After two years of gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepción de Salambao in Obando, Bulacan resumed its famous fertility rites last week.
Thousands of devotees, mostly families and couples, came to Obando last week to pray for children and perform the fertility dance on the streets of Obando.
Held for three days annually, the festival is dedicated to the shrine’s three patron saints: St. Paschal Baylon, parish titular patron on May 17; St. Claire of Assisi, parish secondary patroness on May 18; and Our Lady of Salambao, shrine patroness on May 19.
The festivities were graced by the Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Malolos, who presided over the Mass on the first day.
“We should imbibe the attitude of St. Paschal Baylon who has recognized in his life and by his attitude as a poor person, the value of appreciating that everything is a grace from God,” Villarojo said.
“We are all paupers in the sight of God. And having that sense of gratitude is always an attitude that we should have because everything comes from God and we receive his grace through other people,” he added
Bishop Bartolome Santos Jr. of Iba and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. of Kalookan also celebrated Mass on the second and third day.
Each of the three days had Masses with one before the 8 a.m. Mass dedicated to the fertility dance. A procession would follow the last Mass in the afternoon with devotees lighting candles in honor of the patrons.
The “Sayaw sa Obando” has been known for centuries and was cited in Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere”.
The parish was recently elevated to the status of a national shrine upon the approval of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on January 27, 2021. The solemn declaration was held last March 25 led by Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila.
The shrine in 2020 also opened its pilgrims museum dedicated to catechizing the devotees on the traditional fertility dance and its role in the church as a national pilgrimage site.