Childhood Memories of Flores De Mayo

When I was a kid, I looked forward to summer. Who didn’t? School is closed. Every day is spent playing outdoors and swimming. Also, my parents would take us to visit our grandparents in Eastern Samar during summer. And it goes without saying that we would have to drop by Tacloban and visit Gaizano and the Children’s Park. Gaizano was the only mall I knew of when I was a kid. I have fond memories of their kiddie rides.

There were lots of summer activities back home but the highlight of them all is the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). Catholics and Aglipayans celebrate the Flores de Mayo every month of May to honor the Blessed Virgin. From what I recall this is a two-part tradition. One is the Flores and the other is the Santa Cruzan.

Back in my hometown, kids get excited for the Flores on hot summer afternoons. We wear white and pick flowers to offer to Virgin Mary. I remember my friends and I raiding our yards for flowers and sometimes our neighbors’ too. Santans in red, pink yellow and mostly, orange; hibiscus/gumamela, daisies and rosal are the usual choices. Bougainvilla not too often gets picked because it wilts easily. Roses are housewives’ treasures and therefore not up for sacrifice, not even for the Virgin.

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Before the Flores starts, there usually is cathechism, which we can barely get through due to excitement. As the novices and seminarians rave about the harps and angels in heaven and the fire and unending wailing in hell, we squirm in our seats, tightly holding the bunch of flowers that are slowly wilting as lethargy creeps in with the afternoon sun. Sweaty hands try to straighten the creases that start to appear on starched dresses while carefully avoiding the menacing glare of the saints at the altar.

Our hearts start to swell as soon as cathechism concludes and the Flores commences. We hang in anticipation as the elders choose the kids who will be carrying the letters of the Ave Maria from the church entrance to the altar. The giant letters made of light blue and white crepe paper are the holy grail for the kids at the Flores.

Image Source: braincontour.com

Image Source: braincontour.com

Basically, mass is celebrated during Flores with more emphasis on the virtues of Virgin Mary. We also sing the Salve Regina, which is in Latin, and surprisingly get the words right. Looking back, we didn’t really understand what the prayer meant since it was in Latin or if we were pronouncing it right but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

After the mass, we would fall in line and are given treats. They used to give us galletas and candies. Depending on the mass sponsor, sometimes we get fancier pastries. And when I say fancy, as a five-year old, I meant bread with bright red or yellow filling.

At night, the celebration continues in the form of the Santa Cruzan. This is a processional novena still in honor of the Virgin. I remember the elders constructing a bahay kubo as a makeshift altar with the image of the Virgin surrounded with flowers, both fresh and crepe paper. During procession, the rosary is recited interspersed with Visayan songs for Mary. The part I like best is we get to carry bamboo torches. You know how in the movies, the townsfolk carry torches to burn the village witch? We kinda look like that except ours is a solemn procession with some overeager toddlers running around.

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa '89

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa ’89

After the novena, snacks are served. And on some nights, if you’re lucky, there is social dancing. Back then, no one was embarassed to dance. Regardless of age, size and dancing skills or lack thereof, the dance floor never lacked of participants, all in the name of fun and camaraderie.

The culmination of the Flores de Mayo is on the 31st where there’s a procession and mass. The sagala is no ordinary procession. This is some sort of religious pageant where good-looking ladies and gents of the community play biblical characters. This looks similar to a procession during town fiesta. Needless to say, this ends in a street party under a starry summer sky, all in the name of the Blessed Virgin.

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

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Great Friends Take You To Chateau Royale For The Weekend

Nice: rich friend

Nice: rich friend

By great, I mean, rich. And by rich friends, I mean, Nice is one of them. She is not named Nice for nothing. So anyway, Nice has paid for a 2D/1N reservation for four at Chateau Royale in Tagaytay. Her family is supposed to use it but due to change of plans, we ended up going instead. And by we, I mean, Nice, Ann, Karen and me.

The four of us started the journey at the Batangas bus terminal in Pasay but was dismayed at the queue. This was at 12:30 noon. Apparently, most people were trying to escape the heat in the metro. An unsolicited advice from a woman behind us in the queue prodded us to wait for a bus instead at EDSA. And so we did. After what seemed like eternity (approximately 15 minutes) and our skin slowly being burnt to a crisp, a bus heading to Tagaytay picked us up. I can’t tell you if traffic was bad because right after we ate our takeout from McDonald’s, we dozed off. Then we got off at Olivarez in Tagaytay and boarded a jeep that would take us right at the front gate of the Chateau.

I’m no expert when it comes to aesthetics so I really can’t explain to you the overall design of the resort. It looks contemporary with some Japanese influence. The resort has lots of Japanese sculptures (mostly of Buddha) and some Indian ones, too. I think.

Photo source: mhelgarrido.blogspot.com

Photo source: mhelgarrido.blogspot.com

For the accomodations, there are three types: the hotel, the single-detached cabins and the log cabins. The hotel looks out of place in the resort, like a sore thumb in a Japanese-ish ranch.

