Biyernes Santo in Cabatuan: A Day of Religious Sensation

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

CABATUAN, Iloilo is completely transformed during Holy week.

Cabatuananons and visitors turn out to experience one of the town’s most traditional events to the fullest.

Do not miss the chance to come to Cabatuan at this time of year as visitors share some very special moments in an atmosphere unlike anything you have ever experienced every Holy Week.

The town celebrates Holy Week by observing its treasured religious tradition of Pasyon (chanting of Christ’s passion and death), which celebrated as an annual inter-barangay competition every Good Friday.

Pasyon is a narrative book that contains the Life of Jesus Christ with emphasis on His sufferings, death and resurrection and is written in stanzas of five lines of eight syllables.

Considered by the faithful as a religious ritual, Pasyon is done by singing a capella or with the accompaniment of an instrument such as a guitar or a keyboard.

Performers of the rite are seated inside makeshift tents or huts. They are of various age brackets grouped either in an all-female or a combination of both male and female ensemble and dressed up in traditional Filipino attire.

Performing the Pasyon annually serves as a vow or panata for these performers or their families, which in most cases had been passed on from generations back.

Around the poblacion are Kapiyas or Stations of the Cross. It is another component of Cabatuan’s Lenten tradition competition.

Also known as the Way of Sorrows or Via Crucis, the tableaus depict Jesus Christ’s final journey to Calvary. It starts with Jesus being condemned to death and ends with Jesus laid in the tomb. All of the figures are made of indigenous materials.

Local devotees travel from station to station, stopping by to view life-sized images, say a prayer, and reflect.

Religion remains important in the lives of most Filipinos although in recent years the Filipino youths have become somewhat less religious in certain traditional measures of commitment like observing and attending holy days of obligations.

Lenten traditions are opportunities for everyone to focus on the meaning of true Christian life.  The images that we see and practices that we experience are important reminders that we must keep these religious traditions alive as these are important in teaching the next generation about our shared past.

Cabatuan’s Lenten celebration is special, unique and different. Pasyon is declared to be of tourist interest and once you experience them, you will be longing to return to Cabatuan every Holy Week.

The municipality of Cabatuan is 24.2 kilometers away or a 35-minute drive from Iloilo City. With a land area of 8, 248 hectares, the town is politically subdivided into 68 barangays. It is connected to a national highway passing through the towns of Pavia and Sta. Barbara. Four other national roads connect the town to its adjacent municipalities; Alimodian in the south; Maasin in the west; New Lucena in the north-east; and Janiuay in the north where the highway continues northward to Lambunao and Calinog and then to Tapaz, Capiz.

It is also the home of the Iloilo airport, one of the most beautiful in the Philippines.

To get to Cabatuan, one can take a jeepney or van at the terminal in front of Christ the King Memorial Park in Jaro, Iloilo City.

For more information, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Francisco Gonzaga Jr. at 0928-364-9477.

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