TOKYO -- In normal times, May is a colorful month in the Philippines, filled with fiestas, parades and pageants in honor of the Virgin Mary. Over the 30 days known as Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May), Filipino Catholics gather in their parishes to pray and offer flowers to Mary, culminating with a re-enactment of the Santacruzan. This was when, according to Catholic legend, Empress Helena searched for the cross Jesus Christ was crucified on and brought it back to Rome in a grand spectacle.
This year, the coronavirus forced a simpler celebration. In Borongan, a city of 70,000 residents in the central Philippines, a two-car motorcade left the cathedral carrying only the bishop, a few priests and deacons and the cross mounted on the bed of a pickup truck. It was another quiet night as residents complied with a two-month quarantine order from the government in Manila.