Rainbows of festival streamers adorned the ceiling of the House of Prayer Complex, in Ontario, Calif., as hundreds of Filipino-American families celebrated the month of Mary on Memorial Day 2014.
“The Blessed Virgin Mary is very important to us. This event is to honor her in a very Filipino way; to honor her important role in humanity, and to the salvation of mankind,” said Robert Rogan, one of the event organizers.
The celebration started at 10 a.m., and the Filipino smile and hospitality welcomed the many guests who attended the local festivity.
“We come here all the way from San Francisco, travelled eight hours with our kids, to experience the richness of our culture, and to eat good Filipino food,” said April Azucena, Filipino mother of three.
Dressed in their national costumes, the Filipinos browsed the many colorful booths that depicted the many regions of their native land, to shop for authentic Philippine food, traditional delicacies, and souvenir items.
The aroma of Filipino cooking, the scent of bountiful flowers and the medley of Filipino folk songs filled the air, as the Filipinos and their guests, engaged in religious tradition, cultural activities and festive eating.
“Religion, food and family are the basic foundation of the Filipino culture; they are what hold us together,” said Azucena.
Later, the mass started around 3 p.m., followed by the religious procession. The Filipinos prayed the rosary and sang Marian songs, while they slowly marched around the parking lot, along with the statue of the Blessed Mother, and a parade of festival queens, with their escorts and decorated arches.
At the end of the procession, the Filipinos returned inside the complex to offer flowers to the Blessed statue.
The evening culminated with a cultural gala and folkloric dance program.
Flores de Mayo is a Filipino Catholic festival held annually during the month of May. The Santacruzan is the pageantry in honor of Queen Helena, who was believed to have found the cross of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Rogan stated that the preparation actually began days earlier. They devoted a traditional novena to the Blessed Mother by praying the rosary and offering flowers to the Blessed statue for nine consecutive evenings, as one big Filipino family, united in honoring their spiritual mother.
“Especially in this month of May, no one could be a better mother to the Filipino culture and to other cultures, other than the Mother Mary,” said Rogan.
© 2014 Joe Quintana