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S. Pasquale is the patron saint of fertility, wealth and abundance. The citizens of Airola are particularly devoted to him as he is considered the protector of women and animals!
Born in Spain in 1540 the saint’s surname, Baylon, means a person who likes dancing and is derived from the Spanish word bailar. The story narrates that a childless couple met a man who told them to take part in the dance rituals of Obando, Bulacan. When the husband and wife arrived at the church, they were stunned to find that the face of the man they had met was identical to the church’s image of St. Paschal.
The procession of Airola lasts three days. A group of seven collatori (from the verb accollare: to saddle or take upon one’s shoulders) carry the 18th century wooden statue of the saint on their shoulders. They are preceded by the town’s marching band and followed by barefoot men and women chanting hymns to S. Pasquale. They cover the entire town and its outskirts on foot, stopping in front of every household. Outside, a table is set with the finest hand-embroidered tablecloths. (Apartment dwellers hang their most beautiful crocheted and hand-made cloths from their balconies) The statue then is lowered so that the saint is almost at eye level. (In the past, this was done so that the worshippers could pin money to the statue, a practice now considered ‘pagan’ and prohibited by the Church) Then the collatori, with a single movement, launch the statue (weighing 130kg) above their heads and bring it back to rest on to their shoulders. This movement is repeated hundreds of times each day.
Back at the church of S. Pasquale, packages of incense and blessed bread are handed out to the farmers who will feed it to their animals and to the townfolk who will give it to their unwed daughters as a help in their search for a husband. At around 10,00 pm the statue is returned to the church where it is anxiously awaited by the townspeople and lavished with golden confetti before being put to rest for the night.