I am a person who is very interested and eager to learn about different cultures, but why go farther if our very own culture is quite fascinating. So while I observe and understand the cultures of my friends from different parts of the world, I am also studying and exposing myself to our very own Filipino culture while appreciating it.
One way of understanding and improving my knowledge on our own culture is by observing the society we live in. For example different types of feasts are celebrated in each town, province or region. A feast is an important part of a parish life here in the Philippines. I must admit, I attend and observe feasts not because I like celebration but because I find meaning and significance in attending such.
One of the feasts that I have been planning to attend but took me several years before I can participate is the Obando Feast of the Three Saints and Fertility Dance. I can sense that while reading my story, your eyes are becoming wide open and series of queries floating in your creative mind. To set the story clear, nope I am not infertile.. because I am quite sure that last phrase captured your attention. So before I explain why I attended (better keep this at the latter part of my story so you will have to read up to the last paragraph ha ha), let me share the background of this feast.
The Obando Feast of the Three Saints and Fertility Dance is held every May 17-19 at San Pascual Baylon Church in Obando, Bulacan which is 18km to 23km away from Manila City. The three patron saints are Saint Clare of Asisi, Saint Paschal Baylon and Our Lady of Salambao. It is three day feast that draw people from different parts of the country for mass, long dancing processions in the streets and devotions in the church. Couples who had struggled for years to have children come to the feast to request for a child, and finally they were able to after visiting or dancing in the feast. Also couples or come as a panata, in fulfillment of a vow, to give thanks for children who they believe were born through this intercession. Others come to Obando for a variety of reasons, like me I have others reasons for coming to Obando and request intercession of the three Saints.
Before the Spaniards conquered the Philippines, the locals of Obando have been practicing the fertility dance ritual called Kasilonawan which they offer to the deity of conception Diyan Masalanta. After the Spaniards conquered the country the Franciscan introduced St. Clare and transformed the old ritual into fandango dance and offered to the saint to prevent or cure infertility. Consequently St. Clare evolved into a patroness of individuals seeking a mate and to have children, particularly daughters.
Aside from St. Clare, St. Paschal Baylon also became a patron saint of fertility, wealth and abundance in Obando because the Franciscan missionaries introduced the veneration of St. Baylon when they built the town’s church. Moreover the saint’s surname, Baylon, means “one who likes dancing”, derived from the Spanish bailar, the verb form of “dance”. The origin of St. Paschal’s patronage of childless couples who wish to have children, particularly sons started based on this story of a childless couple from the town of Hagonoy who met a a young man selling crabs. He told the couple to visit Obando and participate in the rites to improve their condition. Upon entering Obando Church, the couple were astonished by the sight of Saint Paschal’s image, for its face looked exactly like the young crab vendor they met.
The Fertility dance is held every 17th and 18th of May. The procession (Fertility Dance) starts at exactly 8:00 AM after the mass, in front of the church. Five groups of dancers lead the dancing followed each by a band, the image of the saints and the participants. The procession usually lasts for 2-3 hours depending on the volume of goers.
The dance steps is choreographed with five basic steps, each of which has a silent prayer component:
- Dancers clasp their hands with the thumbs pointed upward toward the heart while waltzing and praying, “Lord, we believe that You will give us a child.”
- Women dancers’ arms and hands move as if to push their abdomen upward, while the men hold their arms and hands at their back, both praying, “Lord, please heal me.”
- Women dancers move their palms clockwise as if massaging their abdomen, and point to the heavens, while the men dance with their hands at their back, also pointing to the heavens praying, “Lord, please give us a child.”
- Couples join hands together to show unity and love for each other so as to have a child.
- Couples waltz together with their arms swaying from left to right as thanksgiving.
As I have said one may ask for intercession of St. Clare and St. Baylon as well as Our Lady of Salambao for other reasons aside from having a child so while dancing you may pray for whatever your heart desires. May 19 dancing is in honor of Our Lady of Salambao, the entire town offer their prayer and thanks to the Lady for bountiful harvest.
So probably you are very eager to find out what I prayed for, it is about my health and happiness 🙂 My prayers were always specific, schedule had been included and I also requested for signs. True enough, they have granted the favors based on the timeline I appealed for. Since my heart’s desires were granted, I will attend this year’s festivity to offer my appreciation and give thanks for the blessings. I personally encourage you to go there and pray especially if you need intercession.
If your are interested to observe the festivity below is the schedule of activities:
You may also follow their Facebook page for updates at https://www.facebook.com/sanpascualobando
If you wish to go there click the google map link https://goo.gl/maps/3VRboS2gHK9tFC3n8