Jersey City Pinoys celebrate the oldest Santacruzan, Flores de Mayo on the East Coast

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

May 27, 2014

JERSEY CITY, NJ – For 36 years now, Jersey City, New Jersey has been hosting the largest and the longest running combined Santacruzan and Flores De Mayo celebrations on the East Coast.

Santacruzan is a Pinoy Catholic tradition that commemorates when Reyna Elena or Queen Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine, found the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.

Carried by hermanas and hermanos during the religious procession, organizers say inside this reliquary of the true cross is a piece of wood from the actual cross of Christ.

“It started here at St. Mary’s Church and first it was a Filipino celebration,” Deacon Cesar Sarmiento said. “The Hispanic community — we share the same Christian-Catholic tradition with them, so for so many years they’ve been joining us. So this is not only a Filipino celebration but a parish-wide celebration. So today everyone is Filipino.”

Organizers estimate that about 9,000 people lined the streets of historic Manila Avenue. They also came to celebrate Flores de Mayo or Flowers of May, to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mayor Steve Fulop has declared May 25th “The Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo Day” in Jersey City.

“It brings out the best in Jersey City,” Fulop said. “It’s highlighting the strength of the Filipino community which is tremendous in Jersey City. But it’s also having the Filipino community lead the multi-cultural aspect of Jersey City.”

For many young Filipino-Americans, to be chosen as one of the reynas is like winning a beauty pageant at the same it’s also a way of connecting to their Filipino roots.

Reyna del Cielo Lauren Mercado said. “Since, you know, some children are born over here, they won’t know what happens in the Philippines, like the culture and stuff. So I think that being a part of this is a really good experience.”

“It was as if I was back home in the Philippines,” Sagala Justine Babuschak said. “Like, with everyone the streets, it felt like very home like. I’m very appreciative to be part of this culture.”

A holy mass was celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Mary’s Church in Downtown Jersey City.

The procession was followed with a show which included performances by Katherine de la Cruz, TFC-kat’s grand prize winner, during TFC hour.

As TFC celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the Jersey City Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo is just the beginning of this year’s fiesta fun. From Los Angeles to Virginia Beach, TFC’s Summer Saya will continue at Filipino Fiestas near you.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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