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The tradition of Santacruzan and how Filipinos make it thrive today


Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP) and TransMan Philippines (TMP) members participate in a ‘Santacruzan’ procession in Manila on May 18, 2014. The parade is held in celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. AFP PHOTO/NOEL CELIS

CONSOLACION, Cebu  — As they bid goodbye to the altar, children clutch ‘Santan’ flowers and Gumamelas in bloom and return to their respective homes from their Flores de Mayo activities. These flowers were part of the bouquet they offered to the Holy Mary just minutes ago.

In the next moments, they will need to get ready. They dress in their fanciest clothes: girls don cute, flowy dresses, and boys sport charming smiles with polos and chinos. Eager to watch the ‘sagala’ walk down the city’s streets, wearing the most intricate and colorful dresses, they anticipate the festivities of the Santacruzan season.

For Roman Catholics, Santacruzan marks the culmination of a month-long celebration in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Parishioners follow this joyous blend of faith, tradition, and community, passing the rich Filipino culture to the young ones.

Although it is a concluding event, Santacruzan encompasses the history of the first foundation of the Roman Catholic religion, a belief passed from generation to generation.

Where did Filipinos get the activity of ‘Santacruzan’?

As a former territory heavily influenced by Catholic Spain, the Filipinos inherited the story of Reyna Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity, as she is said to have discovered the Holy Cross during her religious travels.

This historical connection is reflected in the term “Santacruzan,” derived from the Spanish word ‘Santa,’ which translates to holy in English, while ‘Cruzan’ signifies cross. This translation, “holy cross,” captures the essence of the religious event, which has become a significant part of the nation’s religious history.

Innovations added by Filipinos in celebrating Santacruzan

Believed to have started in the 1800s, Filipinos have added some innovations to their beloved religious tradition to ensure it remains vibrant.

From merely displaying grandness in faith and religion through dresses, innovations have gradually introduced themselves, starting with the Reynas, the event’s diamonds.

The local government of Baraca-Camachile in Subic, Zambales, Central Luzon, has adapted to the changing tides and has invited its citizens, including members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) community, to join in the fun and don their best dresses yet.


Members of the LGBTQIA+ community from Barangay Baraca-Camachile Subic, Zambales, have enthusiastically heeded the call of their LGU, joining one of the most anticipated events in May: Santacruzan. | Screengrab from Barangay Baraca-Camachile Subic, Zambales/ FB

Incorporating local products in Santacruzan Dresses

In Catanduanes, the local government has arranged events to honor Santacruzan and showcase their main economic asset, Abaca.

The province of Catanduanes will celebrate its 8th Abaca Festival this fourth week of May 2024, the same time the Philippines will celebrate Santacruzan.

With this, the local government initiated an event showcasing local beauties from Catanduanes wearing their huge Santacruzan ball gowns made purely from Abaca. A feat to show how one should correctly hit two birds with one stone.


Reynas from Abaca Grand Santacruzan in 2019 wearing gowns made of Abaca. | Catanduanes Tourism Promotion/ FB

As May draws closer, remember that Santacruzan is a cherished tradition deeply rooted in Filipino culture.

While other cities may seldom witness it now, let’s not underestimate its significance. Instead, let’s actively revitalize this tradition by infusing it with innovations and enthusiastically embracing it.

By doing so, we preserve our cultural heritage and ensure that Santacruzan remains relevant for generations, showcasing the enduring spirit of Filipino tradition and innovation.


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