Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Flores de Mayo

When the rains come to the Philippine Islands, out come “las reynas,” beauty queens who balance red lipstick and piety.


Stacy Hillen, Reyna Flores of Austin, TX

As May, the month of Mary in the Roman Catholic faith, nears a close, the Philippines celebrates its bounty—human, floral, cultural, religious. The rainy season begins and the landscape bursts forth with tropical flowers. Devotions to the Blessed Virgin abound. And humanly, “the sap is rising.” It’s prime time for love.

Combining all these elements, Flores de Mayo is the Filipino spring festival.  John Reyes writes that after the Vatican “proclaimed the dogma of Immaculate Conception in 1854, the devotion to Mary known as Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) blossomed…in the province of Bulacan and spread like wildfire in the southern Luzon provinces of Laguna, Batangas, and Pampanga.”

In many parts of the Philippines, this season is celebrated with recitations of the rosary each afternoon. In southern Luzon it’s known as “Alay kay Maria (offering to Mary),” people bringing garlands, bouquets and long, long, long hymns to the church.

imageOfelia Templo

with a statue of Mary

Texas State Capitol

Photo: Bill Bishop

The holy month culminates in what’s known as Santacruzan, a ritual that, at least in part, memorializes Santa Elena and her discovery, while journeying in Jerusalem, of “The True Cross.” Santa Elena convinced her son Constantine to convert to Christianity and, Constantine being Emperor of Rome, others found themselves converting too.

Here’s where the lipstick comes in. “The townfolk choose pretty young ladies to represent the various characters of the commemoration: the ‘Accolades of Our Lady.’ Each one is dressed in an exquisite, colorful gown, looking as regal as the Reina (Queen) she portrays. Reina Fe (Faith), Reina Esperanza (Hope), Reina Caridad (Charity), Reina Mora (Muslim), Reina Banderada (Flag), and Reina Justicia (Justice) walk with their consorts under hand-carried bamboo arches decked with color-themed native flowers.” Dressed in white, the girl chosen “Reyna Elena” is the procession’s climactic queen.

imageAlvina Roche, Reyna Elena

Photo: Bill Bishop

In Austin, Texas, yesterday, two Filipino-American organizations brought the festivity and glamour of the Santacruzan to the Texas State Capitol. Participants came from as far away as Houston, Killeen, and San Antonio, to enjoy the “showcase of Filipino culture” and honor longtime activist Evelyn Garcia. Bearing the flag of the Philippines in front, the procession walked up to the steps of the capitol singing. Ofelia Templo bore a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and the gorgeous teenage queens followed, each beneath a portable floral archway: Reyna Caridad in red, the Queen of Sheba and her princesses in gold…. Each representing a Bible story or spiritual virtue, the queens had all maxed out with make-up, costume jewelry, and artificial flowers. Not one hair shirt or Puritan shoe buckle to be found. In a word, “heavenly.” 

Alvina Roche was this year’s Reyna Elena, the picture of pious self-confidence with a large crucifix and pink silk flowers across her arm.

Posted by Julie on 05/29 at 11:44 AM
Religious RitualsSecular CustomsPermalink