One of the most prominent traditions during the Lenten Season among Catholics is the reading of the Passion. The Passion or Pasyon is the lyrical depiction of the life of Christ and delivered in song. It is done in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice to save humankind from sin.
For Rizalists in the Philippines, in particular Forester Eriberto “Toto” Saños, a devotee of the national hero since his high school days, Gat. Jose Rizal too deserved to be remembered and revered for his deeds.
Resolved, he committed to completing his own version of the Passion with Rizal at the center. It took four months of research, verification and writing but he finally accomplished his mission in 2011. The result — a book that may well be a reference material for all things pertaining to Rizal.
Such was his dedication and such was his faith. And his passion was what fueled him to devote his time and resources to the cause.
“I managed to finish it in around three to four months. It was no joke too because I had to do research and write it down in story form first, but because it was going to be read as a Passion. I had to make sure that it would sound good lyrically in the same manner the Catholic Passion was, like the metrical equivalent of the korido in Filipino, or else it will sound off,” he said.
Saños, a gifted poet in his own right, actually knows the passages of the Passion by heart owing to his original Catholic upbringing.
“The book (Pasyong Rizal) is actually 230 pages and is thicker than the usual Passion. I wrote it and funded the printing. I actually have just given most of it away to friends and sold some of it at a loss just to get the message across,” he jokes.
However, his book found great appreciation from fellow Rizalists in the Philippines. While he says there are actually 200 sects of the religion in the country alone, many of the groups assemble in Calamba, Rizal for the anniversary of Gat. Jose Rizal on June 19 to read the hero’s version of the Passion.
“This year, we assembled in front of the municipal hall to read the Pasyong Rizal. As a group, we also had the support of the local government of Calamba, the birthplace of Rizal. They have an entire celebration planned on the 19th but we do the reading on the eve of the actual anniversary,” he explains.
Saños believes that Gat. Jose Rizal is more than a hero and that He is the Bathalang Ama (God the Father). The Passion delves into historical accounts that points to the mystery of Rizal’s supposed death in Bagumbayan which Rizalists believe did not actually happen.
Saños said that in his research, he was able to uncover four possibilities that Rizal survived from his execution in 1898, many of which were miraculous.
“There are many beliefs and there are many testimonies to the miracles performed by the Bathalang Ama, which earned him the name Kristong Pilipino, Kristong Tagalog and Tagapagligtas (savior). I have included it all in my book and it is my hope that more people will get to know more about Rizal through it.”