Kwaresma | @bicolmuseum via Photo by Ms. Alma P. Gamil | Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Kwaresma or Lent is when Filipinos remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Bicol, devotees hold a holy week ritual called Pabasa ng Pasyon (Reading of the Passion) or locally called Pasyon as part of their vow or panata.

This tradition is observed before Good Friday for one day and one night straight to repent for sins and seek forgiveness from God. Pasyon may be held at home, in a chapel, or in a makeshift tent, and performed by facing the altar that contains a crucifix or image of Jesus Christ.

Pasyon is a localized and translated epic narrative of Jesus Christ’s life, focused on His passion, death, and resurrection, sung, and recited in stanzas of five lines of eight syllables, each evoking dramatic themes (Arriola). It is usually chanted in acapella and performed in two basic group formations – with the partakers taking turns in the recital.

Who translated the Pasyon in Bicol?

Archbishop Francisco Gainza of Nueva Caceres initiated the move to make Pasyon widely available in Bikol for the people to understand Christ’s life and sufferings. Tranquilino Hernandez of Polangui, Albay wrote the Bikol verse of Pasyon in 1866.

One of the factors in the early evangelization of Bicolanos is the translation from Spanish religious texts into vernacular language by the Spanish friars. From the 17th to the 19th century, 62 Bikol translations of Spanish novenas, devociones, history of saints, catecismos, prayers, ejercicios, and other related pious materials were found (Regino 1992).

The language of sympathy/pagcaherac is embedded in the Pasyon. The concept of sympathy/herac is strongly felt in the Bicol language, specifically its beliefs and practices. Their deep sense of religiosity is articulated and performed through celebration, fiesta, devotion, and rituals which reaffirm the intimate communal and family relations among the Bikolanos (Arriola).

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