Usually, the flowers the children bring are those found in their gardens such as santan, daisy, bougainvillea, calachuchi and sometimes roses.
The Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban (GKK) or Basic Ecclesial Community members organize the Flores de Mayo. Their role is to lead in evangelization activities among their neighbors and bring the Word of God to thousands of small groups in their parishes and strengthen their faith and transform the teachings to action. Activities of this festivity include gathering children in their neighborhood to handle a small class where they teach them catechism.
The flower offering usually is done in the afternoon after the praying of the rosary and reading of the pagninilay, a meditation on the various dogmas of the Catholic faith. Prayers over, two lines are formed before Mary’s image. A Koro then recites the verses of the set hymn and is answered by devotees while the offering is being made.
The last day of the festival is highlighted by Santacruzan. It is a beauty pageant where the sagalas (young women in evening gowns), walking with escorts beneath hand-carried arches made of bamboo and surrounded with flowers, are in a procession. The sagalas each play a role: Reyna Fe (Faith), Reyna Esperanza (Hope), Reyna Caridad (Charity), Reyna Mora (Muslim), Reyna Banderada (Flag), and Reyna Justicia (Justice). The chosen Reyna Elena (Queen Helena) is kept under wraps until the parade itself.
Historically, the Santacruzan is a depiction of the search for the Holy Cross in Jerusalem by Queen Helena (Reyna Elena) and her son, Constantine the Great. As the procession progresses, devotees follow along the streets. They hold lighted candles and join in saying the rosary and novena, and in singing songs of praise. Once they reach the Church, evening Mass is said. What serves as the culminating activity of the procession and which is intended mainly for the kids is the pabitin. The pabitin is a square trellis from which candies, gum, fruits and small toys hang, tied with a string each. It is suspended from the ceiling or a strong branch with a rope and is lowered to where the children are gathered, ready to jump and reach for the goodies. This is done repeatedly until all the things attached in it have been taken.
In the Our Lady of Fatima chapel in Matina Aplaya, they have been commemorating Flores de Mayo for 17 years now but without Santacruzan due to economic reasons and as agreed upon by the community. As part of the celebration, they conduct a two-hour lecture on weekdays for the daughters and sons of GKK members.
This year, there are about 33 children who participated in their Flores de Mayo. Kagie Angelo Maruyama, 6 years old, is one of them. He told MindaNews he wanted to spend his summer not only in playing but also in hearing God’s teachings. It was his grandmother, Lani Lagrama, who influenced him to join. She is also one of the teachers along with Florencia Camus. “It brings me fulfillment to partake what I know about God to children including my own grandson,” Lagrama said.
Other students are Katrina Anne Montebon who is 12 years old and his brother Kyle Anthony, 7.
“Kahit summer na gusto ko pa ring may pinag-aaralan lalo na kung tungkol ito kay God (Even if it is summer, I still want to learn something especially if it is about God),” Katrina said. Her brother, on the other hand, wanted to improve his social skills that is why he attended the class. “Gusto ko kasing magkaroon ng mga bagong kaibigan kaya sumali ako (I joined the Flores because I want to meet new friends),” Kyle said.
Erlinda Pascual is behind the setting up of a GKK in Ultra Samantha homes where the Our Lady of Fatima is found. She, too, served as their first educator. One must undergo training conducted by the church ministry and should have the passion for service to be qualified as a teacher. “Everything is voluntary from teachers to students. We do not force them participate because it is like obliging them to believe in something they do not,” says Pascual.
According to her, the lessons being taught basically focus on the foundation of Christianity. “We teach them the fundamentals of spirituality and encourage them to follow the example of Jesus,” says. Pascual. She added that the lessons in the religion subject being taught in school are somewhat similar to what they discuss. However the latter stresses more on community involvement. Children are also being taught how to pray the rosary.
Pascual says Flores de Mayo has since become an indelible part of our tradition. “Filipinos never fail to celebrate it because it is a treasure no one can take away from us and it can be passed from generation to generation.” (Thea Septann S. Padua is a senior student of the College of Mass Communication of Silliman University in Dumaguete City. A Dabawenya, she is taking up her internship at MindaNews after her internship stint at ABS-CBN Davao)