The spirit of Flores de Mayo
MANILA, Philippines - As the month of May unfolds, townsfolk readily anticipate the pageantry of one of our timeworn festivals: Flores de Mayo, a Spanish-influenced rite that literally means “Flowers of May.”
May means looking forward to the Santacruzan, the long procession of sagalas (ladies), and the assemblage of flowers beautifully arranged to deck the caroza of the Virgin Mary.
Witnessing countless sagalas and Flores de Mayo celebrations for many years now, I would like to take on the more mature "hat" of an adult contemplating on the spiritual significance of the festivity.
For amidst the pomp and pageantry of this Maytime occasion — where people spend so much money to dress up, create pompous decors for the Virgin, and host expensive banquets — there seems to be some essence that we have forgotten that is the original spirit behind the event.
In 2012, the Catholic Church even issued a statement that reminded people that Flores de Mayo is not a "fashion show," observing how the event had become a mere parade of beautiful ladies — another flamboyant occasion to flaunt one's endowments and whatnot.
This brings me to a relevant question: How do we really "decorate" ourselves spiritually, not just in physical terms? What makes up the original beauty, or fragrance, of the human spirit that we seem to memorialize in these events?
As a student of spirituality, my teacher would often liken the human soul to a beautiful flower. I was taught that the essential spiritual self is made up of "fragrant qualities" called virtues. Peace, purity, power, love, truth, and happiness are the main "petals" that make up the human spirit; it is these that make the essential self originally good.
But with the negative traits and habits that we have adopted in our life journey, these virtues gradually fade from our awareness through time. Once we lose hold of the virtues, they turn into their negative opposites called vices: anger, attachment, lust, greed, ego. When love loses truth, it becomes attachment and lust; power becomes ego, and many other weaknesses begin to undermine the original "fragrance" of the soul.
The darkness of the human condition at the moment is a result of the collective fading away of each individual's awareness of the power of virtues that it once had in full. Materialism has now greater power over spirituality, body-consciousness over spirit-awareness.
Learn about the history of Flores de Mayo with this video:
The virtues of the soul are very interesting to study for they also have many offsprings: respect and trust are the children of love; serenity and patience are the progenies of peace. In the same way, vices also create many children: impatience and irritation are of anger; arrogance and lack of respect are of ego.
Daily, we can choose to be more conscious in contemplating even just one virtue and putting it in action; this increases the chance of attracting back the other virtues into our life. For example, when I increase my awareness of being a peaceful soul especially when I feel peaceless, I can begin to change and imbue my walking, talking, eating, and being-in-the-world with acts of gentleness instead of anger, of understanding rather than animosity.
For when I am influenced by any of the vices, I lose the power of my own goodness. I start becoming like a thorn, pricking myself and others by acting from ego or hatred or any vice, which in reality are like "foreign bodies," unnatural to the human soul. Notice that when people act from any of the vices, disease usually ensues; not just emotional diseases, but also physical ones.
Doctors say that 90% of illnesses are psychosomatic. The mind-body connection can never be more clear in the decadence of our times. Illnesses that did not exist 100 years ago have now taken over at an exponential rate, almost proportional to the increase of viciousness in the human condition.
At a time when the grossest atrocities are flagrantly displayed in broad daylight — bombings, massacres, civil wars, corruption — there is a small voice that calls us to return the human spirit back to what it has lost.
Your very presence can be a soothing balm amidst the horrifying stench of the world. One person can be a ripple in the pond that can turn the tide of things.
When we consciously begin to return to the essence of our true goodness, we can activate the memory of our innate virtues through silent contemplation. And this is something anyone can do anytime, anywhere.
It is also called meditation, a conversation with myself where I remember and reclaim my "originally good" qualities. Some spiritual teachers call it remembrance.
The more I remember who I really am in the quiet of my mind — a beautiful being filled with the fragrance of virtues — the more I can allow the power of my virtues to play an active part in my thinking and doing.
Imagine if we all come from a space of remembrance of our original dignity — like the flowers of May, worthy to be offered to the divine — we can be more ready to serve back humanity through our very being, and in our every doing. - Rappler.com
To celebrate the spirit of Flores de Mayo, a talk about “Fragrance of the Soul” will be held this May in Brahma Kumaris centers in Makati (890-7960), Quezon City (414-9421), and Manila (521-2015).
Rina Angela Corpus is a dedicated spiritual learner, studying and teaching Raja yoga meditation for the last 13 years. She has been teaching art studies and humanities at the University of the Philippines-Diliman for the last 10 years. You may visit her reflections on spirituality and culture at Dance of Stillness.