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Music in Marian Devotions

Since the introduction of Christianity by the Spanish in the Philippines, the strong influence of the Catholic faith among Filipinos continues to be felt to this day. And in expressing devotion, particularly to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month of May, music definitely plays an essential role.

One of the most celebrated Marian traditions is the Flores de Mayo, also known as alay. In the town’s main street, there is a procession of young girls and women carrying flowers while singing songs in honor of the Virgin Mary. The flowers are offered by pairs of girls (or a pairs of girls and boys) to the statue of the Virgin while singing a two-part tertian harmony accompanied by a guitar, organ, or a small orchestra. The big procession featuring the Virgin on a carroza or float, led by the zagala of young ladies bearing symbols of the attributes of Virgin Mary, is the culmination of Flores de Mayo.

Another popular Marian ritual during the month of May is the santacruzan. It is a reenactment of the finding of the holy cross of Jesus Christ by Queen Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine. The participants are dressed in intricate and beautiful outfits. The procession, accompanied by brass bands and choirs of singers, passes through the town’s main streets.

These rituals and practices relating to the Christian religion, and the music that complement them reflect and demonstrate Filipino religiosity.

Sources:

Hila, Antonio A. Musika: an Essay on Philippine Ethnic Music. Manila: Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas, 1992.

“The Spanish Colonial Tradition,” CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, volume VI: Philippine Music. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994.