The Pasyon

The Pasyon is a retelling of the Passion of Christ. Readings and performances of the pasyon text are widespread in the Philippines, where they have synthesized indigenous religious performativity with Catholicism and political and social activism. There are three pasyon texts, the first of which was published in 1704 by the Filipino poet Gaspar Aquino de Belen. The pasyon is performed during Lent in cities and villages throughout the Philippines, often by unskilled pious actors and paid for as an act of piety by affluent patrons.

Historically, the pasyon has served as a symbolic lens through which political events and figures have been interpreted. In the late colonial period, during which nationalist speech was curtailed by the Spanish government and Catholic Church, the pasyon narrative of the suffering of Christ was imbued with layers of nationalist, anticlerical and anticolonial meaning. Revolutionary leaders were associated with Christ while peasants and nationalists were expected to be like his disciples, giving up their worldly lives in pursuit of independence. The execution of nationalist author José Rizal was remembered in the performance of the pasyon, where Rizal’s “martyrdom” echoed Christ’s death. Over a half century later, the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. would have the same effect.

Sources:

Reynaldo Clemena Ileto, Pasyon and Revolution: Popular Movements in the Philippines, 1840-1910 (Manila: Ateneo University Press, 1979).

Mellie Leandicho Lopez, A Handbook of Philippine Folklore (Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press, 2006).

Image Credits:

"Pasyon," Arnel E. Hutalla (Holy Week, 2011, Macalelon, Quezon).