Jenina Mercado is no stranger to the pageant scene— or taking home the coveted crown. The 22-year-old from Limay, Bataan, who started joining beauty contests when she was in college, was named Miss Eastwood and Binibining Limay, both in 2017. Still, it’s the role of Reyna Elena, the star of Santacruzan ritual pageant held on the last day of the annual Flores de Mayo, that she considers a true honor.
The final character in the lengthy procession of participants representing historical and religious figures, Reyna Elena refers to St. Helena, who discovered the True Cross used for the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. With a cross or scepter in one hand, she walks the procession accompanied by a little boy, said to represent Helena’s son, Constantine the Great. (Read: Who are all the other beautiful Reynas of the Santacruzan?)
Portraying Reyna Elena is akin to bagging a beauty pageant, as the role is typically given to the town’s most beautiful girl. Having won back-to-back titles, Jenina was a natural choice in the May 2018 staging of the Santacruzan. Looking every inch like a winner, she walked the procession in a breathtaking ball gown by Bataan designer Lou Vella.
Jenina talks about the relevance of the Santacruzan, the advice she would give to aspiring Reyna Elenas, and if she would accept the role again if invited.
What do you remember about being a Reyna Elena?
I was the last one in the parade. We walked from our barangay, strolled around our town and in the city, and ended up in the church. Everyone was outside their homes, happily watching us, and taking pictures and videos. It was really fun and an amazing experience.
Any challenges or difficulties you encountered?
We walked for almost an hour and I was in heels! Most girls wear flats so they’re comfy, but I wore heels. I got blisters, but that’s okay. It was worth it. (Read: Five fast facts about the widely anticipated Santacruzan)
What advice would you give girls who dream of being Reyna Elena?
My advice would be to prove that you are deserving of the position. Also, just smile and enjoy it! (Read: Flores de Mayo vs. Santacruzan—what’s the difference?)
Would you join a Santacruzan again?
Yes, once everything’s back to normal! But I’ll be a mother soon so maybe my next role will be that of a mother. Although it’s really sad that we can’t celebrate this pageant at the moment because of the pandemic, we still hope, pray, have faith in God, and help each other fight COVID-19, so when everything is back to normal we are free to celebrate Flores de Mayo again.