The Reyna Elena: The Santacruzan tradition is a ‘spectacular’ way to unite a community

The author with escort Brandon Nguyen

The author with escort Brandon Nguyen

By Megan Villarin

My name is Megan Villarin and I am a member of St. Raphael Holy Angel’s Filipino Community in Hamilton, New Jersey.

Here at our parish, we had our second annual Santacruzan on May 5th. I am this year’s Reyna Elena and am also a member of the Filipino choir at St. Raphael. I am the lead pianist as well as a soprano singer. Our choir sings at many occasions such as our Filipino masses, Simbang Gabi, and our annual caroling fundraisers during the Christmas season.

Although I am an American-born teenager, being a part of this community has allowed me to connect with my heritage and strengthen my Catholic faith.

The Santacruzan is a spectacular and wonderful religious and culture tradition in the Philippines and our community wanted to keep this tradition alive. Last year was our first Santacruzan in which I also participated as a ‘sagala.’ I was Reyna de las Estrellas. It was a joyous and grand event which brought over 300 Filipinos in our area together.

The Reyna Elena last year was Renee Nathalie Janolo. She crowned me this year as the 2013 Reyna Elena. It felt amazing to be part of the Santacruzan yet again! I never expected to be Reyna Elena and for me it was such an honor!

As well as being Reyna Elena, I am also the pianist and a singer in the Filipino Choir, so we were busy getting ready for the mass. It was quite an interesting experience having to play the piano in my big, poofy gown. I also sang the Responsorial Psalm for the mass that day which made it all the more memorable.

We then headed to the procession where we walked around the block with our Arches and the statue of the Virgin Mary. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of the program! Although walking in our heels and long dresses wasn’t comfortable, it’s great to see all the people coming out of their houses to see and take part in the tradition!

The evening program is where the reynas and ‘sagalas’ were introduced. This is the most prominent moment for me as I was crowned by last year’s Reyna Elena, Renee Janolo. I’ve never been a part of a pageant before in my life, but something about being a part of the Santacruzan makes everything more special. It did not feel like a regular pageant with all the formalities and extravagance, but sharing that moment with everyone and being crowned Reyna Elena really made me feel blessed and feel honored to be a part of the Filipino culture and this tradition. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

I felt a sense of gratitude because if it weren’t for God, the community, my family, friends, and all those who supported me through their love and donations, none of it would have been possible. We then proceeded to do the waltz with our escorts and as for a modern twist, our coronation song was “Gangnam Style.”

One thing I should probably say is that the Reyna Emperatriz, Karla Dimatulac is one of my closest friends. She is like a sister to me so being able to share the Santacruzan experience with her made it even more amazing. “Gangnam Style” is a song we both love and we dance to it often so having it as our coronation song was really fun and hilarious.

The rest of the night was just as awesome, there was a lot more dancing (especially line dancing) and there were some performances as well. Two children did an awesome martial arts routine and my brother, Kyle, and I played a few pieces on the violin and piano, respectively. I loved seeing all the mix of people who took part or came to see the Santacruzan. Everyone from young to old, from various ethnicities — my escort was actually Vietnamese — came out for the event. It made me happy to see that the Santacruzan is not only a religious and cultural event, but a tradition that unifies everyone.

The religious tradition honors the Virgin Mary.

The religious tradition honors the Virgin Mary.

Father Gene Daguplo delivers a Marian message while thanking the ‘sagalas’ and their families.

Father Gene Daguplo delivers a Marian message while thanking the ‘sagalas’ and their families.

The Santacruzan cast:
Reyna Elena: Megan Villarin, Escort: Brandon Nguyen, Constantino: Adrian Buensalida
Reyna Emperatriz: Karla Dimatulac, Escort: Kyle Villarin
Reyna de las Flores: Francesca Parayno
Reyna de las Virgines: Nicole Jimenez
Reyna de las Profetas: Rita Obed
Reyna del Cielo: Calysta Laurente
Reyna del Santo Rosario: Allysa Valencia
Reyna de las Estrellas: Jamaica Edralin
Reyna de los Angeles: Liliya Suayan

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One Comment

  1. […] into the gym and taking their seats. So many memories from last year flooded my mind. This year I passed down the crown to the new Reyna […]

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