Philippine Flores de Mayo

I was surprised to see a celebration of Flores de Mayo(Flowers of May) at the St. Thomas More Parish in Brookings, SD during the first Sunday of May. Little kids were bringing flowers to the image of the blessed Mother Mary near the altar. It was just a short event done after the Sunday mass.

In the Philippines, May is not complete without Flores de Mayo, a gentle and esthetically pleasing, four-week long festival celebrated in honor of the Virgin Mary. It is gathering kalachuchi shoots and sampaguita buds. It is filling the reed trays with petals of all kinds carrying baskets of: camias, santan, sampaguitas, lerios — the flowers of May.

It is the same celebration as many years ago. It is on how the churches observe and celebrate it and how the people look at it that make the difference. Many people I know say that they offer flowers to Mary for prayer intercession and as a form of thanksgiving.

The traditional flower offering to the Queen of Flowers, can be traced back to the time of the Spanish friars in the Philippines. It started in the homes of the older citizens of San Nicolas, Cebu before the Philippine Revolution, and not in the church.

One maestra Benita, with Claudia, Iktoy and Pari Pilis, are said to have been the first celebrators of Flores de Mayo, to name a few. They made monthly halad (offering) in their respective houses as flower offering to the Virgin Mary. In turn, other San Nicolasnons made their offering to the Blessed Mother as well in May.

The religious rite ceased during the revolution in 1898. When it was restored, the parish priest asked the families to hold the flower offerings in the church instead of in their homes. The daily ritual preceded catechism and prayer lectures for children initiated by the elders.

In the Philippines, the days of May are for Mary’s. May is also a month for prayers and reflections, novenas and rosaries. It is the time for everyday devotion and to sing songs for Mary.

Little children are happy, if not the most delighted, beings in this time of the year. My sister pleasantly reminisces the time she was made to wear a long dress and a pair of feathered wings as an angel during the Flores de Mayo. She had always dreamed of “spreading her my wings and flying”.

I hope the Flores de Mayo at St. Thomas More Parish in Brookings, SD will continue — not just on a Sunday, but every day of May.