Home Opinion Where have all the Santacruzan’s gone?

Where have all the Santacruzan’s gone?

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COMING INTO the second week of May, I couldn’t help but look back at the many colourful and unforgettable Santacruzan’s of my hometown that continue to bring back wonderful memories of what I consider a now distant era.  It was a time when religion and culture intertwined perfectly; a period when the true spirit of bayanihan enabled a barangay to mount a mini-festival that featured the ‘fairest of them all.’

Choosing the date of the Santacruzan was far by the most critical decision to make. Aside from the availability of the invited sagalas especially the Reyna Elena, the hermana had to hire the best mosikus in town and reserve the arku from a handful of owners whose rental business thrived only in May. On top of all these concerns, the hermana along with the other organizing committee members had to consider the proverbial rains of May.  

After the date had been set, each household in the barangay would then decide whether to participate by fielding a sagala or to donate a pre-determined amount to help defray the total expenses. The days that ensued were the busiest, and everyone was tight-lipped trying not to reveal the names of their respective sagalas. This added to the mystery and anticipation, with the grand reveal happening right before the very eyes of excited neighbors and onlookers on the actual night. This also meant scouting for new beautiful faces from other barangays or even nearby towns so that the people watching the Santacruzan would not see the same old faces every year. 

For the town’s young ladies and their parents, it was a source of pride to be invited as a sagala. Some parents would never turn down any invitation as it meant refusing to be part of a festival in honor of the Virgin Mary. Never mind the costs for gown rental or hair and make-up, the family’s pride and honor were on the line. 

When the invited sagala stepped out of the house to the pompous music of the mosikus and the sparkling lights of the hand-held lucis, one could hear the collective oohs and aahs from the very eager crowd, as if showing their stamp of approval and admiration for the invited sagala.  

The sagalas wore gowns that were most appropriate for the occasion. They looked very regal and queenly in either the traditional Filipiniana gowns, or princess-cut gowns. There were no revealing, see-through or nude gowns, and neither were there high-slits. Neither were there voluminous skirts and long trains that occupied not just the whole four-leg arc but the entire barangay road. 

The wooden white arcs were simply adorned with hand-made flowers from crepe paper, nothing really fancy. Looking back, I think it was this planeness of the wooden arcs that highlighted the real stars of the evening. The simple white arcs provided the perfect background for the sagalas to stand out. 

Young boys were just as excited to earn a quick buck for the evening as they were assigned as arc bearers. For the young men, it also meant a strategic move as they ‘walked’ very close to the sagala hoping they could catch her attention, strike a short conversation and hopefully lead to the start of a beautiful friendship.  

The singers at the back of the Reyna Elena’s arc were usually the barangay manangs who knew the Dios Te Salve lyrics by heart and who sang it with so much pomp that could give today’s biritera singers a run for their own money.  

Today’s Santacruzan’s have slowly become more of a fashion spectacle than a religious and cultural activity. We now see sagalas wearing heavy crowns and an assortment of fancy accessories, mammoth gowns made even bigger by voluminous petti coats and long trains. Even the escorts now wear fancy and stylized coats and barongs straight from a fantasy-themed prom or party.

Sometimes, I couldn’t help but feel that the religious and cultural elements of this highly revered festival have been side-lined by what appears to be a growing competition among designers, hair and make-up artists, accessories makers, stylists and even florists. For once, let us learn when to say that enough is enough. It is high time we go back to the basics and the essentials. Let us remind ourselves that even for an event as grand as a Santacruzan, less is more. 

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