Funtecha, Henry F.,
Popular Festivals in Western Visayas. Iloilo City: Center for West
Visayas Studies, 1995.
Much has been written
and published about the cenaculos of the West German town of
Oberammergau, the Moriones festival in Marinduque and the Pagtaltal in
Jordan, Guimaras. They are known far and wide because of the lure of
realism and their appeal to human emotion. Equally appealing and
interesting, though quite unheard of, is the pasyon singing in the town
The town is located
24 kilometers west of Iloilo City. Most of the people are farmers
cultivating fertile plains and hillsides. The Catholic religion is so
predominant that many Catholic religious practices and celebrations have
gained inroads into the people’s community life.
Pasyon singing, being
one of these practices, has been the Cabatuananon’s way of observing the
Lenten season. Pasyon is the retelling in verse of the life and
suffering of Jesus Christ. The word pasyon is a derivative of the
Spanish term “pasion,” meaning “passion,” and in the religious context,
it refers mainly to the life and sufferings of Christ as depicted in the
pasyon. It has several performance aspects, one of which is its reading
and singing in the custom called pabasa. In Tagalog culture, pabasa has
a definite meaning limited to the reading of the pasyon while in
Western Visayas, particularly in Cabatuan, the pasyon is always
sung. Old people say that the singing of pasyon has been practiced in
the town for a long time. Later, however, the practice of pasyon singing
has lost its appeal especially among the younger people. Pasyon songs
are now rarely heard during Lent.
prompted the town priest, with the full support of the devotees, to
initiate the pasyon singing contest in 1981. Staged in a kapiya (a
make-shift altar colorfully and creatively made and positioned in the
side streets, serving as stations of the cross), pasyon singing was
The contest is a
townwide undertaking participated in by its 68 barangays. These barangay
are subdivided into 14 groups. Preparations for the contest last for a
week. Singers are gathered together to practice the songs while other
members building along the route of the procession their kapiya,
depicting one of the 14 stations of the cross.
On the evening of
Good Friday, the pasyon singing contest starts. Groups of 14 to 40
singers dressed in barong tagalong and baro’t saya put their heads
together in the effort to share a few copies of pasyon songs. For two
straight hours, they sing their passions out.
The life and
suffering of Christ lives through this pasyon singing in Cabatuan.