Single-detached Cabins Photo source: www.sulit.com.ph

Single-detached Cabins
Photo source: http://www.sulit.com.ph

We stayed in a log cabin, which is a 7- to 10-minute walk from the front desk. There’s a shuttle and golf carts but they weren’t always around whenever we had to leave our room. By the way, the only Japanese indication in our room is the minimalist design. No tacky paintings and just white sheets on the beds, which actually felt surprisingly restful for me. If there’s a way they can increase the water pressure in the bathroom, I’ll give them a better rating.

Photo source: onandofftheroad.com

Photo source: onandofftheroad.com

The Chateau boasts of superb amenities and various recreational activities (rock climbing, zip line, etc.) but we were only interested in one thing, swimming. They have a great pool with actual sand surrounding it.

Photo source: tipofmytonguemoments.wordpress.com

Photo source: tipofmytonguemoments.wordpress.com

Our reservation included dinner at the Chateau’s Floating Restaurant, which at that time was more like a dry-docked resto because there was no water beneath the tiny bamboo huts. They serve the food buffet style. That night the menu consisted of Bird’s Nest soup, rice, pancit, fish fillet, okoy, grilled pork and pineapple and watermelon for dessert. Iced tea and water were served in a nicely set table. The soup was salty. The okoy was good. And the rest are just barely passable. Sorry, I don’t really know how to review food.

Surprisingly, they more than made up for the food the next day at breakfast. Same setup as dinner except for a chef who cooks eggs on the spot, sunny side up or omelette. The menu was lugaw, fried rice, corned beef, tinapa and watermelon for dessert. They had unlimited kapeng barako (Batangas brewed coffee), which I personally love. They also served pineapple juice. The corned beef was a bit salty but overall, it was a delicious breakfast.

Definitely A Breakfast Feast

Definitely A Breakfast Feast

By the way, they have a Veranda Cafe, adjacent to the lounge and front desk, where they serve the welcome drinks, namely, pineapple juice. They don’t serve cocktails there, just locally made alcoholic beverages. Also, food is pricey but tasty. We tried their Royale Club sandwich with fries for Php 270 and Batangas Burger for Php 280. Service is slow so don’t go there hungry.

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The resort also sells fresh produce at really low prices, half of the price of veggies here in Manila. Also, they sell pasalubong like espasol and other native delicacies. Their buko and langka espasol is a must-try.

Overall, despite the disappointing dinner and welcome drinks, it was a great weekend getaway, mostly because the place is lovely and the people I was with are lovelier.

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Thank you, again, Nice. You definitely made it to the Jobet 500.

Nice is the American-ish girl at the right.

Nice is the American-ish girl on the right.

Totally Beaching

Boracay Sand

Boracay Sand

Let’s clarify this once and for all, you don’t swim in the beach. You go to the beach and swim in the sea. According to Merriam-Webster, a beach is a shore of a body of water covered by sand, gravel, or larger rock fragments. But seriously, if you do swim in the sand or on gravel, then who am I or Merriam-Webster for that matter, to contradict that.

It’s summer again and the sweltering heat is driving hordes of people to the beach. What I wouldn’t give right now for a dip in the pristine blue sea even if it’s under the cancer-inducing glare of the sun. It’s this time of the year that I would love, love, love, love be in Maripipi right now, the island paradise where I grew up in.

 

 

 

 

Photo source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Maripipi Island Photo source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

When I was a kid, my mother would forbid us to swim if unaccompanied by adults. She was terrified of the thought of us drowning. Also, she does not want me to spend so much time in the sea because I was pretty dark skinned when I was little. If you’re not a cute kid, the least you can do is at least not be too dark, lest you be teased mercilessly or worse, be pitied. Anyway, it was really hard to follow my Mom’s orders because we live just a few steps away from the sea. So during summer, as soon as school is out, my childhood friends and I would be frolicking in the sea. That was how I learned to swim. If you’re an islander, no one teaches you how to swim. You just do. It’s part of your instinct. Now I don’t swim gracefully as a mermaid or a member of a synchronized swim team but I am a pretty decent swimmer.

 

 

Photo source: myspace.com

Photo source: myspace.com

 

When I was in high school, the allure of the sea has faded just as I became more conscious of my complexion. I would only swim if I’m attending a beach party or in certain occasions like San Juan (Saint John’s Feast Day), Easter Sunday, et cetera. Then in college, I came here to the city and grew farther away from the sea. I would come home on semestral breaks and christmas vacation but was no longer interested in spending time in the sea. Although, nothing beats the sound of the waves at night to lull you to sleep.

 

 

 

Puerto Galera

Puerto Galera

Boracay

Boracay

 

beach buddies

beach buddies

 

Now that I’m already a member of the labor force, meaning I only get a limited amount of time for vacation, I realize how much I miss the sea. Truly, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I miss how carefree you can be among the waves. I miss rubbing the salt crystals that have formed in the skin when the sun has dried the sea water. I miss waiting for the tide to rise because no one likes swimming in low tide, at least not back home. I miss home.