The Flores de Mayo of my youth
As I watched the Flores de Mayo celebration at St. Matthew Church in Charlotte, North Carolina sponsored by the Fil-American Community of the Carolinas (FACC) last Saturday, my mind wandered down memory lane to my childhood spent commemorating the Flores de Mayo of my hometown.
Back home in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanao, Philippines, the month of May means a full moon every night and a river of blue and green that beckons to everyone to swim in its pristine waters.
The children then would be herded to the church- there was no mall that time and the church was not only a place of worship but a place for the family to actually hang out.
There wasn’t Twitter or Facebook back then; whenever the parish priest announces Mass, everyone is expected to be informed about it a day beforehand.
Flores de Mayo is actually for the Blessed Virgin Mary or Mama Mary. To me, Flores de Mayo meant escape from the drudgery of household chores. To me, church was fun because I would attend Sunday School and know more friends.
My Flores de Mayo was inside the Catholic Church in Tagoloan town. It’s a time-honored festival when the land is teeming with flowers and fine sunny weather. That was the time when everyone would wear “abanico”, big or small to fend off the heat or kill an insects.
To me Flores de Mayo and the time spent in Church instilled in me the love for Mass and the memories of the mysteries, the Hail Holy Queen and the litanies.
The Flores de Mayo is a month-long event that culminates in a religious-historical-cultural procession/parade and pageant called Santacruzan… where the winning beauty is crowned Reina Elena (Queen Elena).
The Santacruzan is that part of the festival that commemorates the discovery of the True Cross of Christ in Jerusalem in 321 AD by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great.
Back home in Tagoloan, from 2 pm to 4 pm, my sisters, cousins, brothers and in fact the whole neighborhood would be gathered in church and learn the rosary. We recite the rosary and afterwards we offer flowers to Mary.
It was the time when all flowers—roses, bougainvillea, daisies, carnations, dahlia and others will be offered to the Virgin Mary.
My siblings and I would get flowers, sometimes without permission, from friends and neighbors. Our favorite was the bougainvillea of the late Iya Puring Pacheco.
But she would know that somebody was getting flowers because the dogs were noisy and we have to run for our lives sometimes, leaving without the flowers and left with scars from thorns instead. Oh the things we do for the love of Mama Mary.
When flowers were scarce, the “marpagayo” and other greens was chopped and cut” as flowers. I think the church attendants there were having a grand time sweeping the floors after the catechism.
Those who are always present would earn a stamp for the end of the month prizes that include rosaries, prayer book, and food.
I remember my teachers were Alde Mariano, Betty Sanches, Gilda Valdehuesa, Mrs. Factrura, and many more.
At the end of the month, there’s a ceremony for Mama Mary where all the girls would wear white clothes and veil and carry a basket filled with flowers.
The girls who were lucky enough to be picked by the teachers to play as angels would wear good shoes, socks and clothes to go along with their taped feather wings.
I remember one time I did wear wings, it was heavy on my back and I went to the back row to join the mortals. I did memory the rosary without fail.
Those were good memories and I smiled as I remembered them while watching the Flores de Mayo at St. Matthew Church along with past FACC president Dr. Nini Bautista, Nena and Paul Amigo and the rest of the Fil-American community in Charlotte, North Carolina one fine morning last Saturday.
(Susan Palmes-Dennis is a veteran journalist from Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao in the Philippines who works as a nanny in North Carolina. This page will serve as a venue for news and discussion on Filipino communities in the Carolinas. Visit and read her website at www.susanpalmes-dennis.simplesite.com. Read her blogs on susanpalmesstraightfrom the Carolinas.com. These and other articles also appear at http://www.sunstar.com.ph/author/2582/susan-palmes-dennis.
You can also connect with her through her Pinterest account at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/41025046580074350/) and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Straight-from-the-Carolinas-/494156950678063)