AFTER this week and the next would be the month of May. It is the month when thousand flowers bloom. We celebrate various occasions in May. There are the fiestas. The Santacruzan and athletic tournaments. But wait, I am sorry, I must be talking about the month of May in my youth when life was easy and less complicated. The festivities of my generation are now fading and eclipsed by the dot com culture, the internet and social media and furthermore aggravated by the pandemic. We seniors yearn for those activities. The serenata on patios. The marching brass bands. Kins and friends from other places who shared food and stories.
Many of us anticipated the coming of the month of May. It was my favorite month. For good reason. I used to accompany my mother who never failed to visit kin who were in celebration of their fiestas. Sta.Rita holds its fiesta on May 22, Sindalan, San Fernando on May 8 and the capitol town itself on the last day of May where my late sister Zenaida lived on an old big house on Consunji street. They were favorite destinations. Those were the years when you can only experience eat all you can, same like those buffets offered by five star hotels today. The table was laden with a menu of delicious home cooking. The fiestas in my youth were colorful. Me and my friends chased brass bands as they marched along the streets. This I cannot forget. My father will carry me on his shoulder to get a good view of the town’s parade. Those memorable moments are still deeply etched in my memory.
If there are fiestas still being held today in some cities, towns and barangays they somehow lost the appeal due to the realities of today where people prefer to go to malls, where they can have those affordable buffet, instead of looking for kins and friends' houses.Fiestas are still being held in many parts but are no longer grand. And as a tradition though, it refuses to die. There was a time when writers, described this month as the “merry month of May.” It was because of the many festivals held in May. The fiestas, coronations of beauty queens, the serenatas of competing bands, the musical jamborees on makeshift stages, the amateur contests, and of course the santacruzan.
THROWBACK FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE MILLENIALS: Santacruzan is also called 'Flores de Mayo', meaning flowers in May. It is some kind of a religious and historical pageant featuring the Reyna Helena and his escort Constantino, and some sagalas in tow. The Reyna Helena is a personification of Helena of Constantinople who brought with her a crucifix and in search of the Holy Grail. The Reyna Helena almost always the most beautful pick among the local lasses. Or sometimes hermano mayoras and mayores import a movie starlet or a beauty queen to be the Helena.
Normally the parade was backed by brass band playing, and a choir singing “dios te salve,” the Spanish version of Hail Mary. It will be culminated by a “pabitin” where a bamboo pole smeared with grease and with prize money waiting at the top for whoever can pick it.
Here are the characters in a santacruzan. Matusalem, bearded with age. Reyna Banderada, queen with a banner. Three aetas, dark skinned indigenous people. Reyna Mora, represents Muslim Filipinos. Reyna ng Saba (Sheba), represents unnamed queen who visited King Solomon. Ruth and Noemi, ancestresses of King David. Reyna Judith, the biblical widow. Reyna Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia. Cleopatra, the famous last pharaoh of Egypt. Samaritana, the woman at the well who conversed with Christ. Sta. Veronica, the woman who wiped the face of Christ. Tres Marias, three Marys associated with the entombment of Christ. Reyna Fe, Esperanza and Caridad, representing faith, hope and charity. Reyna Sentenciada,her hands bound with rope stands for the early Christians. Reyna de las Flores, she carries a bouquet of flower. Reyna Helena, the last member in the procession.