Cavinti, Laguna, Philippines
Flores de Mayo In May, towns throughout the Philippines (including my paternal grandparents' hometown of Cavinti) celebrate the month-long Flowers of May or Mayflower Festival where the scents of sampaguitas, gumamelas, kalachuchi, ylang-ylang, roses, and lilies pervade the air. To express their thanks, Filipinos of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation make offerings to the Virgin Mary in a custom known as "alay (offering) sa Birhen (virgin)." Children, with cut flowers and baskets of petals in hand, march down the church center aisle to lay them down at the altar and sing hymns to Mama Mary. However, the grand highlight is the Santacruzan (Holy Cross) procession where beautiful town belles parade through town as "Reynas" (queens) to represent the divine attributes of the Virgin Mary and commemorate St. Helena's (the mother of Emperor Constantine) search and discovery of the Cross of Christ.