It’s the Day of the Dead in the Philippines

It’s two days before All Saints Day, or “Araw ng mgba Patay”, the celebration of the Day of the Dead as it is called in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, and observed by Catholics worldwide. My wife, her Mother, sister Alida and our niece Michelle traveled to Jordan Municipal Cemetery in Guimaras to pay our respects to relatives that have long since left this earthly domain. 

Observed on November 1 every year All Saints Day is a cherished tradition among Filipinos, particularly Catholics. Filipinos nationwide pay honor and respect to the memories of their departed loved ones by going to memorial parks, mausoleums, and cemeteries to hold vigil, offer prayers, flowers, candles –and food, as they reunite with relatives.

In the Philippines,  All Saints’ Day is an important holiday, next to Christmas and Holy Week.

Many Filipinos go home to their provinces where their loved ones are buried to meet with relatives and friends, share stories, and together pray for their dearly departed.

Tombs are cleaned, repaired, and repainted prior to this observance. That’s my sister-in-law Alida in the hat buying some candles to light at her brother, Luis’, grave site. My mother-in-law is holding the umbrella.

Of course our contingent had brought candles of their own but according to my mother-in-law, The Giant Lizard Killer, the candles we had were “dead.”

Don’t ask me what a “dead” candle looks like, the candles were brand new and never used before. It was better to appease Lolo, Grandma, and just buy some new ones.

all saints day philippines

Candles are lit and grave sites decorated with flowers, candles, and balloons. It’s a way of letting the spirits of the dead know that even though they are gone, their memory stays in the hearts of those they left behind.

All Saints’ Day observance in the country is similar to the Mexican tradition of “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead,” in which the focus is on families gathering before tombs of loved ones. It is also called All Hallows Tide, All-Hallomas, or All Hallows’ Day. In many Western churches, it is held on November 1, while in many eastern churches it is on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

All Saints’ Day may have originated in ancient Rome which observed on May 13, 609, the Feast of the Lemures, in which restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. It was observed on different dates until Pope Gregory III (731-741) instituted November 1 to be the official date of All Saints’ Day. The church later declared All Saints’ Day the feast for all Christian saints known and unknown.

(Source: Manila Bulletin)

Beloved brother Luisito S. Gange sacrificed his life for his family.luis

Luisito, or Luis, as he was called, left the Philippines at the age of 27 to work as an OCW (Overseas Contract Worker, now called OFW, Overseas Filipino Worker.) He was close to my wife’s age and they were buddies.

The tag of “Hero” is being put on these over 11 million workers sacrificing years away from their loved ones in order to make sure there is pan de sal and some rice for the family back home.

Luis died at the age of 33, months after his marriage to Julie, a local schoolteacher, while working off the coast of Africa for an oil tanker.

The Philippine government called it an “accident.” Luis’ co-worker from nearby Iloilo told the family Luis was murdered.

His Filipino friend from Iloilo said there was a group on the tanker that wanted Luis’ help to steal some of its oil. Luis refused and was murdered by the gang.

Two different autopsies were done on Luis, one said the cause of death was an accident, the other said foul play was involved.

Nothing was ever done to set the record straight even though my wife’s family appealed for help from the Philippine government.

lolo at the tombstone

Luis’ final resting place on earth is surrounded by bars. Lola is seen at the gate in the picture above supervising my asawa who is pulling weeds outside.

cleaning the tombstone

Niece Michelle and sister-in-law Alida are cleaning some of the bird poop off Luis’ tomb. Lola is supervising the cleaning. Lola is good at supervising. I was only standing by taking pictures.

making a flower arrangement for all saints day philippines

After pulling weeds my wife was busy making flower arrangements. I’ve seen on the news where flower prices have doubled in some places like Manila.

painting on all saints day philippines

A candle is lit, standing vigil near Luis’ grave site.

candle lit on all saints day philippines

It’s a fairly steep climb to reach the family’s grave sites.

all saints day, guimaras

 

all saints day in guimaras, philippines

The sun began to set. We headed home. Another All Saints Day in the Philippines. We would return next year along with millions of other Filipinos across the country.

all saints day philippines

 

8 comments

  1. Hi Dave, just come back from the cemetery it’s very busy there, there’s dozens of different
    People selling food including McDonald’s, jollybee, Greenwich,etc thousands of people
    I’m a bit closterfubic I like my own space, there’s people who are sleeping in the cemetery
    I like a hour or so then I like to get out, wife is going back later I’ll stay at home and have
    A beer, just been to the market price of vegetables really high at the moment,
    Derek in pasig.

    1. I heard that the Manila cemeteries had millions of visitors, Derek. I can’t even handle the Christmas shopping crowds at SM City.
      We did have vendors across the street from the cemetery we visited but no big names like McDonald’s, only local vendors.
      You’re probably wise to stay home and have that beer. 😎

  2. Dave,
    We didn’t go to the cemetery since Anne’s parents were cremated and placed in Urn’s. No other immediate family to visit in the cemetery. We have Anne’s family here for the weekend. Several young kids running around making a lot of noise. They will be leaving today to go back to Laguna.

    1. I want to be cremated Papa Duck but Melinda is against that. I want to be buried at a different cemetery than we visited, a place called Guimaras Memorial Gardens. The Gardens is a very peaceful place and tombstones are not stacked on top of each other.

      Our young niece and nephew are going back home today but they’re on the quiet side. They’re playing some Mario space game on the Nintendo Wii in another room far from me. 🙂

  3. Hi Dave, went back to the cemetery yesterday evening another 3 hours she gave me
    One of the those looks we all know, had a beer when I got home the cemetery was
    Packed, had a cup of coffee from the dunkin donuts stall everybody was eating I just
    Can’t eat in a cemetery doesn’t seem right to me but hey we are in the Philippines,
    I rather enjoyed it after a while Derek in pasig.

    1. I’ve never eaten in a cemetery either, Derek, but if that’s part of the culture, I would do the same. We’re pretty low key with our group of relatives, no brings any food, drink or song.

      And anytime you can get a dunkin donut, that’s a good thing, no matter where you are. 🙂

  4. we went at 6PM spent a couple of hours at her moms burial sight. then walked around and visited with some friends before heading out to dinner and home for the night. this year at the cemetary besides all the usual venders and resturants they also had a cascatt that you could get in to take your picture little to much for me but I guess it was one of those ” only in the philippines” moments.

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