By Joseph Pedrajas
The threats of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) did not dampen the spirit of the Filipino Catholics in Navotas City. Some of the residents resorted to a creative way to observe the Holy Week.
Annually, scores of devotees participate in the traditional “Pabasa” or the Reading of the Passion of Jesus Christ and take turns doing so every hour. But this year, only 10 devotees were allowed to practice the ritual and were bound to finish it in 28 hours.
“Dati kasi, salitan ‘yung mga nagbabasa, kada oras. Ngayon, ‘yung sampu na lang na ‘yun yung magpapalitan. Tapos doon lang sila sa bahay. Wala nang labasan yun [Before, many people were taking turns every hour in chanting the pasyon. Now, there are only 10. And they should remain inside the house. No one is allowed to go out],” Captain Net Reyes of Barangay Bangkulasi told the Manila Bulletin.
Reyes said, devotees taking part in the Pabasa were not allowed to use the “trompa” or horns to “avoid” catching the attention of the people who would flock to the area where the reading ritual was being held.
Twenty-year-old Joshua Salvador, one of the youngest members of Navotas pasyon chanters group called “Koronang Tinik,” said that this year, they were instead using small speakers or none at all. They called it “Bulungan.”
“[Ginagawa namin ‘yun] para mairaos lang ang panata at pabasa. Nabawasan na rin kaming nagbabasa ngayong taon, mga natakot sa COVID-19 [We do it so we could still chant the pasyon. Our number also dwindled from the fear of COVID-19],” he said.
Residents of the Barangay Bangkulasi, home of the image of the Mahal na Senior Nazareno, were also prohibited from falling in line for the Pahalik or the kissing of the image to prevent them from violating the social distancing rules imposed due to COVID-19.
They could only stand outside the Mahal na Senior compound and say their prayers. “Di tayo mahulugang karayom noon. Imaginin mo nalang, siguro mga 1.5 kilometers yung haba ng tao. Magsisimula ng hapon ng Huwebes Santo at magtatapos ng tanghali ng Biyernes Santo, ganon kahaba yung pila dati. Di napuputol [Before, there would really be a crowd of devotees lining up for at least 1.5 kilometers. The Pahalik would start in the late afternoon of Maundy Thursday and end only in the early afternoon of Good Friday],” Reyes said.
“Pero ngayon, ano lang sila. Tatayo doon. Tataas kami, aalis na agad [But now, they were only allowed to stand outside the compound and raise their hands to show their faith],” he added.
Irish Cubillan, the head of Navotas City Public Information Office said, they encouraged their residents to play the pasyon “via a public address (PA) system” so residents could still feel the Holy Week.
This prompted a sole resident living near the Mahal na Senior compound to use a loudspeaker instead. “Isa lang na residente yun. May nagpaalam samin na magpapabasa. Sabi namin bawal [There was one resident who asked permission to chant the pasyon. We told them it’s not allowed],” the captain said.
“Pero sabi nya, sa bahay lang nila, magkakamaganak naman, pero they should make sure na sila lang doon sa loob ng bahay [But she assured that that they would just do it at home and only with members of the family. We agreed, but they should make sure that it would only be done inside their house],” he added.
Before COVID-19 hit the country, penitents were marching along the streets of Barangay Bangkulasi to whip themselves and practice self-flagellation during Holy Week which performs an episode in the Passion of Christ prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.
But this time, the streets were bloodless and turned silent from the sounds of the whips as penitents were strictly prohibited from performing it. “Mahigpit kong binilin sa mga tanod ko na diba magpapamaga pa lang sila, dapat mapipigil agad [I told my barangay officers to make sure that they should be stopped even before they could start flogging],” Reyes said.
“For penitensya, I don’t think it can be done at home. May pako or blade sa end ng whip, kaya baka delikado sa bahay lalo na kung may mga kasamang bato [For self-flogging, I don’t think it can be done at home. There are nails and blades being used, so it will be dangerous if done inside the house, especially if there are kids],” Cubillan added.