CHICAGO (jGLi) – It must have been very tough struggle for man to move about in the early days that they resorted to clinging on some outside power for support.
This illusion of relying for support from a supreme being must have been described by Karl Marx as the “opium of the people.” It’s like grasping from straws (kapit sa patalim) when chips were down. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.”
In pre-Hispanic Philippines, the Filipino people looked for strength in times of trouble and they always paid tribute to divine guidance when they overcome their trouble as gratitude.
The pagan Filipinos must have resorted to animism (the worship of spirits), which featured rituals driving away bad spirits.
And when the Spaniards came, they did not actually extinguish these animistic practices altogether. They just mixed Christian practices with animisms.
Perhaps, thru serendipity, early Filipinos found common grounds with Catholic sacraments in their use of water as healing rituals in the sacrament of baptism.
They even developed a cult solely devoted to the Child Jesus. They welcomed the Santo Nino or Holy Child in their home by building shrines. They also developed strong devotion to the Virgin Mary in many different capacities: as a “shield against foreign invasion, as a protector during travel, and even as a fertility goddess. Filipino children often call her Mama Mary,” according to filipinoheritage.com.
When they had good harvest, when rains dropped to irrigate the farms or when they found the right spouse or they bore children, they credited their venerated saints for these blessings.
Early indigenous priestesses called shamans were replaced by Spanish friars. While friars destroyed some indigenous symbols and practices such as slavery and polygamy, they preserved other practices such as reciting and singing biblical stories like the passion of Christ during Holy Week.
One of the European Christian practices that is still very much celebrated among Catholic Filipinos was the numerous victories in many battles of Constantine, the first Christian ruler - emperor of the Roman Empire, who encouraged his troops to adopt Christianity in battlefields.
It was said that in AD 312, Constantine was facing Maxentius, who had four times as many troops, in a battle. On the way to Rome to the battlefield,  Constantine had had a vision the night before of “Chi-Ro,” the symbol Christ, shining above the sun. A voice came from the sign and said, “In Hoc Signo Vinces!” (In This Sign Ye Shall Conquer).
Seeing this as a divine sign, Constantine had his soldiers paint the symbol of the cross on their shields. Constantine defeated the numerically superior Maxentius and thousands of Maxentius’ retreating soldiers drowned as the bridge over them collapsed. He made Sunday a day of rest and worship and requested his soldiers to say their prayer.
In the Philippines, the vision of the Holy Cross by Constantine is being recalled in various cities and towns calledFlores de Mayo (Flowers of May), a monthlong religious celebration in the month of May. It is a way to give thanks to God and to the Virgin Mary for the rains that soak the rice fields and cause the flowers to bloom. Churches are usually filled with flowers in the aisles and altar since people give them away as thanksgiving offerings.
The last day of the festival is highlighted by a pageant called Santacruzan (procession of the Holy Cross). Santacruzan honors the finding of the Holy Cross in the year 326 A.D. by Reyna (Queen) Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. It was the wooden, Holy Cross, on which Jesus Christ was supposed to have been nailed. Long time ago, Flores de Mayo and the Santa Cruzan were blended together in one festival.
Aside from the Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass), Santacruzan is one of the religious festivities brought to the United States by Filipino immigrants to observe.
This year, The Filipinos of St. Gregory in Chicago, Illinois headed by its president-elect, Dona L. Hernandez, D.V.M., a native of Pilar, Sorsogon in the Philippines, will be holding its 23rd Santacruzan procession around St. Gregory the Great Parish Church in Chicago’s northside.
Colorfully garbed Reyna Elena (Mia Caitlin Isberto) and Constantine (Jonah Micor), Sagalas (maidens in Lenten costumes), Hermanos (male sponsors in Philippine attire) and Hermanas (female sponsors in Philippine attire) will be leading the procession after a 4 p.m. mass on Sunday, May 29, 2011 at the St. Gregory the Great Parish Church. Church Pastor, Rev. Paul Wachdorf, has given the green light to let the procession end up in the St. Gregory the Great Church Gym at 1609 West Gregory St. for receptions and presentations.
Afterwards, the new set of officers of the Filipinos of St. Gregory for 2011-2012 will be inducted into office.
Gina Ibardaloza and Angie G. Lariosa, executive vice president and internal vice president, respectively, of The Filipinos of St. Gregory, announced that they are still looking for Sagalas, Hermanos and Hermanas. Outgoing club president, Alex Siapno, also said at least 20 able-bodied men will be needed to volunteer to help set up the physical preparation for the venue before and after the event. Interested parties may call Dr. Hernandez at 773.334-4140 or cell phone 773.484.5824 or email address at jglariosa@hotmail.com. Happy Easter to all!  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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