Flores de Mayo: Ultimate Guide to Understanding the Philippines’s Famous May Festival
Always been known as a largely Christian country and home to people who love to have fun, it comes as no surprise that the Philippines has a festival slated for every month of the year. Sinulog in January, Panagbenga in March, and Kadayawan in August, it’s clear to see, the Pearl of the Orient Seas never runs out of reasons to throw city-wide events.
The month of May is no exception. In this hot summer month, Filipinos have what they call the Flores de Mayo (literally Flowers of May).
So what is this celebration for?
Flores de Mayo: What It Is About and How It Is Celebrated
It is one of the country’s most famous festival, but not everyone knows what Flores de Mayo is about. Worry not, as this article will guide you to understanding the origin of Flores de Mayo and how it is celebrated.
May might be one of the hottest months of the year, with AccuWeather predicting temperatures may peak at 34’C, but surely, this won’t stop Filipinos from celebrating Flores de Mayo; if anything, they see it as the perfect opportunity to turn the sunny month into thirty days worth looking forward to.
Introduced by the Spaniards in mid-1800s, Flores de Mayo is a celebration long observed by the Filipinos in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The people it is the Blessed Virgin Mary that brings rain that makes flowers bloom after a dry season.
The entire month of May, churches and chapels hold a daily mass, and a significant part of it has children and young adults march down the aisle with a basket filled with flowers in hand. They then offer these cut flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a way of saying thanks for the beneficial rain she brings. This whole time, hymns are sung and prayers are said.
The highlight of the whole festival is the Santacruzan, safe to say, the most colorful and beautiful day of the month. First observed in the 1800s in Malolos, Bulacan, Santacruzan is a beauty pageant held to honor Helena of Constantinople and her son’s, Constantine the Great, finding of the True Cross.
On the day of the Santacruzan, beauty pageant participants join in a procession. The procession follows a certain order. It is usually led by Ati-atihan dancers who are then followed by a parade of people in costumes and ladies in gorgeous gowns representing different religious and historical figures.
The roles include Methuselah, Reyna Banderada, Aetas, Reyna Mora, Reyna Fe, Reyna Esperanza, Reyna Caridad, Reyna Abogada, Reyna Sentenciada, Reyna Justicia, Reyna Judith, Reyna Sheba, Reyna Esther, Samaritana, Veronica, Tres Marias, Marian (titles given to the Virign Mary, traditionally includes the Ave Maria to be represented by eight girls, Divina Pastora, Reyna de las Estrellas, Rosa Mystica, Reyna Paz, Reyna de las Propetas, Reyna del Cielo, Reyna de las Virgines, and Reyna de las Flores), and Reyna Elena.
The number of reynas included in the parade varies, depending on how big the community is. That means it’s not always that all these figures are represented in the procession. However, there are reynas that are always present, the most prominent ones, and that include the following:
- Reyna Esperanza—carries an anchor as a symbol of hope
- Reyna Caridad—carries a red heart as a symbol of charity
- Reyna Fe—carries a cross to symbolize faith
- Rosa Mystica—carries a bouquet of roses
- Divina Pastora—carries a shepherd’s staff
- Reyna de las Flores—carries a bouquet of flowers
- Reyna Emperatriz—represents the Queen Helena’s title of Empress or Queen Mother
- Reyna Elena—represents Saint Helena accompanied by a boy who represents Helena’s son, Constantine
Flores de Mayo is held in every town all around the country. It may not be as grand as Sinulog, but it is just as important. The festival is one of the many things that show just how religious the Philippines is and how joyous the Filipinos are as a people.