The flowers—and tickets—of May
Long before SK elections were on our minds, long before we even gave a thought about college admissions and summer classes, the kids of my generation were occupied with one thing every May: the “Flores de Mayo.” Every single day, we would dress up and prepare flowers to bring to the church assembly. By 2 p.m., dozens of kids would be seated on the pews, all freshly powdered and ready to sing the “Ave Maria.”
Though the Flores de Mayo is a deeply religious tradition, in my hometown it was more than that. The children who attended the gatherings were encouraged to mingle and make friends. It was a social affair for youngsters. And the real magic—at least for us back then—happened at the end of each assembly, when we would get a ticket for the day’s attendance. Then, at the end of the month, we would be eager not just for the “Santacruzan,” but also for the time to exchange our tickets for school supplies.
I call it magic because the redeemable school supplies actually got us excited to go to school the following June—a feat that even our parents had a hard time achieving. Who knew that the secret to getting kids interested in school is to give them a couple of new notebooks and pencils? It was a boon for parents, too, as they could now worry less about buying school supplies for their children.
It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. The Flores de Mayo ticket exchange was an interesting contribution of the church to the raising of our generation. In a simple, unpretentious way, a religious institution in our small town effectively prodded us an inch more to better futures. It recognized that it wasn’t just faith and spirituality that it can provide to children, but also practical support for formal learning.
These kinds of contributions shaped our growing-up years. We were raised not just by parents and teachers, but also by government-run daycare centers, nongovernment kindergartens, private sponsors, and even businesses that supported all sorts of child-oriented activities (I can’t tell you how much of a saving grace it was for us to have those dental health workshops and nutrition programs).
Perhaps owing to the humble size and close-knit community of our town, this multisectoral formation came about organically, without bureaucracy or politics. Or perhaps it’s precisely the lack of politics that really made it happen. In offering their contributions, each sector set aside its own agenda and focused instead on the children’s best interests. The local parish, for example, freely supported formal education without once discrediting our scientific learning (not even the lessons on evolution).
This impartial, nonparochial nurturing is all the more crucial now, when young people are playing more active roles in society while being surrounded by pitfalls. We have powerful tools in developing and voicing opinions, we are more engaged in volunteerism and societal concerns, we have more avenues for leadership. But at the same time, we are more exposed to misinformation, partisanship, and corruption. The SK, though reformed, is still considered an example of a youth leadership training ground that’s also laden with corruption issues.
A balanced upbringing better equips us to avoid these pitfalls. When a community is all-hands in the formation of its children—minus the politics, minus the narrow-mindedness—it results in better chances for those children to be well-educated, perceptive, and conscientious.
Looking back at those Flores de Mayo years, I find it easy to see that those school supplies were sparks that helped stoke a light in us. No doubt some of the kids who once cherished the feel of their new notebooks and the smell of their new pencils have now aced college or even become leaders in the community. Those tickets bought us something valuable, and for that, we are grateful.