“Pabasa” is the Filipino Catholic tradition of chanting the “Pasiong Mahal” book from cover to cover, non-stop during the Holy Week. The book is based mostly on the New Testament of the Holy Bible with special emphasis on the passion and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The author of the book is Gaspar Aquino de Belen and it was published in 1704.
When I was a young girl, we used to go to my grandmother’s (father side) place where this was an event to look forward to. There was usually a feast and I remembered my aunts and cousins cooking big batches of food in the yard. There was also a band accompanying the singers and it embarrassed me that we went there to just feast on the food as we hardly sing. I disliked the voices of the old ladies and the long hours listening to them sing. From time to time we would join in but end up giggling as the lyrics are in ancient Tagalog and some sound irreverent in our modern language. Instead of the 2-3 days of singing, they usually started at dawn and ended up in the evening.
Today, most of the old folks have gone home to the Lord, but my cousins are still trying to maintain the devotion. It is a good thing that they are well-off and can afford to put up this event yearly. However, with the Pandemic, it’s been two years now that they cannot hold this physically but only “online”. When my parents died, I hardly go to this event. I left it to my youngest sister to represent our family as she was closer to my cousins. Last year, when they held it “online” for the first time, I didn’t join. But this year, that my sister had left us suddenly because of Covid-19, I had to fill in her shoes. together with her children and the other children of my brother and sister. I feel I had to reciprocate the kindness of some of my cousins who assisted us with their time, effort and treasure when we were troubled with the sudden death of my sister. Their parents were also as generous and never tire of helping us when they were still alive . It has also brought me closer to them as I am a little wary of getting close to them because they are way over us in social status.
I was filled with apprehension as we might not do it right and we will be heard and seen on Zoom. I was thankful that it was optional to join the Zoom. All each group or family would do is to sing the assigned pages at the assigned time and afterwards to post on the fb chat group page a video or photo of our family singing together. We did the tune right and I was surprised that I led the singing with the tune probably embedded in my subconscious after those years of listening to the Pabasa, with a little help from YouTube. I also felt lighthearted that after years of trying to avoid my family on my father’s side, I felt welcome still and that I still belong as I was able to fulfill my cousin’s request to do 2 hours instead of one. It also felt good to be doing things together with my nieces and nephews and keeping in touch.
I am now looking forward to another “Pabasa online even as I was hoarse singing non-stop for two hours. But no, not another year of the Pandemic! I’d be happy to attend this event “live” next year just to show my gratitude that this plague is gone even though I prefer to do it online.