The Philippines. All Souls’ Day

The Filipinos are the most thoughtful when it comes to celebrating All Souls’ Day. In the Philippines, we honour our loved ones who have moved on to the afterlife to let them know that we will never forget them.

Throngs of people flock to the cemetery. Candles lit. Feast for the souls. Visiting departed loved ones on this occasion shows that we remember them and that they are never forgotten. November 2nd is one of the most widely observed traditions by the Filipinos – All Souls’ Day. More commonly known as Undas, it is the day when Filipinos as a community gather together: nagtitirik ng kandila.

Declared as a public holiday, families go to their respective hometowns to visit their loved ones who have passed on. Prior to visiting the cemetery, the many puntod (tombs) are cleaned. It is the only time when the cemetery would be prepared by repainting it, cutting off the overgrowth of grass, and scrubbing vandalized walls.

Filipinos with Chinese heritage have passed on the tradition of preparing a feast for the dead to the next generations. Mostly, it is the favourite food of the departed loved ones.

As an example, if your departed family member’s favourite food was spaghetti and fried chicken, then those who are living cook that and place it by their tombs. The belief is that even in the afterlife, the departed loved ones will always have a banquet.

To prepare food for them is to prepare them for the afterlife so that they will not be hungry. There are a lot of food vendors who are selling typical Filipino street food for visitors like hotdogs, mangga with bagoong (shrimp paste), nilagang mani (boiled peanuts) and kwek-kwek (hard-boiled quail eggs).

There are families who stay in the cemeteries, eating food, telling stories about their departed loved ones, and playing games and music. All Souls’ Day has become a merry-making time between the living and the departed.

The most practiced tradition on All Souls’ Day would be the Mass for the Dead. Parishioners would list down the names of their departed loved ones so that priests would say prayers and officiate Mass for all the souls.

Flowers have become one of the important parts of observing All Souls’ Day. Flowers from Baguio, Benguet and different parts of Cordillera are delivered and transported to Dangwa, where people from Manila buy their flowers.

Candle lighting has the most significance and meaning when it comes to the observation of All Souls’ Day traditions. First, it serves as the light for the spirits so that they can follow the way to the truth of Christ. Second, it is symbolic for hope. In the darkness, they can still see there is light. (Maria Dolores Diño) – (Exterior of the Manila Cathedral. CC BY-SA 4.0/LMP 2001)

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