It is the first day of May, a special month for Filipinos for it is the time of the Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo , a festival in honor of the Virgin Mary introduced by the Spaniards in the 19th century and has since become A BIG part of tradition in many parts of the Philippines.
Nine days of prayer precede the Santcruzan, which commemorates the search for the Holy Cross in Jerusalem by Queen Helena (Reyna Elena) and her son, Emperor Constantine (Constantino), who then brought it to Rome. The prettiest girls of the town, city, or village portray the traditional characters of the Sanacruzan, among them Reynas Banderada, Mora, Fe, Caridad, Abogada, Sentenciada, Justicia, Judith, Sheba, Esther, Samaritana, and Veronica, with Reyna Elena and her son at the end of the evening procession, accompanied by devotees holding lighted candles. At the end of the procession is a float bearing the image of the Virgin Mary and a brass band playing “Dios te salve, Maria.”
Unfortunately, however, we may not see this festival in many towns under lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So many other church gatherings, including Sunday Masses, have had to be cancelled because of the ban on mass gatherings that may help spread the coronavirus that has already caused so many deaths in the country and around the world.
Because of the pandemic, Holy Week had to be observed this year without such traditional activities as the Visita Iglesia. Muslims cannot gather for traditional Ramadan rites. Next month, on June 12, the Philippines will celebrate the 122nd anniversary of the proclamation of the First Philippine Republic by President Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898. Will COVID-19 pandemic be over by then, to allow us to gather at Rizal Park and in Kawit, Cavite, in celebration?
The following month, July, will be critical for Americans, who have always celebrated their July Fourth Independence Day in a big way with parades and fireworks. But US deaths hit 216,808 last Wednesday, exceeding the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War. While some US states led by Georgia announced they would soon begin lifting restrictions, there is fear that COVID-19 infections and deaths will continue for sometime in many other states.
Many towns and cities in the Philippines will miss the annual Flores de Mayo Santacruzans this month, Even if the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila is lifted on May 16, the restrictions on movement and the call for social distancing will be only gradually lifted, with an eye out for any new infections that may result from the easing of restrictions.
We are likely to miss many Maytime processions, for we are still in the middle of lockdown in Metro Manila, but we hope that with efforts of our medical frontliners in our hospitals and emergency quarantine sites and our people’s compliance with the ECQ restrictions, the danger will soon pass and we can begin a slow return to life as we know it in Metro Manila and the rest of the country.