Flores De Mayo
As a child growing up in Barangay Calawisan in Lapu-Lapu City, I remember spending the summer days playing hide-and-seek, Chinese garter and bato-lata.
The Sumalinog family in this part of Opon is a huge clan that my uncles and aunties are just my age. Thus, we are often seen in a group of 10 children playing in the wide vacant lot in Zone Litob just a few meters away from the basketball court, locally known as “tinisan” (literally translated as “tennis court”). The basketball court is the center of barangay events so it was convenient for us to go straight to the area whenever we hear music blasting from the speakers.
My maternal grandmother is the eldest child of six siblings with her younger sister almost the same age as her eldest daughter. We were a tight-knit family who shared resources as basic as salt and cooking oil.
Us, children, shared the same love of exploring the great outdoor. Afternoons were spent in the kabanwahan of Calawisan. We foraged wild fruits and ate them on the way to whichever destination we initially agreed to go. Most of the houses in the barangay then belonged to relatives or people we know. This was the early 90s when there were very few people from other places who relocated to Calawisan.
As soon as the school year ended, my young mind would look forward to two things. One was the annual summer basketball league because I would become one of the cheerdancers for my uncle’s team; and the second was the Flores de Mayo.
My mother’s younger sister, Rosemarie, was the catechist in-charge for this chapel activity. Rosemarie, or my Auntie Malik, was a generous and hardworking young lady who solicited money from friends and relatives so that by the May Culminating Activity, all Flores De Mayo participants will go home with school supplies. There were special tokens for those who completed their attendance too.
In Flores De Mayo, we prayed and offered flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. My memory took me to a time when I was about six or seven years old when I gathered flowers to be placed in my basket which I then carried to the altar to offer to Mama Mary.
My mother reminded me to always be grateful and to remember to be honest and kind because God and Mama Mary will never be happy if I choose to cheat or turn into a rude person.
I never had any summer classes in singing, dancing or acting. I learned to sing in church and from watching “That’s Entertainment.” I learned to dance from watching barangay shows and then later on formed groups with my cousins to present numbers during coronation nights and special activities in the barangay. I learned to act in community-based drama shows that were spearheaded by my aunts. We listened to radio dramas and watched telenovelas.
I visited Calawisan yesterday and gone was the wild kabanwahan where we used to forage wild fruits. In its place were houses inhabited by people whose faces I do not even recognize. The vacant lot is now covered with two-storey structures.
But the same chapel still stands in the same place after 26 years; the same place where I learned valuable life lessons.
A lot of things changed but then I saw children with their baskets of flowers entering the chapel. A beautiful Virgin Mary was in the middle of the altar. They sang a familiar song. Some things never change.
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