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‘Pasyon’ reading videoke style

First Posted 19:11:00 03/17/2008

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LUCENA CITY, Philippines -- The solemn Filipino tradition of reading the ?pasyon? during Holy Week may soon become technologically friendly -- videoke style.

Instead of reading the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from faded book pages, a devotee only inserts a CD in a player and sings the verses from a TV monitor a capella in a chorus of three males and three females.

?I started the project three years ago, but because of the meticulous aspect of putting the appropriate video footage, we missed its completion this year,? Dr. Crispino Punzalan, a Filipino-American anesthesiologist who hails from Candelaria town in Quezon, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

What inspired him to create the pasyon in CD? Punzalan, 54, who is now based in New Jersey, said he always missed the "pabasa" (pasyon reading or chanting) which he used to hear in the neighborhood when he was still a kid.

?Now, the people are more geared to convenience. The CD player is now a basic household item. So when one inserts the pasyon disc, he can just read the text from the TV monitor and join the religious chanting just like the old times,? he said.

The pasyon is a poetical narration of the life and sufferings of Christ arranged in stanzas of five lines with eight syllables each. Communal reading or chanting the verses aloud, accompanied by any musical instrument and taped music, is done during Holy Week in the privacy of one?s home to fulfill a family, neighborhood and church tradition.

The melody varies, usually depending on the place?s customary rendition.

Most devotees take part in pasyon reading as a form of sacrifice or penitence, for the book must be read continuously until Good Friday.

?Our family couldn?t afford to host such religious activity because we were poor. Hosting was only for the moneyed because of the financial requirements for food and drinks,? Punzalan said.

Sometime in 2005, when he returned for a vacation and medical mission in Quezon, he discussed the project with his friend, environmentalist lawyer Asis Perez. ?I was the one who made the audition for the pasyon singers,? said Perez, who confessed to being an avid chanter, particularly to the Batangas tune.

Several choirs auditioned, according to Perez, but the ?Tinig ng Tayabas? from nearby Tayabas City was chosen because of its upbeat performance. ?We don?t want melodies that would lull participants into sleep,? he explained.

Audiotaping lasted for about six months in the studio of ConAmor Broadcasting Corp. here.

?The choir sang the ?pasyon? a capella style. The recording was too meticulous. There were lots of Take 2s during the taping,? Perez said.

A local video editor was commissioned to put the footage of the record. But Punzalan rejected his production when he went back after more than a year.

?That?s the main reason for the delay of the completion of the project -- the application of suitable video footage,? he said.

The Filipino-American said he abhorred the conventional scenery used and preferred a cinematic depiction of Christ?s passion and death. ?I want footage that are closely related in a scene of a particular verse. I don?t want footage that could distract devotees from their spiritual singing,? he said.

He said video clips were gathered from different sources, like the Moriones Festival in Marinduque, private video shots and from the Internet. ?But I allowed some modifications of the video concepts, if necessary,? he said.

Once completed, Punzalan said the product would be distributed in the Internet for free. ?I don?t want to commercialize it. I?m not after the money to recover my expenses. I don?t think of the money that I have spent for this project. This is a tradition. We will just give it to the people,? he said.

He said he would maintain a website where anyone can upload the 16-hour pasyon in compacted form or in several CDs.

He is not particularly concerned with Internet pirates. ?Anyway, what I want is to distribute the fruit of my passion globally,? he said.

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