By Antoine, sx
Easter remains an enigmatic event. Since my childhood, I used to hear from my parents and elders telling about paschal memories regarding time, traditional food, visits and joyful celebrations, while, I could not understand at all why they had to recall those experiences. Surely, the reasons and ways to celebrate Easter depend on the people and their culture. Today, the experience informs of different ways to perceive and celebrate Easter in the Philippines.
I have been here for a year and half. Most of the time, my way of thinking and living is shaken due to the culture, people and events. A year ago, I was interested in the ways people celebrate Christmas events, in the Philippines. This year, things that mostly impress me are related to Easter celebrations. I found the newness of Easter with Filipinos because I have never thought of such a practice to explain difficult topics upon Faith. For instance, resurrection, salvation or evangelization. For this reason, two things are going to be shared: the Pabasa and Salubong, as Filipino traditional practices.
Firstly, when I heard people singing the pabasa, I was taken aback. As perceived by Filipinos, pabasa is a traditional custom that recalls of the salvific history. It expresses the greatness of God’s love toward his people shown through Christ, his chosen one. Launched during the holy week, it generally endures 24 hours either in the Church or at home. As a way of living the crucial moment of Christ’s passion, pabasa is sung to help people to renew their faithfulness, pray more deeply and repent from any wrong actions they had previously committed.
Personally, I was perplexed while dropping by our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, one of the Xaverian mission fields in the Philippines. It was on holy Monday around 10:00 am. Well, arriving to the Church place, I heard strange voices from the Church. Being so curious, I went closer to know what was happening. Suddenly, I saw a number of ladies holding song books, microphones and other instruments, singing loudly. At that view, I was surprised and wondering how possible it was for old women gathered singing and almost crying. After a while, I needed to express myself about what I was witnessing. Hence, I talked to Javier, a companion, sharing my astonishment. Then, he began explaining me all about that activity saying: “Papasa is a specific way for numerous Filipinos to go through the history of Salvation.” After discovering that Pabasa offers an easy way to learn the genesis of the incarnation, death, passion and resurrection gone by Christ I replied, this is how the message of the apostles went out through all the earth.
The second amazement happened on in the morning. It is about Salubong. Look, this word is full of sense as it expresses itself. It designs the unexpected encounter, meeting between two persons. For Filipinos, the resurrection is revealed through the sudden encounter between the risen Christ and Mary Magdalene. On Easter Sunday, people leave early their homes to fetch the statue of Jesus and Mary to the places where they were brought on Good Friday. With procession, prayers and Songs, they match pulling the chariots until they reach beautiful place; that is the prepared place for the encounter. It is ever wonderful, amazing and desiring to watch experience and personalize those events! As many faithful as I imagine, I felt meeting the risen Christ with Mary Magdalene. I can say that Salubong is a significant practice for it helps people to perform an understanding approach of the Resurrection in which they believe. The meeting between Jesus and Mary is interpreted as the encounter between Jesus and the whole humanity. As far as I know, I can witness to how the message of the Bible has been touching, understood, and lively experienced by the people through those different dramatized events. By doing so, people live their own encounter with the risen Christ as the fulfillment of Lenten commitments.
To sum up, it is presumably admitted that the culture influences the way of living. As a missionary, I was caught by those two customs as something to learn and remember from the Philippines. I feel encouraged to be in touch and deal with Filipino people and culture because culture or customs are not just fabricated beliefs for a category of people. Instead, they are wisdom, way and possibility to enter into the reality of human being. Through that, I keep appreciating the Filipino culture and spirituality. I joyfully experienced the “Pabasa” and Salubong. Hence, as I pray to the Lord, let us enter deeply in the mystery of the resurrection witnessing the good, joy and peace we are gaining from the risen Christ, Alleluia!!!