This epic function is illustrated by the way in which significant pasyon vocabulary and themes were echoed by Apolinario de la Cruz (known as Hermano Pule), a lay worker in a Manila hospital, and the Cofradia de San Jose which he established in 1832 upon being barred from any religious order as an indio.19 Given its popularity in his hometown of Tayabas and its general exclusion of Spaniards and mestizos, its ascetical practices and secret rituals were judged heretical by the local priest, and the group was denied official recognition and massacred in 1841 by government forces who put Pule's severed head on a stake.
The Cofradia's world-view and resolve to resist reflected the symbolic vision and linguistic vocabulary of the pasyon tradition. Empowered to see events in the light of the Christ story, they acted with great interior resolve in solidarity with Jesus's life unto death. Moreover, their ritual meals prefigured a heavenly order free from colonial inequalities. In his poetic adaptation ofthe Augustinian Pedro de Herrera's work, Pule used Thomistic ideas to describe the attributes of those in heaven, and envisioned their relations as equality, the exact opposite of earthly differences in appearance, intelligence, wealth and status. Their practice and vision indicate how the epic-like pasyon shaped the Cofradia's ethos and identity as well as how their reading of the Christ story within the colonial context evoked relations of fraternity.
Similar images of alternative social relations are found in some metrical romances (auit) imported from Mexico and adapted by lay persons from Spanish medieval stories of Christians and Moors. Though not explicitly devotional like the pasyon, these chanted and dramatic presentations during religious feasts do not represent secularisation or discontinuity with the Christ story as Lumbera or Ileto suggests.20 Although charting the convoluted loves of nobles and their struggles for power, their underlying quest for personal and social wellbeing remained rooted in the Christian journey from suffering to life. Like pasyon performances, they brought the Christ story out of church premises and into the lives of the people, thus opening the story to new readings.
One such auit is Francisco Balthazar Balagtas's Florante at Laura (1838?), in which Florante is helped by a Moor to save Laura and to restore order 'within and around my wretched land [where] betrayal reigns supreme'.21 The kingdom's struggle for justice and Florante's desire for Laura reflect the Christian journey from suffering to liberation expressed in terms of a cosmic order
19 Ileto, Pasyon and revolution, pp. 37-91.
20 Lumbera, Tagalogpoetry, p. 135; Ileto, Filipinos and their revolution, p. 2.
21 Carlos Ronquillo (ed.), Pinagdaanang buhay ni Florante at Laura sa cahariang Albania (Manila: Imprenta de Ramirez y Giraudier, 1921), stanza 14.
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