A different summer
Immediately after the government shut down ABS-CBN, I wrote this on a black background and posted it on Facebook: “A dark day for Philippine media. I wish God’s wrath on the evil doers. Fiat justitia ruat caelum.” A portent of things to come?
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“Summer of 2020” would be a good title for a movie or novel to take its place amongst the literary oeuvres on the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently sweeping into this summer of our lives. There are a number of summer-titled movies, among them, “Suddenly, Last Summer” and “Summer of ’42,” etc., but none of them on disease and death by a virus so named as if it rules the world. Corona.But like a muse, albeit a deadly one, The Corona struck a hidden spring and made the waters of creativity gush forth like an untamed river. As I mused some columns ago, we have become like passengers aboard a lonely planet adrift and listing, marooned voyagers we all are, but becoming poets and sages at sea. Consider the creative output beamed daily to virtual space that is the internet, there to be preserved for all time.
The lockdown meant to prevent the virus’ spread has taken the fun out of our Summer of 2020 that we won’t ever forget. This particular time in our Filipino lives will go down in memory as different; it will find space in memoirs, diaries, essays, novels, documentaries, and movies.
Centuries from now, the historically inclined will dig into the digital archives and find what we — the frontliners as well as those under “house arrest” or WFH (working from home) — had written about this cruel season that drove the world’s populace into hiding and, for many of us, made us discover something new in our hidden world, in our selves, in others.
Places of worship remain closed and all kinds of public gatherings are prohibited. So what will May be like this time? Will there be an e-Santacruzan, or only the funereal e-lamay and e-libing?
What’s May without the Flores de Mayo and the Santacruzan? What’s life without the childhood memories of May, of blazing summers and sudden downpours, of food and fiestas, of beaches and rivers and flowers and songs?
There will always be endless debates about the excessiveness in fiestas mostly in the Marian month of May. And there’s the churchy part that sparks debates on how the Marian month is celebrated in so many different ways, some considered to be outré. Like some Santacruzans.
I do not know the historical connection between the Santacruzan and the Marian Flores de Mayo, but the two have become part of the Filipinos’ Maytime traditions here and abroad. The Santacruzan celebrates Queen Helena’s search and finding of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and taking it to Rome. Her son Constantine became an emperor and convert to Christianity. The Santacruzan has since sometimes transmogrified into a phantasmagoric pageant.
The Flores de Mayo that honors Mary through flowers and songs was introduced by the Spaniards sometime in the 1800s. This rite of summer was part of my childhood. Every morning we would gather flowers for the afternoon floral offering and singing. It was fun especially with friends from different class backgrounds.
Some Santacruzan characters: The Reyna Elena is the most lighted and florally bedecked. She walks with her son Constantine at the end of the procession and is followed by a brass band.
There is the coterie of biblical characters, some apocryphal, then the women of the Bible: Judith, Sheba, Esther, Samaritana, Veronica (she is not mentioned in the Bible though), the Tres Marias—Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Mary the mother of Jesus—and those representing Mary’s titles in the Litany.
Yup, I too had my part in the Santacruzan when I was a kid—as an angel with faux wings and also as one of the prepubescent Tres Marias. Argggh!
The Philippines is called pueblo amante de Maria, a people who love Mary. May our faith help us survive this summer of grief, hunger, anger, and despair—and rude awakenings.
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