Pabása ng Pasyón (Tagalog for “Reading of the Passion“), known simply as Pabása is a Catholic devotion in the Philippines done during Holy Week involving the uninterrupted singing of the Pasyón, an early 16th-century epic poem narrating the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The verses are based on the bible and read/sang every Holy Week. (based on wikipedia)
Pabasa was widely practiced in my hometown when I was growing up. A group of people gathered in one house and read the Pasion (I’m using this spelling as it appears on our Pasiong Mahal) continuously. There was free food so many teenagers and kids joined the Pabasa, but the kids are sent home when it’s late because the Pabasa lasts from afternoon to the next morning. Readers would take turns in chanting. There are different tunes or melodies used in our town. It wasn’t obligatory to change tunes but the slightly faster tune was used when the portion on Resurrection was read. There’s a specific tune for the ARAL (lessons).
In our home, reading chanting was within the family . We read the Pasion all throughout the Lenten Season, not in one sitting or continuously. We tried to synchronize the reading with the days of Lent like when it’s Maundy Thursday, we would be reading the section on Maundy Thursday. We sang/chanted as a family and sometimes by pairs taking turns. It was family bonding as it was a religious experience.
It was also a lesson in old Tagalog because even if the Tagalog we spoke in Quezon is considered deep or uncommon by Metro Manilans we found some old Tagalogs that were new to us which our Lola (grandmother) and parents would explain to us. After all the Pasion was made in the 16th century and language evolved. We kids would sometimes find old Tagalog words funny and sometimes couldn’t control our smiles but our Lola would admonish us by looking at us because we should be reflecting on the Passion of Christ and the lessons from it.
My mother carried the tradition when she joined us, her kids, in Metro Manila when we were already working. We bought the Pasion in the picture, 2001 printing, the old one stayed in our hometown. Unlike the old one which was book bound, this one is paper bound.
My aunt, whose daughter migrated to New York after marrying a New York- based Pinoy, brought the tradition there. She lived in New York with her daughter and her husband for some years and during those years, she was able to gather former townmates who were now residing in New York and New Jersey. The Pabasa was rotated among different houses per year so there was a different hos and venue per year. And I had a lovely surprise when I visited my relatives in the US (when my vacation covered Holy Week) and my aunt brought me to a Pabasa. It was like a scene in our hometown in a different setting, very nostalgic and heartwarming as I saw familiar faces gathered doing an activity that I thought was forgotten by those who left the homeland.
Today the tradition lives on. In the new normal some have Pabasa using new technology and families /friends , regardless of location, are able to reflect on the Passion of Christ together, albeit virtually, though separated by distance.
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Thank you very much for sharing this rich spiritual experience with us. As an enthusiast of evolutionary linguistics, I have a particular interest in your remarks about the evolution of Tagalog. I see parallels between the adjustments speakers of Tagalog must make when reading 17th-century versions of the Passion and what English speakers must do to understand, say, the King James Bible. I enjoyed reading your post.
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Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, languages evolve and sometimes I wonder if translators were able to keep the context of the words used in important written works such the Bible when they are translated .
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