Cover of a typical Pasyóng Mahál book featuring the Black Nazarene.
Gaspar Aquino de Belén (first written version)
|Original title||Pasióng Mahal|
|Genre||epic poetry, narration, religious, prayer|
|Publication date||1704 (de Belén Edition)|
The Pasyón (Spanish: Pasión) is a Philippine epic narrative of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In stanzas of five lines of eight syllables each, the standard elements of epic poetry are interwoven with a colourful, dramatic theme. The entirety of the text is chanted during the Lenten season and particularly Holy Week, and is a popular Filipino Catholic devotion.
The text is an adaptation of the pre-Hispanic art of chanting epic poems as a form of oral tradition. After Christianity was introduced by the Spanish, the Passion cycle was adapted into the native art.
The indigenous form of the Pasyón was first written down by Gaspar Aquino de Belén in "Ang Mahal na Pasión ni Jesu Christong Panginoon Natin na Tola" ("The Sacred Passion of Jesus Christ Our Lord that is a Poem"), written in 1703 and approved in 1704.
An 1852 erudition by Aniceto de Merced, El libro de la vida ("The Book of the Life [of Jesus]") did not prove popular with the masses.
The most popular Tagalog version of the Pasyón is the "Casaysayan nang Pasiong Mahal ni Jesucristong Panginoon Natin na Sucat Ipag-alab nang Puso nang Sinomang Babasa" ("The History of the Passion of Jesus Christ Our Lord that Surely Shall Ignite the Heart of Whosoever Readeth").
This version is also known as the Pasyóng Genesís as it includes the Creation narrative before the lives of Mary and Christ, and as the Pasyóng Pilapil, after its 1884 foreword by Dr Mariano Pilapil. The book's title page describes it as being commissioned by former Archbishop of Manila José Seguí, O.S.A. and former Augustinian provincial Manuel Grijalvo, O.S.A., and edited by a certain Fr Amador W. Cruz.
A widely circulated version of this is the 1949 edition, published by Ignacio Luna and Sons, Co. (branded as Awit at Salaysay ng Pasiong Mahal... instead of Casaysayan).
The Pasyón is normally heard during Holy Week in the Philippines, where its recitation is known as the Pabása ("Reading"). The rite can span several days, extending no later than Black Saturday, but is usually ended on noon or before 3 pm of Good Friday (the time when Jesus died on the cross).
Readers chant the Pasyón from beginning to end without pause; this non-stop recitation is facilitated by the chanters working in shifts. The chanters usually perform the rite as a panatâ ("vow"), or votive offering in request or thanksgiving. They are frequently aged women, but in recent years some of the younger generation have shown increased interest in it.
The rite usually takes place in front of a specially constructed shrine or altar within the home or a temporary outdoor booth, covered on the sides by palm leaves. This may also be performed at a local visita/kapilya (chapel of ease) or some other communal area.
As is Philippine custom, the host of the Pabasa (usually the homeowner of the venue) provides a lot of food and refreshments for the chanters.
Musical accompaniment to the Pabasa is widely practised though is by no means universal, and the most commonly employed instruments are guitar and keyboard. There are traditional tones that the Pasyón is set to, and these have been passed down through the generations. Recent innovations in the epic's setting include contemporary popular ballads, pop music, and hymns.