The story behind Santacruzan

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By Ver Pacete

As I See It

Thursday, May 22, 2014

MAY and Santacruzan are synonymous… fiesta, flowers, and Virgin Mary. The celebration of santacruzan is highlighted by praying the holy rosaries daily and by offering flowers to honor the Virgin Mother (Mama Mary).

Tradition (Pinoy style) focuses on novena procession which celebrates St. Helena’s finding of the cross. Chosen townspeople (including politicians and celebrities) wear costumes (made by famous fashion designers) to represent different Bible characters. Townsfolk going with the procession carry flowers and candles.

St. Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of Rome. She married a Roman tribune named Constantius Chlorus who bore her a son, Constantine. A few years later, Constantius divorced Helena for political reason. (He married the daughter of the Roman emperor.)


Later, Constantius became Roman emperor when his father-in-law died. Much later, Constantine inherited Constantius’ throne and brought his mother to Rome and gave her the title of an empress. As emperor of Rome, Constantine engaged in several wars. In one instance while preparing his army, he saw in the skies a vision of the cross. He heard a voice (probably coming from a loudspeaker up in the clouds), “By this sign, you shall conquer.”

That could be the reason why the shields of the soldiers of Constantine were painted with a cross (just like what we saw in the movies that feature the crusaders). With that, Constantine won several wars. He was converted to Christianity together with Helena. (That sounds good. Our priests should learn from them… to win war against RH Law.)

Never ending tales said that Helena was so good that she built many churches in Rome, Constantinople, and Palestine. She was inspired to search for the holy cross of Jesus (in Spanish, “santacruz”). She told her companions to dig at Calvary (like Indiana Jones), the place of the skulls where Jesus was crucified. Three crosses were discovered. (I don’t know how because hundreds if not thousands of criminals were crucified there.)

Helena let a sick, elderly servant lie on each of the crosses. The cross which cured the servant she identified as Christ’s cross (another form of early miracle). Today, the feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated on May 3, the day of the santacruzan. The common practice in our communities (based on revised tradition) is to have it celebrated at the last week of May. The Catholic Church does not agree that gays portray santacruzan characters. (I am sorry. Please ask the Pope at Vatican City.)

The Spanish friars (like Padre Damaso in “Noli Me Tangere”) introduced the devotion to the holy cross in the Philippines. (The Holy Bible prohibits object workshop.) I just don’t know if what town in the Philippines has a major fiesta that is the Feast of the Holy Cross. Traditionally, the celebration included a drama on the search for the cross.

“Santacruzan” story is also like a movie version. It evolves or it can even mutate into something else. That could be the reason why Msgr. Guillermo Gaston came up with his own script and his “Santacruzan” production was tried in Manapla and in Silay City. “It should be a religious presentation, not just a mere fashion show.”

The other version could be found in “Pasyong Genesis” (1814) wherein the tale of the search started after the death of Jesus. Some folk writers used their imagination and creativity. Some available versions are the stories written by Araquio of Alua, San Isidro, Nueva Ecija (1880) and Fruto Cruz’s “Tibag I and II”. Hermenegildo de Guzman called his drama “Tibag” (The Digging of the Mountain).

I would like to recommend the version of Msgr. Gaston. Each Holy Bible character is properly explained. The participation of the characters enlightens the audience of the importance of values and virtues. “Santacruzan” is not a work of perfection. Nobody has the power to make things perfect but we are given countless chances to make things right.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 22, 2014.


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