Stop and smell the roses. During the month of May, in the tropical islands of the Philippines (where my roots are), we don't have to stop -- the fragrance of flowers floats in the air.
When the rains begin to pour after a long dry spell, flowers magically bloom overnight. And being predominantly Catholic, the Filipinos celebrate the beneficial rains by giving praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The townfolk gather the colorful flowers to decorate the Parish Church altars and aisles. They bundle the blooms in exotic arrangements for the many different festivities all together referred to as the "Flores De Mayo" (Flowers of May).
Many towns celebrate Flores De Mayo with the community congregating in the afternoons to pray the rosary, offer flowers to the Virgin Mary, and share homemade delicacies and snacks. Children and adults wearing their Sunday best, sing and dance to welcome the rains that will water the new crops.
The townfolk choose pretty young ladies to represent the various characters of the commemoration: the "Accolades of Our Lady". Each one is dressed in an exquisite, colorful gown, looking as regal as the Reina (Queen) she portrays. Reina Fe (Faith), Reina Esperanza (Hope), Reina Caridad (Charity), Reina Mora (Muslim), Reina Banderada (Flag), and Reina Justicia (Justice) walk with their consorts under hand-carried bamboo arches decked with color-themed native flowers.
The highlight of the procession is the magestic Reina Elena (Queen Helena) who walks with her consort, Prinsipe Constantino, under a huge canopy of May flowers. Immediately behind her is a float carrying the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, followed by a brass band that lends the festive sounds to the procession.
As the pageant moves along the streets, devotees holding lit candles follow, and join in the rosary, novena, and songs of praise. Oftentimes, after the evening Mass, the town Mayor hosts a dinner party to cap the celebrations.
This Filipino tradition ("The Queen of May Festivities"), introduced by the Spanish conquerors, is more than 100 years old and lives on even in Europe and America. Filipino Communities and Associations all over the world celebrate the Santacruzan with the same pageantry and glamor as the townfolk in their homeland.
In the month of May, Filipinos don't need to stop to smell the flowers. The fragrance of sampaguitas (Philippines' National Flower), kalachuchis, roses and other blooms, floats in the air.