Santacruzan-an unforgettable experience

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Santacruzan-an unforgettable experience is about a village rite reminiscing the search of the cross where Jesus Christ was crucified as undertaken by Prince Constantine through the request of his
mother St. Helene. The villagers do the rite via the nine-day novena prayer held in different houses in the barangay. The final day is the celebration through praying, dining, dancing, and

Submitted: September 14, 2017

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Submitted: September 14, 2017



Santacruzan- an unforgettable experience


Back in childhood, I still remember my happiest days in our farm.


It was during the nine-day novena of the Santacruzan, the mythical search for the Holy Cross where Jesus Christ was nailed to save humanity from sins.


According to the story or was it Biblical history? Queen Elena’s prince son Constantine did the ambitious search for the Holy Cross through his mother’s request.  Satisfying the queen, the prince mobilized his army for the search from among the many crosses that were alike. Everybody was confused. How could the said cross be identified?


The searchers were advised to take a sick man beside the cross and touch it. The said Holy Cross was known to have therapeutic property. If by touching the cross the sick man got healed, the Holy Cross is confirmed.


This is the essence of the Santacruzan until today, a nine-day novena where the ninth and last day is a glittering celebration that includes hearing mass, meditating, praying, eating, dancing, and drinking. The novenas take place on nine different houses taking rotation annually. The following year other houses host the novena. This is the scenario of the festivity in the farm amidst the tall coconut trees that murmur silently on the sleepy village.


The air blows with the aromatic fresh scent of glimmering golden ripe palay from the ricefields. Added to this, white calachuchi flowers in the village folks’ gardens give the entire area a mesmerizing scent no perfume can compare. Overhead the green coconut fronds sway and whisper with the wind like dry palay being winnowed by the farmers to separate the empty grains.

Usually the house dweller assigns a particular spot in his front yard where to hold the solemn novena rite. The owner prepares the area well enough. Dry leaves on the ground were swept. The house was also scrubbed with upli, coarse leaves of a tree. The wooden window panes and walls were brushed too. When they dry under the sun, they smell like newly bathed babies.


The site of the novena rite is the center of the manicured front yard that smells of newly cut grass inside the barbed wire fence warning the trespassers from entering the otherwise calm household. Blooming pink, red and white lirios lined the pathway starting from the gate to the clean front yard, welcoming the visitors.


When our family hosted the novena prayer, my parents told us children to erect a makeshift banana cross on the clean portion of our front yard. We got the banana trunk from our backyard garden that teems with bananas, cacao, lanzones, and star fruit trees.


In making a banana cross, the first outer pseudo stems of the banana trunk are removed leaving the remaining clean pseudo stems. Cutting vertically in half, we set aside a pair of the trunk with different lengths. The longer one is for the vertical post of the cross. The shorter one will be fastened horizontally a little below the end top to fashion out a cross. We braced it with a bamboo stump.


We adorned the banana cross with white flowers from the garden like champaca, calachuchi, roses, lilies etc. Our centerpiece was the wide white catmon blossoms, whose sour fruits are good for sinigang, a native viand usually soured with vinegar, citrus or any sour fruit.


The banana cross offers an awesome sight. From afar, one sees a flower cross that wafts the area with different scents. White flowers cover it. No one notice the white banana stems inside. In the other dwellings, the owners who can afford have a stone cross carved from a big boulder. It stays forever in front of the house. The owners avoid the burden of making the banana cross yearly. But of course, what the folks want is a banana cross.


Lying before the banana cross is a clean wide buri or pandan mat where the participants kneel. In our case, we used the clean sleeping buri mat. Otherwise we use the palay mat—where we dry our harvested palay. Our mothers do not allow us to sleep on these mats because they are itchy on the skin that takes days before healing.


All the while mother is doing the marketing. She cooks foods for the novena participants. Usually she cooks nilugaw (porridge) using malagkit or gelatinous rice with pork and ginger. Different types of cookies and juice accompany it.


The novena commences at early dusk when the surrounding trees and fences begin to darken. A guitar man gives the cue that the novena is starting. The participants silently walk from the gate to the makeshift altar. With a flashlight handled by a teenage participant, a woman elder who has the copy of the prayer leads the novena.


A remarkable scenario in the novena is the singing and the showering of flowers on the cross. One hears the good sound “Isabug at isambulat ang mababangong bulaklak.” (Shower the fragrant flowers) Then mother asked me to erect a lit candle before the cross when the song goes this way: “Madilim mandin madilim itong Panginoon natin…” (Our God is in the dark).


Everyone greets one another after the novena. The children kiss the hands of the adults. Mother invites everyone to enter our house for the merienda (snack). In some houses, this takes place on the basement or tent fixed adjacent to the house.


Nobody wanted to go home just yet after the meal. They enjoyed a hearty conversation usually regarding love affairs among the teenagers in the group. Young sweethearts among the group became the center of teasing. The crowd requests a song from a singer usually the young male lover. The girls giggled to their hearts content. The subject of his attention then was asked to sing also as an answer to the wooing boy.


When it’s late, somebody produces bangyaw (dried coconut flower receptacle) soaked in kerosene and lit it. It signals that the night is over and it’s time to sleep. One by one the folks leave for their homes with their bangyaw.


Others look for their own bangyaw from a mound of kayakas (dried coconut frond) and firewood in the yard.


The line of coconut trees on the way home creates an eerie atmosphere. They are shadows of giant monsters on the thick bushes beside the footpath.  A mischievous lad ignited a mound of kayakas on the side of the footpath. A big fire lit the entire area that made their travel in the dark venturesome.


The big fire easily turns to ember because kayakas is a very combustible dry coconut leaves. When the big fire diminishes and it darkens again, the bangyaw (native torches) continue illuminating the dark farm.


Until now it remains as one of my unforgettable experiences.

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