Every summer in the late 80s, my brother and I would brave the midday heat and walk to our Lola’s house located right across the compound where we lived. Most of the summer days would be spent there. I would carry on one hand a plastic containing fresh shirts, shorts and underwear.
But in May, the 15-minute walk would have another purpose aside from an afternoon of nonstop playing with cousins and friends. For about an hour, we would seat in benches and listen to the good Word. An hour later we would carry out what we called “halad”. All of us kids would form a straight line and offer flowers, which almost always infuriate our parents and neighbors as we would pluck them from their gardens without permission, to the Virgin Mary. Then we would partake a small afternoon snack, prepared by a kind neighbor of Lola’s who I have not heard of since she and her family migrated to the US in the early 90s, and spend the rest of the afternoon until early evening playing, running, and getting involved in petty squabbling.
This would be our daily routine during the summer. At month end, we would all dress in our best clothes and parade through the neighborhood. I always look forward to this, not because I could wear my barong, but because gifts would be awarded to deserving kids after the procession. Gifts would range from notebooks with That’s Entertainment artistas on the cover to a Mongol pencil to a Panda ballpen to an intermediate paper.
All of us would receive gifts of course. And we would hand them to our mothers, who would be hovering nearby, as soon as we receive them and go off and play. And play we would. Summer was nearing its end and we wanted to squeeze every second of the remaining days when we were free to roam around and not worry about waking up early and making homework and studying.
Soon after the 90s arrived I stopped regulary attending this summer tradition. I sometimes would attend class but I would stand on the back – a meer observer. I felt like I had outgrown the tradition and felt contented observing from afar.
I wonder if the new millenium with its technology and cable television has made the tradition irrelevant. Extinct. I hope not.
And I almost forgot. We call this tradition, for the benefit of non-Filipino readers who may stumble on this blog of mine, Flores de Mayo.