FACC spearheads Flores de Mayo celebration in Charlotte

Photo by Jeric Jarical Photography

SIXTEEN-year-old Sophia Escobal was crowned the Reyna Elena (Queen Elena) for this year's Flores de Mayo event here in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Statuesque at 5'8, Sophie looked regal as she glided through the social hall of St. Matthews Catholic Church. With Cyrus A. Antonio as her escort Emperor Constantine, Sophie was warmly received by the more than 400 parishioners in attendance.

Sophie is the daughter of Fil-American Community of the Carolinas (FACC) representative Robert Escobal. He and Matthew Antone were the ark bearers during the event.

The ark was decked with beautiful flowers in keeping with the event's name, Spanish for Flowers of May. It is a beautiful tradition celebrated by Filipino communities during May, a month filled with fiestas.

This tradition was introduced by the Spaniards in the Philippines centuries ago and remains a part of the country's Filipino culture. This celebration is part of the Flores de Maria, which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Santacruzan is the highlight of the celebration and it's held at the end of the month. Over the years there are changes to the celebration though the spirit is there.

Elder Fil-Americans see to it that they pass this tradition to the next generation. “It's a devotion to Mama Mary actually,” Nena Amigo, one of the organizers, said.

Amigo said a Fil-American named Homer de Leon started the Flores de Mayo celebration at the St. Matthews Church here in Charlotte due to the space and it had become an annual tradition since.

Amigo said since de Leon got sick she and her husband Paul Amigo, who's also a past president of the FACC continued what de Leon started.

This year the Flores de Mayo is sponsored by the FACC and incumbent FACC president Malette Aquino Oliveros welcomed everyone to the occasion while Dominican sister Sr. Edeva Jover gave the invocation.

The audience waited for the parish priest of St. Matthew to give his message for the day. Alexis and CJ Riley led the singing of the Star Spangled Banner anthem while Rommel Olarte, lead singer of the Dust N' D' Attic band led the singing of the Philippine anthem “Lupang Hinirang.”

The marshals were Nicolas Escobal and John Paul Escobal while Simon Oliveros was the standard bearer. Asia Antone,Nicole Santero and Kaitlyn Ronquillo stood as Mary’s Three Joys.

The Seven Virtues were represented by Hanna Asibal (Faith), Stephanie Bunao (Hope), Francine Castillo (Charity), Sharon Bounds (Prudence), Grayson Siplon (Justice), Casse Bunao (Fortitude) and Miel Mantecon (Temperance).

The 12 stars were Kate Asibal (Source of our Joy), Nicole Jarical (Mystical Rose), Alyssa Abalos (Morning star), Corine Olarte (Gate of Heaven), Maria Olarte (Ark of the Covenant), Raine Antonio (Tower of Ivory), Noelle Escobal (Queen of the Apostles), Nina Kasingal (Queen of the Prophets), Giselle Pagunuran (Queen of Virgins), Alexis Riley (Queen of Peace) and Cazandra Riley (Reyna de los Angeles).

The students of Eskwelahang Munti (Little Schoolhouse) under the tutelage of Gloria Grifenhagen and Dr. Nini Bautista also made quite an impression with their performance of the Filipino song “Magtanim Ay Di Biro (Planting Rice Is Never Fun) clad in the native Filipino native clothing.

Towards the middle of the program flowers were brought to the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary by both young and adult faithful alike.

On hand to receive the flowers were Dr. Nini Bautista, the global Pinoy par excellence who helped marshal the groups along with Dr. Oliveros to make the event a success.

After the prayers and the offering to the Blessed Virgin, Leah Castaneda Anastacio led the audience in singing the songs “Ave Maria” and “Amazing Grace.” “An Ode to Virgin Mary” written by Ron Beltran was recited by Dr. Ben Lorenzo.

FACC 1st VP Dr. Mike Borja and his wife, FACC public relations officer Tracy Borja emceed the event. The program ended with the procession inside the hall after which dinner was served to all present.

In a post at the FACC Facebook page Dr. Oliveros has this to say: “To all FACC members and non members...thank you so much for all your help and support for the Flores de Mayo event, also to all volunteers, all rosary groups, participants and parents of our 2014 Santacruzan, thank you! To 2014 FACC officers and representatives, I appreciate all the hard work you've done for today's successful event. Maraming Salamat.”

Other FACC Officers like Lota Mascarenas,Terry Laabid, MJ Maturan and Robert Escobal and those who weren't around like Luisa Castaneda and Blessel Arcamo Butler were present in spirit. To everyone who attended I can only say Viva Mama Mary!

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