What is “Pabasa”?


Photo from Larissa Ubungen

Have you ever heard of the word Pabasa?   This term was coined approximately during 16th – 17th Century with the colonization of Spain to the Philippines (Dec. 2012) and the spread of Catholic Religion among Filipinos.  As some of the Filipinos were influenced with the Catholic Religion, they were able to embrace religious traditions from the Spaniard Priests.  One of these traditions was called Pabasa (Also known as Chanting, Singing or Reading the Pasyon) which was solemnized every Holy Week.

For us to understand more about this religious tradition, Pabasa literally means “act of reading or to read” (Libnary 2010).  Pabasa is also known as a religious ritual chanting the words from the Pasyon, a narrative book that contains the life of Christ (Nov. 2012). It is a way for Catholics to repent to their sins and seek forgiveness from God during Lenten Season.  It is form of meditation, expression of faith to God and activity made with the fellow community.

Within this activity, the Pabasa can be performed by facing the altar that contains crucifix or image of Jesus Christ.  Traditionally, the chanting ritual is adapted with the Church’s style of singing religious songs and incorporating it to the Pasyon.  It could be accompanied with stringed instruments or plainly the voices of the Filipino devotees.  The participants to this ritual can be divided into two groups to follow the pattern of chanting the Pasyon.  Basically, the pattern could be either done by groups chanting the lines alternately or chanting the stanzas alternately.  Chanting is continuously until the participants are finished chanting the whole book.  This activity lasts up to 1-3 days which depends on the flow of the chanting. (Sept. 2012)


Captured from 2011 , Photo from Larissa Ubungen

There are other religious traditions done by Filipinos every Holy Week. Pabasa is classified together with Fasting, Way of the Cross, Visita Iglesia, Sinakulo, Self-Flagellation, Carrying the Cross, and Crucifixion.  In comparison with other religious traditions during holy week, Pabasa is the simplest way of repenting for your sins, sacrificing your time to God for asking for forgiveness and reflecting with the Life of Jesus Christ. (bethune22, Sept 2011)


Photo from Larissa Ubungen

Pabasa affects Manilenos by the celebrating this tradition every year which helps the sustainability of the tradition.  Also,  Pabasa helps Manilenos strengthen their faith as they experience struggles and achievements in life.  Chanting the Passion of Christ is one of the treasured religious traditions that must be kept from the society because these traditions are part of our culture and national identity that define a part of who we are.

2 thoughts on “What is “Pabasa”?

  1. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Holy Week in Pinas – Blessed Days in Dubai

  2. Pingback: Understanding "Pabasa ng Pasyon" Tradition - Mommy Levy

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