Philippine Culture: May in the Philippines

May starts off with Labor Day, a celebration which is observed worldwide. In the Philippines, this day is usually marked by government announcing promises and benefits for the labor force. The labor groups, on the other hand, usually mark this day with protests since perennially, their position is that workers are usually shortchanged by government and employers, particularly during these difficult times.

We have also started following the Western tradition of celebrating Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May. Filipino mothers are generally very caring towards their offspring and will usually do anything and everything to ensure that their children will have a decent, comfortable life. It is only fitting that a day be set aside to honor our nanays, who are usually called "ilaw ng tahanan" or the light of our homes. What a dark world this place would truly be without our mothers to guide us and to love us.

May is the month of fiestas (festivities usually celebrating the feast of a patron saint in a particular place) and so May is also typically the month when our household helpers ask for permission to go home to their provinces. This is actually perfect timing since as school is out, households are probably not as busy.

As for the various celebrations during this month, these are as follows:

1. The Santacruzan - this commemorates St. Helena's search for the cross. This is a novena procession where participants walk around town carrying candles and flowers. Beautiful ladies are usually asked to be "sagalas" and they play different characters like Reina Justicia, Reina de las Flores, etc. The procession starts in church and ends in church too. As the sagalas walk, they are preceded by 2 boys carrying a wooden arch decorated by flowers.

2. Pahiyas sa Quezon - May 15; This is celebrated in Sariaya, Lucban, and Tayabas in Quezon and is a thanksgiving festival. Homes are decorated with colorful and attractive kiping (or rice crackling).

3. Obando Fertility Rites - May 17-19; Childless couples dance in Obando Bulacan, asking the intercession of Sta. Clara for a child.

4. Antipolo Pilgrimage - People go to the Antipolo Church where Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage is located. Some devotees walk all the way from Ortigas to Antipolo early in the morning. Masses at the Antipolo Church are fuller in May than during any other month of the year. It is quite fitting too as May is still vacation time in the Philippines. After hearing mass at Antipolo, churchgoers usually buy food (e.g. kalamay, casuy, suman) from vendors located all around the church.

[By Angelica Viloria | Monday, May 30, 2005]

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