Children from Palo,Leyte enthusiastically listened to the members of the Philippine National Police(PNP)-8 of some reminders before the start of the ‘Flores de Mayo’ held inside the PNP regional headquarters on Thursday. (Photo Ronald Reyes)

Amidst their anti-drug war campaign

PALO, Leyte- Marie Pathyma Ilanan, 13, said she loves to attend in the Catholic traditional “Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May)” inside the police regional camp based in Palo, Leyte.
“Since I was small, I joined this this kind of activity. I feel safer here,” said Ilanan who also brought with her siblings in the camp’s chapel on Thursday (May 30).
“I like it here because they also have a nice playground. I learned a lot about religion and children’s rights during the ‘Flores de Mayo,’” added Beitina Therese Maceda, 11, who joined the 250 other children in the religious activity.
“I want to be closer to Mama Mary, and I am enlightened here through their bible class,” said Maceda who has been joining the activity for three years already.
“We want these kids become God-loving, responsible beings, and disciplined. Aside from teaching them how to pray, we also provide lessons on rights awareness and health issues,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ma. Bella Rentuaya, the police regional spokesperson.
Police patrolwoman Florlyn Gapul, who is assisting the children inside the chapel, said the holding of Flores de Mayo inside the camp “is not something new.”
The Santacruzan, a novena procession culminating the Flores de Mayo, is participated by selected beautiful young ladies and children wearing extravagant costumes, bedecked with accessories and escorted by well- chosen fine young men in every neighborhood.
The center of attraction during the Santacruzan are those that will act the role of Reyna Elena, in honor of St. Helena, and Constantine, usually a young man clutching a crucifix to symbolize the finding of the “True Cross in Jerusalem.”
Flores de Mayo in the Philippines, with its long Catholic tradition of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, said to start in 1854 after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
“Most of the police are Catholics. We really observe tradition, Catholic rites,” she said.
While Gapul admitted that she noticed the apparent “gap” on the perception of the public to the police amid the brutal drug war campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, she however said that they are doing the Catholic tradition for children every month of May “to bridge the gap.”
Gapul she said that the holding of Flores de Mayo brings out the “soft side” of the police.
“We are also human, we have hearts. Even though we are in the authority, we also believed that Jesus Christ is the real authority. We are led by God. In my case, I feel I cannot really do what other rogue police were doing because I am guided by God,” said Gapul.
Michelle (name withheld to protect her identity), a mother, said she is also sending her children inside the camp to attend the religious activity despite that her husband was caught and imprisoned due to alleged drug activity for two years now.
“I am happy that they are holding Flores de Mayo at the same time, sponsoring snacks to the children. Good thing that they are giving free snacks because I cannot give at all times for my children,” said the 35-year-old mother who is now working alone as dressmaker to support their four children.
“I looked at policemen as good people,” said Michelle.
“The case of my husband is still in the court now,” she said.
The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is waging a controversial and brutal war against illegal drugs which drew strong condemnation from the Church and human rights groups, both here and abroad.
While the police vowed to continue their Catholic tradition for children, Duterte also pledged that his drug war will persist until he will step outside Malacañang in 2022.
“It will be as relentless and chilling as on the day it began,” said the firebrand president during his State of the Nation Address in July 2018.