Despite opposition from the Catholic bishops, Marikina’s Gay Santacruzan pushed through last night as scheduled.
We went, quite unexpectedly, as we didn’t know the exact date of the event until late yesterday afternoon. Speedy was at the grocery and bumped into some friends one of whom was born and raised in Marikina. Although this friend has been a resident of Antipolo for two decades, he still keeps abreast of the goings-on in his place of birth. It was through him that we learned about this unique annual celebration, and in 2004 and 2007, we joined the throng of spectators that lined the streets where the parade would pass. He told Speedy that this year’s Gay Santacruzan was “tonight”, Speedy texted me, I said, “Let’s go!” then I alerted Sam who, I presumed, would love the opportunity to take photos — again — of the colorful and controversial event.
Controversial? Yes, controversial. Some even use the word infamous. The Santacruzan is a religious event in honor of Constantine the Great and Queen Helena for finding the Cross of Jerusalem. Considering how homophobic the Catholic bishops in the Philippines still are, they scoff at the Gay Santracruzan as a desecration of a religious tradition that, historically, only included young girls in the procession.
From that perspective, I could almost sympathize with the conservative Catholics. Still, if these people didn’t want the LGBT community taking part in the Santacruzan, surely, they couldn’t object to the LGBT community’s participation in the month-long Flores de Mayo? But then someone (conveniently) came up with this notion that the entirety of the Flores de Mayo festivities are, in truth, a month long celebration of the finding of the cross and that the Santacruzan is its culmination. Is that so?
The May spring festival celebrated in so many countries has pagan origins. Although it was Christianized (and it was the Christianized version that became a part of Filipino culture), no church can claim exclusivity over a festival that is far older than it is. But since Christianity has muddled the distinction between the May spring festival and the finding of the Cross of Jerusalem, it makes little difference whether the LGBT community of Marikina refers to its parade as Flores de Mayo or Santacruzan.
It’s not as if I care what the bishops say. In fact, I get a huge amount of satisfaction in knowing that the larger the crowd that watches the Gay Santacruzen, the more serious the blow to the egos of the bishops. I’m only too happy to be a part of that collective blow by watching the Gay Santacruzan again. I say “again” because, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve been to the event twice before, in 2004 and 2007, when we took a lot of photos that I happily posted on my blog. As an aside, the age of those two posts has made them very searchable in Google and, just a few days ago, there was a reader who said they are making a film about the event and was asking for details. Too bad I didn’t have any information at the time.
So, with barely enough time to shower and swap the 50mm lens that I use at home with a wide-angle lens needed for street photography, we went. We found a parking spot in the compound of The Our Lady of the Abandoned Church in Sta. Elena (isn’t that ironic — we parked at the church’s own parking lot to watch a parade that its bishops oppose), crossed the street to the plaza and waited. The air was festive, people were happily chatting and laughing, and young children were running around with their glow sticks. Sam saw them and wanted glow sticks too. The doting father bought her ten pieces. No kidding.
We didn’t have to wait for long. In less than ten minutes, we could hear the band that we knew was at the forefront of the parade. The music got louder as the band neared the spot where we stood. I took some trial shots and fiddled with the camera settings to get the results I wanted.
As the sagalas passed us, I started doing high-speed shooting hoping to capture as many of them in their long gowns. After about a dozen shots, the camera froze. I couldn’t press the button all the way. I panicked thinking that my camera was busted. I checked… Unfortunately, I forgot to delete the old photos from the camera’s memory card. While more sagalas sashayed through the street, there I was deleting unwanted photos.
By the time I was ready to shoot again, we were already looking at the tail-end of the parade. A huge crowd of youngsters in black T-shirts emblazoned with “Cafe Lidia” was in front of us dancing and playing various musical instruments. Apparently, Cafe Lidia was among the many Marikina-based businesses that supported this year’s Gay Santacruzan. Yes, that’s how well-entrenched the event is in the hearts of the Marikeños. This year’s annual Gay Santacruzan is the 37th and, based on last night’s turnout, it doesn’t look like the event is going to be obsolete any time soon.
It was the sight of the black T-shirts with “Cafe Lidia” written at the back that made me re-consider where we would have our late dinner. The last minute decision to go and see the Gay Santacruzan meant I wasn’t able to cook anything and there was no dinner waiting for us back home. Initially, I thought about going somewhere we hadn’t tried before. In fact, before leaving the house, I Googled “Marikina restaurants vegetarian” because the vegetarian daughter was with us. I found none in particular and thought we’d just wing it. But there was Cafe Lidia, we’d been there before, Sam commented there was vegetarian pizza in the menu, I recalled that the salads were great, so…
To properly feed the vegetarian daughter, we had salad, mozzarella sticks and no-meat pizza. I was surprised that Speedy didn’t order his “usual” — the beef salpicao.
We were planning on having coffee and cakes but we were too full. We weren’t even able to finish the pizza — the last four slices had to be wrapped for us to bring home.
It was an enjoyable night — one more proof that life isn’t always about careful planning and scheduling but, rather, the ability and willingness to respond with alacrity to whatever the moment offers.