The Santacruzan is known as the Queen of Festivals in the Philippines after the month long “Flores de Mayo” ( month of flowers) during May. The celebration has “Arko” or arches decorated with fresh flowers and foliage. The girls known as “sagalas’ represent many religious characters. The festival was introduced to Filipinos by Spain more than 300 years ago. For designers, it is time to put their master pieces down the street for everyone to say their ohs and ahs.
When I was a kid, I remember joining the Flores de Mayo with my brothers and sisters. We also enjoyed sitting on the ledge of the street in our hometown to watch the local girls in procession. As a Filipino, summer is not complete without Sta. Cruzan which also signals that the rain will soon come and we all say goodbye to the beach and fiestas, excursions and school break.
I managed to get some cellphone photos of some of the "sagalas". There were too many to take photos of, but then, I would rather watch than took blurred pictures which was what happened here. Wink.
In the Tagalog region, the custom of the Santacruzan celebration started sometime after the Immaculate Conception of Mary was declared official dogma in 1854, and after the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla's translation of the devotional Flores de Maria or Mariquit na Bulaclac na sa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang manga Devoto cay Maria Santisima (The Flowers of Mary or the Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations During the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary the Holiest).
During Spanish times, parish priests would choose hermanas or sponsors from the daughters of wealthy families. These women would shoulder the expenses, plan the festival and decorate the church as well as the caroza which would be used in the procession.
Young women are chosen from among the townspeople to represent the various characters in the parade. Each is carried on a bamboo arch and escorted by a young man. The highlight of the parade is Reyna Elena, representing St. Helena whose discovery of the cross is commemorated by this feast. She is escorted by Prinsipe Constantino, under a canopy of flowers. The floats are accompanied by a brass band. Occasionally, movie and TV stars and other celebrities join in and are featured as major sagalas and escorts.
Devotees follow the parade, holding lit candles, reciting the rosary and singing songs of praise. After the evening mass, the town mayor hosts a dinner party
The colorful pageant parade is arranged in this order:
- Methuselah - A bearded old man seen cooking grains of sand in a pan over a fire. He represents the transience of human life, that all things return to ashes and sand.
- Reina Banderada - A young woman in a long red gown, carrying a triangular yellow flag. She represents the coming of Christianity.
- Aetas - They represent Filipino pagans and the state of the country before the coming of Christianity.
- Reina Mora - act as the dominant religion before Christianity.
- Reina Fe - Represents the virtue of faith and carries a cross.
- Reina Esperanza - Represents the virtue of hope and carries an anchor.
- Reina Caridad - Represents the virtue of charity and carries a red heart.
- Reina Abogada - The defender of the poor and the oppressed. She wears a black graduation cap and gown and carries a big book.
- Reina Sentenciada - Bounded by a rope and accompanied by two Roman soldiers. She represents the innocents who have been unjustly convicted.
- Reina Justicia - Carries a sword and weighing scale. She represents justice.
- Reina Judith - Represents Judith of Pethulia. She carries the head of a man in one hand and a sword in the other.
- Reina Sheba - Represents power and riches and carries a jewelry box.
- Reina Esther - The woman who saved her countrymen from death and destruction. She carries a scepter.
- Samaritana - The woman who Christ spoke to at the well. She carries a jug on her shoulder.
- Veronica - The woman who wiped Christ's face on his way to crucifixion. She carries a bandanna imprinted with the three faces of Jesus.
- The Tres Marias:
- Mary of Magdala - Carries a bottle of perfume.
- Mary, Mother of Christ - Carries a handkerchief.
- Mary, Mother of James - Carries a bottle of oil.
- Marian - Represent the many titles of Virgin Mary. Eight girls in long white dresses with wings, each carrying one of the letters that spell out A-V-E--M-A-R-I-A.
- Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) - Carries a shepherd's staff.
- Reina de las Estrellas (Queen of Stars) - Carries a wand with a star.
- Rosa Mystica - Carries a bouquet of roses.
- Reina Paz (Queen of Peace) - Carries the symbol of peace.
- Reina de las Propetas - Carries a hourglass.
- Reina del Cielo (Queen of Heaven) - Carries a flower and is flanked by two angels.
- Reina de las Virgines - Carries a rosary and is flanked by two angels.
- Reina de las Flores (Queen of Flowers) - Carries a bouquet of flowers.
- Reina Elena (Queen Helena) - The discoverer of the true Cross, symbolized by the small cross she carries.