THIS MARKS the 80th anniversary of our Jimenez Clan’s annual “Flores de Mayo” observance. Begun in Bohol by my paternal grandmother Pacita Tabuena Jimenez, it started off as an expression of thanksgiving to Our Blessed Mother, to whom Lola Pacita was a devotee.
During the family’s assignment in Bohol before the war, Lola Pacita suffered a debilitating ailment in her legs, which made walking extremely painful. With the help of a visiting doctor who recommended that she regularly soak her legs in the sands of a nearby beach, as well as pray a novena to Our Lady, she regained the use of her legs and vowed to start a family tradition of observing the Flores de Mayo feast. The feast is marked by the offering of May flowers before a Marian image, the recitation of the Rosary, and a novena invoking the Lady’s benevolence. It also helped, I guess, that Bohol to this day retains a strong devotion to Our Lady, with the “Flores” celebrated even in government offices!
How ironic, then, that today, the last day of May which in the clan is known as the “katapusan” or finale, our celebration will consist of three parts: one Mass and celebration each in Quezon City, the Ortigas area and Parañaque/Muntinlupa. We had already celebrated “Flores” on all the weekends of May, hosted by turns by the various families. But today being a workday, a final get-together gathering our wandering members seemed too much, given the still-horrendous traffic and the demands of earning a living.
So we will hold our separate celebrations (we also have “Flores” gatherings hosted by relatives in the United States) apart but together in spirit. And thanks to the wonders of technology, we will be united by social media, with each branch required to post, share or record scenes from our respective observances, the better, perhaps, to compare attendance and overall spirit. We’re competitive that way.
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LAST Sunday, it was the “Tierra Pura” branch’s turn to host the Flores. It was held in “Lily and Flor,” the hideaway in Alfonso, Cavite, that my cousin, Tourism Secretary Mon J. and his recently deceased wife Abby, named after both their mothers. The compound, which houses a chapel, coffee shop and a residence, was created over the last few years to serve as their retreat when they finally retired from their hectic workaday existences as advertising gurus and recently as a Cabinet member.
Fittingly, celebrating the Mass was a family friend, Fr. Bobby Ebisa, SVD, who is these days stationed in Cebu where he manages three radio stations owned by the Divine Word congregation.
After the Mass and Rosary, cousins had planned a mini-Santacruzan, which in small Philippine towns and neighborhoods is the traditional climax of the May feasts. This came complete with a procession of “Reyna Elenas” and consortes (consorts) dressed to the nines and parading around town beneath portable paper flower-bedecked arches. For our own procession, Reese Mangonon Caintic, youngest child of niece Ria and husband
Manny, in a bright blue gown and twinkling tiara, made for the cutest Reyna ever!
It mattered little that a light shower had descended by the time we stepped out of the chapel. And while cousins and nieces tried vainly to manage the merienda-hungry horde, we all made it back inside the chapel after circling the structure, bearing sprays of pink carnation which we placed with much care and fondness before the image of Our Lady. She is the mother who has watched over our clan through all these years, listened to our prayers and pleas, and blessed us until we grew so numerous we could hardly fit into the frame of the traditional photo at the closing. May blessings similarly shower other clans and families on this day!
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OBSERVING Mothers Day in his own inimitable way, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte paid a visit to a family in one of the poorest districts of Davao City. The couple has 11 children, all of them surviving on the father’s meager earnings as a jeepney “barker,” or one who calls out to possible passengers to board jeepneys.
I don’t know exactly what the incoming president told the family, but reports said he instructed executive assistant Bong Go to give the couple a family planning kit. (I hope food, medicines and other forms of assistance accompanied the family planning commodities as well.)
The visit only served to underline Duterte’s publicly known support for family planning efforts. Most recently, he told reporters that a couple should try limiting the number of their children to three. Perhaps it mattered little that the new president has four progeny himself.
Anyway, Duterte already has won support from The Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc. It’s a nongovernment organization that counts longtime experts in population and development among its board, officers and advisers. Ben de Leon, The Forum president, lauded Duterte’s support for the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, whose full implementation, four years after it was signed into law, is still being held up by cases pending before the Supreme Court.
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“THIS is sensible and well-timed,” De Leon remarked on the new president’s stance on family planning.
“The Philippines is experiencing a slowing population growth rate and Filipinos recognize the importance of family planning,” he added. “Enabling couples to pace the births and plan the number of children they want to have… giving them free planning methods that they want to use and educating them about the benefits of a well-planned family is an opportune moment to grasp. It is time to act fast and vigorously on family planning.”