|On Wednesday, July 16th 2008 the Bakersfield Californian wrote a wonderful article on the 2008 Philippine Weekend Santacruzan. Below are pictures taken by Troy Harvey of the Californian and the article is written by Louis Medina, Californian Staff Writer.|
|An audience with the Queens:
Philippine weekend hits spiritual high point
by Louis Medina, Bakersfield Californian Staff Writer
|They look like beauty queens in their elegant ball gowns and tiaras. But the sashes that identify them - "Reyna de los Santos" ("Queen of Saints"), "Reyna de Fe" ("Queen of Faith") suggest heavenly spirituality rather than earthly youthful vanity.
They are the queens of the Santacruzan Procession, the most solemn event in the month long ethnic pride celebration in Delano every July that has come to be known somewhat incongruosly as Philippine Weekend. This year, the procession takes place July 26th.
Each queen represents a different aspect or virtue of the holy women of the Bible, especially the Virgin Mary, and also the "Reyna Elena", "Queen Helena" or St. Helen, who is believed to have found the cross and nails of Christ's crucifixion about three centuries after his death.
"The reynas are young ladies of good standing in the community who do community work," said Regina Canilao, 27, of Delano, organizer of this year's Santacruzan activities. "And of course," she said, "they are beautiful inside and out".
"I was very surprised because I never expected that I would be Reyna Elena," said Kayla Dacoron, a 17-year-old senior at Delano High School. Her community involvement credentials included volunteering at a local nursing home for the elderly and having participated as a dancer during Philippine Weekend four years ago, she said.
She and some 10 other reynas were introduced to the community during the Santacruzan Presentation Ball that took place at Delano's Filipino Community Hall on July 5th.
July 26th, they will march under arches adorned with flowers and banners matching their identifying sashes - "Queen of Angels", "Queen of Flowers" - and borne by young men during the Philippine Weekend Grand Parade through the streets of Delano in the morning. At dusk, they will participate in the candlelit religious procession that takes place at Cecil Avenue Park.
TRADITIONS REDIFINED IN TRANSLATION
The term "Santacruzan" comes from the Spanish words for "holy" ("santa") and "cross" ("cruz").
In the Philiipines, a former colony of Spain which inherited many of that European country's Catholic traditions, the procession is held at the end of the Flores de Mayo ("Flowers of May") celebration in spring.
"The Santacruzan is St. Helen's journey of finding the cross and at the same time it honors Mary because May is the month of Mary," Canilao said.
Delano residents don't seem to mind that St. Helen and the Virgin have to wait until July to be celebrated locally.
Despite the Central Valley's often triple-digit summer heat, dozens of faithful marchers show up in their Filipino formal best - butterfly sleeve dresses for the women, barong dress shirts made from woven pineapple fibers for the men - for a tribute that includes a rosary and prayers, and ends with a moving medley of songs sung to an image of the Virgin Mary brought to Cecil Avenue Park from a local church.
People line up to pay their respects to the Virgin: They cross themselves, kneel before her, kiss her mantle and offer a candle or flower.
Although Delano's Philippine Weekend dates back more than three decades, the Santacruzan Procession was incorporated as one of its highlights only about 10 years ago, according to Jay Tamsi, one of the members of the festival's organizing committee.
"I remember the first one. There were like three Reynas," he said. "A lot of the kids get more involved and make it bigger and better every year."
QUEEN OF QUEENS AND EMPOROR SUPREME
But no matter how many reynas there are, there is no doubt about which of them is the main protagonist.
"Reyna Elena is the highest reyna of all. She's supposed to be the purest and the fairest." said Delilah Mascarinas, secretary of the Philippine Weekend festival committee and grand parade director.
For that reason, Dacoron, when she found out she had been chosen not just as a reyna but the reyna, actually had to cancel an order for a light-gold gown and buy a white one instead; "The Reyna Elena always has to wear white," she said.
There is also an older version of the Reyna Elena represented in the Santacruzan Procession. She is called "Emperatriz", or "Empress" because of the saint's high standing in life: Helen of Constantinople was actually the mother of Constantine I, the first Christian Roman emporor, who ruled in the early part of the third century of the common era. It is believed that she found Christ's cross while in charge of a mission from her son to gather Christian relics during a pilgrimage to Jarusalem. Because of her discovey, St. Helen is, not surprisingly, the patron saint of archeologists.
Often, Canilao said, the woman chosen to represent the Emperatriz is married and a mother herself.
"There shoud be a child next to her during the procession to represent her son Constantine," she said.
|Santacruzan procession at Cecil Park July 26, 2008|
|Video of the Santacruzan procession through Cecil Park|