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The Discovery of the True Cross

What is the Santacruzan?

When Constantine the Great converted to Christianity (making him the first Christian Roman emperor), his mother, Queen Helena, followed suit. Filled with faith and fervor, she embarked on a journey to find the True Cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. This is the scenario portrayed in the Santacruzan. Spanish for “holy cross,” the Santacruzan is the reenactment of the queen’s search for the True Cross. The event is held at the end of May.

When did it start?

The tradition supposedly started in the 1800s, when it was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards. The first Santacruzan was held in Malolos, Bulacan.

What happens during the Santacruzan?

Every May, the loveliest young ladies in town take part in a grand procession. Called Sagalas, each of them has a role: some represent virtues, while others are biblical characters. All of the them are dressed in beautiful gowns and walk under their individual bloom-covered arches, but one girl stands out; the young lady with the grandest costume and most elaborate arch is Queen Helena, or, as she is more commonly known inrelation to the procession, the Reyna Elena. Walking by her side is a young boy who represents her son, Constantine. The two serve as the highlight of the grand procession.

What’s the difference between the Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo?

The two terms are often interchanged or mistaken to be part of one big festival, but the truth is that both customs are distinctly separate. Santacruzan is a procession in honor of Queen Helena’s discovery of the True Cross, while Flores de Mayo is a month-long festival celebrating the faithful’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

What is the significance of the Santacruzan?

According to Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, the Santacruzan started out as a catechetical tool. Presented in a colorful tableau, the Santacruzan allowed locals to easily learn the different facets of Christianity in a very interesting manner. Because the religious custom has evolved into a commercial event, the bishop once reminded churchgoers in his homily, “It is not a hollow pageantry but an invitation for us to reflect on God as proclaiming the Crossas the Way to Salvation.”


Text by Stephanie Jesena-Novero and Yen Cantiga.

Learn more about Santacruzan in the May 2019 issue of My Pope Magazine. Subscribe now and get a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to the Vatican!


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