AAPI Heritage Month: Filipinos celebrating the Santacruzan
this month of May
By Joanne Villavieja, Ethnic Technologies
Every May, the U.S. celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This originally started as only a week-long observance proposed in 1978, but was later extended to one month by Congress in 1992. The period includes two important dates, one being May 7th which is the date of the first Japanese immigrants arriving in the United States in 1843. The other is May 10th which marks the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869. This railroad widely contributed to the growth of the American West and relied heavily on the sacrifices and hard work of Chinese immigrant workers.
May is also a significant month for Filipino Americans, full of religious celebrations and festivals. Filipinos are primarily Catholic, and Flores De Mayo is a month-long religious celebration in May that holds special devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During this month, Catholic churches often decorate statues of the Virgin Mary with gold trims, a crown made of flowers, and other fine ornaments. Church masses held during this month emphasize the Virgin Mary’s kindness and love, prayers for peace, and traditional hymns are sung.
The culmination of the month’s celebrations in the Philippines is the Santacruzan. It is a festival and ritual pageant that celebrates the finding of the True Holy Cross. For the parade, young women are chosen to be the “reynas” (meaning “queens”) representing female biblical figures such as Reyna Judith (representing Judith of Pethulia) and Reyna Elena (representing Saint Helena). The women parade through town and are escorted by young boys or men holding decorated arches over them. The Reyna Elena walks last in the procession and is the grandest of them all, escorted often by a young boy who plays the role of Helena Augusta’s son, Constantine the Great. The rest of the parade is often filled with people in costumes, ladies in extravagant gowns, dancers, a band, and a float dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Following the parade is always a large community celebration with an abundance of food, music, and dancing. This Filipino tradition is over 200 years old and is one of the most important cultural celebrations in the Philippines. It is maintained outside of the country as well, in Filipino communities around the United States and even held by organizations in Europe.
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This month of May, all throughout the country Santacruzans are being held. Members of the community are always invited to join in the festivities, Filipino or otherwise, so be on the lookout for one going on near you!
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