In the Philippines, the child is an integral part of the family as he/she is viewed as a divine blessing. Children are the embodiment of their parents’ labor of love. However, it is inevitable that medical conditions arise, making it difficult for some couples to have children. For these couples, the month of May is the perfect time for to pray and wish for their most anticipated child! Why?
Obando, Bulacan is where one of the most famous festivals in the Philippines is annually held. This tradition could be traced back since the pre-colonial era, and still remains to be one of the most significant festivals in the country. Nowadays, the celebration is usually held for three consecutive days where both town folks and local tourists engage in various cheerful activities.
The most anticipated activity during the festival is the so-called “fertility dance” wherein childless couples enthusiastically perform along the streets following the belief that this will encourage reproduction. There is a belief that the “spirit of life” will enter the woman’s womb, thus, yearly, hundreds of couples are encouraged to line up and dance to the tune of the traditional music. Alongside this, three saints are paraded around the locality. These patron saints, as part of the Catholic teachings, symbolize the aspirations of the attendees. These include St. Paschal, St. Clare, and Our Lady of Salambao. St. Paschal is devoted for by people who wish to have sons, St. Clare is devoted for by those who wish for girls, while Our Lady of Salambao is devoted for by those who wish for good harvests.
The Obando Fertility Rites Festival is not only an exemplification of Filipinos being superstitious. More so, this festival is a representation of the cultural importance Filipinos place on the family. For instance, for some, bearing a child is solely the mother’s capability as she’s the one who carries the child until he/she is born. In implication, it would seem right to let the childless woman dance the “fertility dance” alone. However, this is not the case. Couples dance together portraying and implicit statement that Filipino husbands also take the onus of child-caring.
A bunch of former fertility dancers will testify how they were blessed with a healthy baby after they danced during the festival. The festival’s efficacy can never be proven. Despite this, it remains to be a timeless practice among natives and tourists.
The festival’s essence is not reliant on its “truthfulness” but largely on its ability to bind couples (despite being childless), to bring communities together, and to strengthen one’s faith to a Higher Being.
Watch the Obando dace rites here:
By Loren Daryl R. Sarenas, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines