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The month of May will not be complete without Santacruzan, a religious tradition that is observed from big cities to the smallest barangays in the Philippines that serves as a highlight on the last day of the Flores de Mayo. I remember my summers looking forward to the festivities and looking forward to who will be the chosen sagala amongst my peers and kababata.
Sea Plane Uno or now known as Brgy. Bagong Pag-asa produced the grandest santacruzan events in Puerto Princesa City. It was in the early 80s when the tradition of passing the cross started here – a custom passed on by the first settlers who came all the way from Bataan.
According to Bagong Pag-Asa Councilor Merryl Sabay, traditionally it was the barangay chief who will chose a family that will act as “Hermana Mayor” and will be in charge in choosing the Reyna Elena’s for the procession that will run for nine evenings in addition to the tradition of providing food and drinks for all who will participate in the procession.
“Pag ikaw napili na maging Hermana Mayor, di puede tanggihan kasi may blessing kasi yan, at malaki ang blessing (grasya) na matatanggap mo,” Sabay said. Sabay is one of Sea Plane Uno’s longest reigning Reyna Elena. She appeared six times in different years during her youthful days, being chosen as the Sagala Queen in the City.
She remembers the fun and unforgettable procession walks from Sea Plane chapel going to Concepcion street, passing by the Cathedral down to Rizal Avenue then turning to Valencia st turning left to Malvar and going back to Sea Plane. “Inaabangan talaga sya noon, yung mga taga ibang barangay dyan sa may Ramtan sila mag-aabang hanggang dumaan kami, sa dulo kasi ng procession andun yung mga katuray, mga angels at banda, may mga kumakanta at nagsa-sayawan,” Sabay recalls.
As time went by, the anticipated Santacruzan became uneventful in the past years. Due to lack of funding, the traditional 9 evenings of procession was cut to only 3 nights. The expenses that will be incurred in dressing up a Reyna Elena is no joke – costs of renting gowns to hiring a hair and makeup artist, and to creating an arko cannot be sustained if the occasion will run nine times. It is also a fact that many of the Sea Plane residents no longer live there. Many of them were relocated to other places after a huge fire hit the place in 2004.
This year 2020, there will be no Santa Cruzan due to pandemic we are all facing. They are looking forward to the next year and be able to hold a thanksgiving and revive the event in all its glory – the once fun and meaningful sagala event that is the only one in Puerto Princesa.