The merry month of May is dubbed as the Queen of Filipino Festivities.
Well, to be brutally honest, my whole summer is one big staycation. But it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do, actually, there’s more to do especially in the kitchen! Summertime brings in a lot of amazing produce that’s suited for heirloom dishes perfect for all the festivities this May. Wait, what exactly are these festivities? And why do we celebrate them anyways?
Deeply rooted in our tradition are practices brought by the Catholic religion and then became our culture since 1521. Including fiestas or celebrations in commemoration and honor of religious personalities. Here in the Philippines, we’ve embraced this heritage wholeheartedly up until today. And the most anticipated celebration, aside from Christmas, are the festivities in the month of May. One of the iconic fiestas in May is the feast day of San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, every 15th of the month. This is celebrated as a sign of gratitude or thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. Different towns and provinces have their own unique and fun ways of commemorating this day.
Like in the province of Quezon, they are known for their extravagant Thanksgiving feasts, the Pahiyas Festival in the town of Lucban; Mayohan Festival in the municipality of Tayabas; Arañat Baluarte Festival in the town of Gumaca; Agawan Festival in Sariaya. All in honor of San Isidro. Then in other towns, the main attraction is the mighty helper of the farmers, the carabao or water buffalo. Such as the Carabao Festival in Angono, Rizal and the Kneeling Carabao Festival in Pulilan, Bulacan. And all these produce sprouted from beautiful flowers.
Flores de Mayo, literally means, flowers of May, is a month long festival in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Devotees offer flowers and prayers to Mary. This practice dates back to 1854 when the Pope proclaimed a dogma that Mary was conceived by Santa Ana without any sin – Immaculada Concepcion. As a result, in 1867, Padre Mariano Sevilla of Bulacan, translated “Flores de María” as “Mariquit na Bulaklak na sa Pagninilay-nilay sa Buong Buwan ng Mayo ay Inihahandog ng mga Deboto kay María Santísima.” (Devotees Offer Beautiful Flowers to Mary in Meditation Throughout the Month of May.) This tradition is highly observed throughout the Philippines.
Then, the FINAL stage of this festival is a nine-day novena then a procession in honor of Queen Helena on the last day, the Santacruzan. Wherein teenage girls, called sagala, represent the holy women in the bible, like the queen herself, Queen Helena and a little boy as Constantine the Great.
From the Spanish term, santa cruz (holy cross), because according to the story, the Queen was in search of the holy cross on which Jesus died. And the feast of the holy cross is allegedly in May. Also according to the legend, when the Queen’s pagan son, Emperor Constantine, was once in a battle, he saw the sign of the holy cross in the sky where Jesus had died. He then heard, “In Hoc Signo Vinces” – “In this sign, you will conquer.” He ordered that the cross is placed on the shields of his army and won all battles.
In today’s practice, Santacruzan may also refer to as Sagalahan, pertaining to the teenage girls, sagala, are partnered up with teenage boys, then somewhat treat the said religious practice as a fashion show and/or beauty pageant of sorts. It’s believed to be brought by the commercialism of the event. Well, it is indeed a modern-day take to end a show.
Tapusan sa Kawit, Cavite. Tapusan from the word tapos, meaning end is probably Kawit’s, a town in Cavite, version of Santacruzan/Sagalahan. Held every 30th of the month, the people of Kawit gaily decorate floats with flowers, then the participants or sagala are the town’s most beautiful young ladies which symbolizes the innocence and purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Over the years, a lot of festivals in the Philippines were born in lieu of Flores de Mayo, thus the Queen of Filipino Festivities. However, I opted to write in this post are the ones that are celebrated on the exact or a day before of the assigned feast day. Since these practices are in observance of Catholic religious traditions.