Ang manggad sang kultura...  

Ang Pasyon

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 of Cabatuan, Iloilo.

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.

This observation 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 reborn.

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.