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Traditional Pabasa: A Dying Passion?

by RepublicAsia

ONE of the Filipinos’ unique traditions is the “Pabasa ng Pasyon.” It is a practice for Filipino Catholics to reflect on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

This age-old ritual has been a vital component of Filipino Catholic tradition which is deeply ingrained in the cultural and religious identity of many Filipino communities, particularly during the Lenten Season. People come together for the ‘Pabasa ng Pasyon’ in various settings such as parishes, chapels, private residences, offices, and even barangay halls and prisons. 

However, according to the report conducted by Evelyn Macairan in 2023,  there seems to be a shift in the Holy Week tradition in recent years. It appears that fewer individuals are partaking in the ‘Pasyon’ during the Lenten Season, with more opting to visit churches instead.

Fr. Nicanor Perangko Jr., a parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, emphasized that this is one of the significant challenges that the church is currently facing today. 

“The number of participating seems dwindling today, especially among millennials. Very few Catholics who belong to the oldies sing the ‘Pasyon,’” he noted. 

Preserving the legacy 

Concerns among the few remaining Pasyon readers are growing as they fear that the cherished tradition passed down from older generations will no longer be heard during the Lenten Season. 

Seventy-three-year-old Winnie Macdon expresses her apprehension, highlighting the challenges of imparting the tradition to today’s youth. “Karamihan sa mga kabataan ngayon mas nakatutok sa paggamit ng cellphone. May kabataan din na sumama sa amin sa mga ‘pabasa ng pasyon’, pero dapat talaga matyaga silang turuan kase nagtatawanan sila pag hindi nila nakuha yung tamang tono. Yung iba nahihiya pag hindi maganda ang boses,” she shared. 

Macdon, comes to the realization that the youth, including millennials, must be encouraged  to learn about the Pasyon. “Matatanda na kami, dapat talaga matuto sila. Walang susunod sa amin, kaya’t hanggang maaga mas maganda na maturuan sila,” she emphasized.

 A 53-years-old, Analiza Llante a devoted  Pasyon reader, observes the ongoing changes over time  and how people are being influenced by it. “Dito sa province talagang pinapahalagahan namin ang mga tradisyon, mga relihiyoso at relihiyosa ang tao dito. Katulad ng pabasa  ng pasyon na kadalasan namin ginagawa sa bahay at sa simbahan, maraming nakikiisa ngunit napapansin ko din na habang patagal nang patagal ay paunti nang paunti na din ang gumagawa. Isa sa mga dahilan talaga ay napakaraming relihiyon na umusbong, at ang tao ay madali naimpluwensyahan,” she remarked. 

“Kaya dapat talaga mapasunod ang mga anak o mga kabataan para mapangalagaan natin ang ating tradisyon,” she added.  

Will it survive?

Photo Courtesy: Nicanor Perangko l Facebook

Fr. Nicanor Perangko Jr, highlights the importance of persuading people, especially youth and millennials as early as possible. 

“The problem looks grim because the oldies are dying and the number who are participating is decreasing. If such a phenomenon continues, people will see ‘pasyon’ as a less church Lenten tradition in the near future. Also, if not continued by the younger generation, there’s a chance to be forgotten and it would die slowly,” he reflected.

Similarly to Macdon’s observation, Perangko also emphasizes, “The youth of today are enslaved by modern gadgets. Too much of their time is glued in their cellphones and don’t have time for such old catholic traditions.”

Despite the concerns about the gradual decline of the traditional Pabasa, Perangko holds onto the belief that it will endure. 

“Since it is embedded in our Catholic culture it would still survive especially in the fur flung Barangays and traditionalist communities and families untouched by the modern-day technologies,” he affirmed.

Revitalizing Traditional Pabasa

Despite challenges, missionaries persist in spreading the teachings and traditions of the churches. Perangco highlights their focus on the youth, who are seen as continuing the legacy/tradition of the older generations. 

“In our province, we still have the young people who used to sing the ‘Pasyon.’ Additionally, we have the nobisya and nobisyo customs in Marinduque, where youth partake in a period of formation starting from Ash Wednesday to  Easter Sunday. This involves practices of penance and sacrifice, wearing veils and long ‘saya’ for the girls, while boys wear ‘neckerchiefs,”’ Perangco shared.

Perangko remains optimistic about the enduring practice of singing the ‘Pasyon’ during Lent, particularly due to youth participation. 

“Still, there are many youths participating in the traditional Pabasa, not only in our province but I believe in other places.  Despite the challenges, missionaries persist in disseminating Catholic teaching and traditions, the traditional Pabasa would survive because of efforts to innovate it,” he recalled. 

With reports from Danica Llante


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