03/30/2010, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Ancient chant reminds Filipinos of the example of Christ on the Cross

by Santosh Digal
During Holy Week, the elderly, young, poor and prisoners recite the Pabasa every morning, an old traditional chant composed in the seventeenth century by Spanish missionaries to teach the stories of the Passion of Jesus to the natives. Fr. Fernando Caprio: This song helps us remember that Christ shines in all the circumstances of our lives

Manila (AsiaNews) - In the Philippines, Holy Week celebrations are famous worldwide for voluntary crucifixions that have always been condemned by the local Church. Less known is instead is the personal preparation of each believer in the recitation of the Pabasa Passion (Passion of Christ in Tagalog) a chant-like song imported from Spanish missionaries, passed down for centuries from father to son.  

The Pabasa is a chant that tells of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus and was composed in the seventeenth century by Spanish missionaries, adapting the European biblical tradition to the oral and melodic traditions of the indigenous Filipinos. The first version written in Tagalog language dates back to 1704 and was made by Gaspar Aquino de Belen, an native of Batang in the service of the Jesuits in Manila.  

Maria Cristina Lapara, a Catholic from Manila, said: "I have recited the Pabasa since I was a child. I learned this traditional song from my grandparents, who were illiterate but very religious and participate wholeheartedly in the passion, singing without written texts”. She added; “I tell my children to pray with their heart and recite the Pabasa and I hope that in future they will continue this tradition."  

During Holy Week, Maria Cristina gets up every morning at three o'clock to recite the song.  

 "At this time  - she says – we must maintain an atmosphere of sobriety and spiritual reflection, we should not make noise on the streets, it is not a time of celebration."  

The woman points out that there are many ways to recite the prayer alone, in pairs or communities, for a few hours or days. Many families  provide food for all those involved in the recitation of the song, while in rural villages the faithful gather in the street, where every day from 6 am to 10 am both young and old together recite prayers. Even in the prisons of the country (pictured) inmates are expected to recite the song.  

For Maria Cristina, the Pabasa allows the faithful to share in Christ's sufferings and is useful especially for the poor to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and his Resurrection, finding the strength to face their daily difficulties with hope.  

"The Pabasa is not only way to fulfil the precepts of Lent - says Fr. Fernando Caprio of the Archdiocese of Manila - it is also a way to follow Christ and be witnesses of faith around the world and helps us remember that Christ shines in all the circumstances of our lives. "  

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