Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) is a Catholic and Aglipayan festival held in the Philippines during the month of May. It is celebrated through the whole month of May, in honor of the Virgin Mary, making Flores de Mayo a huge religious event. The devotion of Filipinos to Catholicism does not only revolve around the church and its rituals but also on images of veneration known as "santos". These "santos" are cherished by the families who own them, and lavishly processioned during Lent, fiestas and religious holidays.
My friends and I were at the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan province on Saturday. Barasoain Church is one of the most important religious and historical structures in the Philippines--this is where the first Philippine Congress was convened in 1898, the drafting of the Malolos Constitution from 1898-1899 and the site of the First Philippine Republic in 1899.
Beside the church is the museum where we chanced upon this Marian exhibit called "Hermandad dela Virgen Maria", on its 21st year, in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Queen of Flowers.
Each figure in this exhibit alludes to the title of the Virgin Mary. I didn't recognize most of them but the one with pink roses on her head is Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose); the golden wreath symbolizes the crown of saints or Reyna de los Santos; there's one holding a palm branch, Reyna de los Apostoles, queen of apostles; carrying a wand with star is Reyna de las Estrellas, and Reyna Justicia, queen of justice--she carries a sword and a weighing scale.
I've learned all these by watching the Santacruzan since I was very young---the highlight of our summer vacation before going back to school. The Santacruzan is a religio-historical beauty pageant held on the last day of the Flores de Mayo. It is held in towns and cities all over the Philippines.
As a non-Catholic, I look at these statues not as religious icons but works of art. The intricate embroidery, the rich, handmade adornments, the beautiful sculpted faces are fascinating. Obviously, these images were based on European models but these were actually carved and painted by Filipino hands. These figures celebrate the exuberant art of our "santos" makers, and they tell a story of how faith grew in this country--the historical model was European, the execution was done locally, and the product is part of our national heritage today.
And here is my favorite---Reyna de los Martires, queen of martyrs, with a pierced heart. She's also known as Mater Dolorosa. I love the sad, beautiful expression on her face.
These statues will be paraded around Malolos on May 12th, with marching bands and fireworks, followed by a mass and Santacruzan.
Malolos, Bulacan province is about 42 kilometers north of Manila.
Linking to Our World-Tuesday