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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Obando Fertility Rites: Dance Your Way to Fertility

The Obando Fertility Rites is a Filipino dance ritual wherein men, women and children of Obando, Bulacan, Philippines and other devotees and visitors from other towns in the Philippines dance in the streets in the form of a religious procession primarily in order for the spirit of life to enter into the wombs of women.    Most participants of the fertility dance ask the patron saints for a son or a daughter, a husband or a wife or good fortune.

This is a three-day fiesta honoring the town’s patron saints.  Each day is dedicated to a particular patron saint. 

May 17 for St. Paschal (San Pascual Baylon) – Patron Saint of Fertility, Wealth and Abundance and also of childless couples who wish to have male babies in particular

Photo taken from this site.
The Franciscan missionaries introduced St. Paschal, or San Pascual Baylon, to Obando, Bulacan during the 18th century. Like St. Clare, he also became the patron saint of fertility, wealth and abundance. St. Paschal’s surname, Baylon, was taken to mean "one who likes dancing", ultimately derived from the Spanish word bailar, the verb form of "dance".

There is an anecdote about a miracle St. Paschal worked that tells of a childless couple from the neighbouring town of Hagonoy, Bulacan. They encountered a crab vendor who recommended that the couple to go to Obando to participate in the mid-May dance ritual in order to ameliorate their condition. Upon arrival at the Obando Church, the couple was stunned when they discovered that the face of the image of St. Paschal inside the church looked exactly like the face of the crab vendor they had met earlier. This story forms the basis for St. Paschal's patronage of childless couples who wish to have children, particularly male babies.

May 18 for St. Claire (Santa Clara) – Patron Saint of those who would like to request for a mate and to bear children, female babies in particular

Photo taken from this site.
St. Clare is the oldest patron saint of Obando, Bulacan. She was the first saint to be enshrined at the chapel built by the Franciscan missionaries in Catanghalan, the old name of Obando Town.  

She was a nun in Assisi, Italy, during the 13th century, who founded a congregation known as the Poor Clares based on the devotional teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Clare has been considered the patron saint of good weather because her Spanish name meant the brightening of the skies after a season of storms, which later became the basis why the residents of Obando, Bulacan, believed in offering eggs at the base of the altar of St. Clare to pray for good weather. Eggs are offered to St. Clare because her name also means claro (albumen) in Spanish.

May 19 for the Our Lady of Salambao (Nuestra SeƱora de Salambao) – Patron Saint of Fishermen and A Good Harvest

Photo taken from this site.
On June 19, 1763, the image of Our Lady of Salambao, also known by the long title "Our Lady of Immaculate Conception of Salambao", was also introduced to Obando, Bulacan. 

Local legend narrates the miraculous discovery of the Virgin Mary's image when three fishermen named Juan, Julian, and Diego dela Cruz caught it with their salambaw, a fishing net supported with bamboo crosspieces and mounted on a raft. At the time they were fishing at a place known as Hulingduong, Binwangan, at the town of Tambobong or Malabon. When the fishermen decided to bring the image of the Virgin Mary to the neighbouring town of Navotas, their fishing boat suddenly became heavy and immobile. When they eventually decided to bring the image to Obando, their fishing boat quickly lightened and became easy to paddle. Thus, the image of the Our Lady of Salambao was added to the high altar of the Obando church. Our Lady of Salambao eventually became the patron saint of fishermen and a good harvest.

The celebration begins with a concelebrated mass at the San Pascual Baylon Parish (Obando Church) at around 7am.  The mass usually ends after an hour.  This is then followed by the procession of the three saints and then the dancing of the devotees to the beat of bamboo instruments with the tune of Santa Clara Pinung-Pino.  This continues for the duration of the festival, with the image of the particular Patron Saint of the day leading the procession.

After the procession, participants will return inside the church for the blessing from the parish priest.  More dancing happens here and some devotees will share their stories on the miracle that this dancing fertility rite has given them.  There will also be chance for you to kiss the relic of San Pascual Baylon.   

This May 17-19 2011, it is expected that once again many devotees and visitors will come and join in the fertility dancing in Obando, Bulacan, Philippines in the hope that through the intercession of the patron saints, their wishes and prayers will be granted.

Interested to dance your way to fertility?

Here’s how to get there:

Location Map of San Pascual Baylon Parish (Obando Church)
If you are commuting, ride a jeepney bound for Obando or Paco in Monumento (At the back of Victory Mall and Puregold Monumento).  The fare is approximately Php20 per person.  You have to go down at Petron and walk your way to Obando Church as roads are being closed and traffic are rerouted during the fiesta.

If you are bringing a car, you can follow this route: (1) Monumento -> (2) McArthur Highway -> (3) Left at Potrero Elementary School then go straight stay right-> (4) Go all the way then turn left at the main road -> (5) Go all the way then there will be an intersection, turn right at Francis Market then straight ahead-> (6) You’ll see a statue of the Katipunero at the left side, turn left then go all the way to the main road again then turn right -> (7)Go straight and you will reach town Obando, Bulacan.

For parking spaces, ask the barangay tanods.  They will gladly assist you.

Things to remember:

1. Better to be at the church by 6:30am to avoid walking too far as roads will be closed and traffic will be rerouted during the event.  Mass will start at 7am to be followed by the procession at 8am. 

2. Bring bottled water so that you will not get dehydrated.  Although along the procession, many residents of Obando give out bottled water or prepare water in plastic cups for the participants of the festival.  This I believe is their way of welcoming the devotees and visitors. Filipino hospitality.

3. Bring anything to protect you against the heat of the sun – umbrella, hat, sunblock

4. Bring towel and extra t-shirt in case you perspire a lot while dancing.

5. Bring lots of energy to sustain the entire dance routine.

6. Bring your cameras so that you can take pictures of the festivity and share it with us.

7. Prepare to be swept away by the overflow of devotion, faith and gratitude from the testimonials of the devotees.

Some people may or may not believe in this, but it is worth a try.  There is no harm in trying.  As long as you believe in your heart and in your mind that God will grant you your ardent desires, the miracle of having a baby will come true.  Dancing is just a way of showing your intent to have a child, but it is still your faith and your sincerity that will determine the outcome of your actions.  So, believe and happy dancing! 



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