Monday, May 20, 2013

Santacruzan in Al Ain

May in the desert leaves you feeling the heat of the summer to come but for a while, we forgot that and set it aside to celebrate the first ever Flores de Mayo also known as Santacruzan in St. Mary's Church here in Al Ain, The United Arab Emirates.  As expected, parents were more excited than their children, as many of them kids were born and raised here, and have no idea how big a deal it is to be chosen as one of the reynas or sagalas in a Flores de Mayo parade.  Even my daughter, who just told me she was asked to be one of the girls for a parade; so matter-of-fact.

Early on, she decided that she would wear her Filipiniana dress (actually, a baro at saya) - the one she wore during the UAE National Day parade last December.  Each year, when we go home to the Philippines, I always make it a point to buy her a baro't saya just in case there would be school events like National Day, United Nations or Philippine Independence Day celebrated at her school.  For a few years now, she's always been asked to wear a Filipino costume either for the United Nations month or the UAE National Day as they paraded in school or one time, all over Al Ain.  I asked her if she wanted me to add colour/designs on her communion dress (more like a gown, meaning more elaborate!) and wear that instead but she insisted on her simple Filipiniana terno.  Fine.  One can only be a stage mother up to a certain point. Jeesh!  But I respect my daughter's level-headedness and in many ways, thankful that she is an equalizer to my flighty, outlandish ways.

On the night before the parade, which was to be held on a Friday (the weekend here), parents came to church to decorate each of their kid's arch.  I have no idea how to do this!  Many parents bought plastic flowers and vines from the shops to decorate their kid's arches but I used paper and the art origami to make flowers and butterflies to decorate Amber's arch.  It became our "family project" with both Amber and my husband Oliver helping.  Amber, the scotch tape human dispenser and Oliver the staple-gun toting (and trigger happy!) securer of the flowers and butterflies onto the bamboo arch.  It was actually fun in a way and we used the time to bond as a family.

To view how to make origami flowers, here's a link:
And here's a video on how to make butterflies:

The next day, the actual day of the parade, it was literally a hair and make-up frenzy as parents and relatives brushed, teased, gelled and sprayed hairs in place, applied foundation and eye shadows, gloss and lipstick to the girls, even pinned tiaras and attached wings!  I watched amazed but the general feeling is jovial and fun.  Fit for a fiesta, if only there had been lechon!  My daughter was late and missing - as after Catechism, there follows a children's mass.  Almost everyone who are part of the Santacruzan was pulled out right after the Catechism but Amber was not aware so she proceeded to children's mass.  I was feeling stressed about the time, seeing many little sagalas already made-up and ready.  I sat, sans my child, watching in earnest the scene that is unfolding in front of me transforming little girls into angels and some into princesses and queens.

As soon as Amber was free, the dressing up and the making up was like a blur as we worked as automatons unaware of everything around us, only the fact that she had to be ready in the fastest time possible.  If there was any competition for fastest dressed and made up reyna, it would be her/us, for as soon as we were done (I think they were just waiting for us to get done!) everyone was ushered onto a queue in the order that they appear, ready to march to the Hail Mary song.

A couple of guys helped carry her arch and so march they went inside the small compound inside St. Mary's Church.  The heat endured for a few minutes to highlight our faith (maybe) but moreso, our culture (definitely) as Filipinos in a foreign land.  Had this been held in the Philippines, the parade would have lasted for hours with crowds gathering and many people marching along with lighted candles.  The walk from church and back again, a challenge to young feet in heels.  Luckily for those girls in heels, it only took a few minutes.  Amber wisely wore a comfortable bakya (sandals) that matched her Filipiniana terno.  One I would advise future sagalas to do.  The gowns are long so even rubber shoes would work!

And yes, although Santacruzan reynas wore gowns, the norm is that it features the Philippine-ness of the gowns so traditionally a terno (imagine Imelda Marcos and her butterfly-shouldered gowns) and not prom dresses.  Yes, Amber was right in her decision to use her baro't saya.  Santacruzan Reynas should look classy, respectable; not like slutty prom girls, excuse me!  But that's just me.  Apologies to those who might feel offended.

Below are some photos of our little Amber Declan who paraded as Reyna Caridad (Queen of Charity).  My phones were both on low battery mode so my shots were limited.  My husband who had his Canon took many more photos but will take time to convert them from raw to jpeg then even longer to upload them.  I recall my own childhood days in a similar Santacruzan scenario, even my brother, Alvin was a consorte on one of the many Santacruzans of our childhood...and despite being far away, we have a slice of Filipino in our midst to share with fellow Pinoy families. and perhaps, even faith - to keep us not so homesick as well as hopeful.  Viva Reyna Elena, Viva Flores de Mayo!

Read more about Flores de Mayo from these links below:

1 comment:

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