan
This is often called interchangeably by a lot of people. However, Flores de Mayo is different from Santacruzan. Flores de Mayo is a celebration in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while Santacruzan is the commemoration of the finding of the True Cross of Jesus by St. Helena (the Empress) and her son, Emperor Constantine.
The Flores de Mayo is a month-long celebration, and ends with the grand sagalahan. On the other hand, Santacruzan is a one-day celebration. The highlight of this occasion is the evening procession. The date on when this is celebrated differs in different places. Some celebrate it on the first day of May, or 3rd of May (Feast of the Finding of the True Cross), or 4th of May (Liturgical Feast of St. Helena the Empress), or the last day of the month.
Although young ladies also join the evening procession, the major difference from the Flores de Mayo’s sagalahan is that they carry various titles of queens and female characters in the old and new testament. Oftentimes, the titles used during Santacruzan are Reina Judith, Reina Sheba, Reina Esther, La Samaritana, and the Tres Marias (Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and Mary Mother of James). The ladies are also accompanied by male consorts. The last lady in the procession carries the title Reina Elena, representing St. Helena, the Empress. She is accompanied by a young boy, representing Emperor Constantine.
Bulakan, Bulacan: The Origin of Flores de Mayo
Bulakan, Bulacan is one of the oldest municipalities in the country, and once was the capital of the province of Bulacan. One interesting fact about Bulakan is this was where the first Flores de Mayo celebration was held.
Flores de Mayo started in 1865 when Fr. Mariano V. Sevilla wrote the ‘Dalit kay Maria‘ or the Flores de Mayo in Bulakan. In 1867, he wrote “Mariquit na Bulaclac na sa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang Manga Devoto cay Maria Santisima”. This led to the popularity of this celebration.
The first daily floral offering and the other activities for the Flores de Mayo was all held at the Parish of the Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion. Father Mariano Sevilla also founded the ‘Hijas de Maria‘ (now known as the ‘Hijas y Caballeros de Maria’) who are in-charge of all the activities related to the Flores de Mayo. From the time the Flores de Mayo was first celebrated until now, the image of the La Virgen de la Medalla Milagrosa or the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is being venerated during the month long celebration of the Flores de Mayo.
Flores de Mayo in Modern Times
Through the years, the celebration of Flores de Mayo became popular all over the country. It became one of the most celebrated Philippine festivals in May. Aside from being a religious celebration, Flores de Mayo is also considered a celebration of art and fashion. In other places, the Flores de Mayo is not complete without the presence of celebrities as sagalas wearing elaborate gowns designed by famous fashion designers.
In the barangay of Sto. Nino in the City of Malolos, the celebration of Flores de Mayo / Flores de Maria includes a special exhibit. Every year, the Hermandad de la Virgen Maria holds an exhibit where the different Marian images from different places are displayed. After the week long exhibit, The Grand Sagalahan is held.