(Left to Right) Luz Burke, president of Catholic Action of Mary (CAM) and Sonia C. Balandra, Executive Chairman of the 40th Santacruzan Anniversary and Celebration. | Photo Monico Rabara
JERSEY CITY, NJ – The Catholic Action of Mary (CAM) has officially kicked-off the preparation of its annual Santacruzan event in this town. In an Acquaintance Dinner held at the Marian Hall of the St. Mary’s Church of the Resurrection Parish in downtown Jersey City, the incoming Hermanos, and Hermanas together with the selected Reynas and the officers of CAM were presented to the community.
Eloisa Porto, CAM executive vice chairman, and Armand Porto, a CAM adviser, introduced this year’s Hermanos and Hermanas. For Hermanos, Gerry Austria, Glenn Castillo, Rolly Macuja, Hector Magno, Gani Morales and Cesar Sarmiento were named. For Hermanas, Pam Andes, Belen Castillo, Procerfina Dangcil, Nueva Elma, Rose Javier Diwata Escalante-Macuja, Julie Morale, Ruth Sa Only, Lourdes Baisas-Sarmiento and Laura Villareal were announced.
Among its first Hermanos and Hermanas were Ador and Lily Equipado, Domingo ‘Jun’ and Millie Hornilla, John and Nelia Ferrette, and, Joe and Sylvia Garcia. In recent years, CAM had Dr. Pros Lim, Dr. Elma Castillo, and Zosimo Lerum.
Luz Burke, CAM President, and Sonia C. Balandra, Executive Chairman of the 40th anniversary will lead this year’s celebration. Now in its 40th year, CAM holds the distinction of being the longest-running and largest Santacruzan event on the East Coast. Despite being away from the Philippines, organizers say it does not diminish their desire “to preserve this beautiful Filipino culture and values.” They believe that the event “contributes to solidarity and harmony in the Fil-Am community.”
When asked what she felt as the Executive Chairman of CAM’s 40th year, Balandra said, “I find it very challenging but humbling. I just hope and pray that this tradition will continue to grow for many years.”
Added Balandra: “I hope the younger generations of Fil-Ams would be involved, have leadership roles and interest to continue and uphold these beloved traditions.”
Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro and James Solomon, Ward E councilman, graced the occasion and offered their support and assistance in making the celebration a success.
Fr. Helber Victoria, Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish led the invocation and deacon Cesar Sarmiento, a CAM adviser, was the evening’s master of ceremony.
The Santacruzan 2018 Royal Court of Reynas were also introduced by Elvira Reyes and Rolly Postadan, chairman, and co-chairman, respectively, of the Santacruzan Ball, which is to be held on May 5th,2018 at the Hilton Meadowlands, East Rutherford, NJ. The Royal Court of Reynas are Jeane David, Emperatriz; Sabrina Ramos, Reyna de las Flores; Marianne Sosa Capio, Reyna Elena III; Kriza Caliollio, Reyna Elena II, and Nancy Grace Zerrudo, Reyna Elena I. They will be crowned at that event.
The Annual Santacruzan will be held on May 27, 2018, starting with a Holy Mass at St. Mary’s Parish on 2nd Street, Manila Avenue, Jersey City followed by an annual procession along Manila Avenue.
This year’s celebration will include the popular all-day Street Fair and Festival featuring vendors and exhibitors from the tri-state region and a performance of popular local and international entertainment artists. In addition, a One Mile Run contest aimed at attracting exercise enthusiasts will be held along Manila Avenue and Erie Street.
CAM is encouraging interested parties to participate in the annual Santacruzan to contact Sonia Balandra (201) 320-3345, Eloisa Porto (551) 998-8528, Elvira Reyes (551) 208-4986, Luz Burke (551) 358-1786, Connie Kasilag (201) 239-8108 or Joey Mayo (917) 656-9443.
Santacruzan is a religious-historical pageant held on the last day of a Flores de Mayo, a festival celebrated in the Philippines honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. In many towns and cities, Filipinos celebrate Flores de Mayo by praying the rosary, offering flowers to Mother Mary and sharing food with family and friends.
This Filipino tradition, introduced by Catholic Spaniards in the Philippines, is more than 100 years old.
Young women representing values or religious and historical characters parade through the streets with their escorts under hand-carried bamboo arcs decorated with fragrant native flowers. The last character in the procession is Reyna Elena, or Queen Helena, who carries with her a small cross and is escorted by a man that represents Queen Helena’s son, Constantine the Great.
As the pageant moves along the streets, devotees holding lit candles follow and join in the rosary, novena, and songs of praise. After the procession, children enjoy pabitin, a children’s activity. Pabitin is a square trellis where goodies (candies, fruits, etc.) are hung by strings. This trellis is tied to a rope and is suspended on a strong branch or pole. The children gather under the trellis and jump as high as they can to try to pick the goodies as the trellis gets lowered to them while someone pulls it up and down repeatedly until the goodies are gone.