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Celebrating All Souls Day in the Philippines - a Photo Gallery
In the Philippines, the Catholics commemorate the souls of our dearly departed on All Souls Day or Araw ng mga Patay which falls on November 2. But majority of the Filipino population would already start going to the cemeteries as early as November 1.
This tradition was started by the Roman Catholic Church around the 10th and 11th centuries and was based on the belief that our prayers on earth may help purify the souls in purgatory. Furthermore, masses and novena prayers are also offered with the intention to help ease any pain or suffering they might be in.
I have a lot of family, relatives and families of friends who are scattered in different cities, towns and buried in different memorial gardens. It would be a challenge to visit them all in one time. But ever since I lived in Cebu City, I have grown to this routine for the past several years during All Souls day/All Saints Day.
Preparing for All Souls Day starts way ahead. My aunties would hire someone to clean the area, repaint the mausoleum and the tombstone. Of course included in the preparation is the buying of flowers, candles, incense, food and so on.
I asked this guy how much was his rate for repainting the engraved words on the tomb, he said "one hundred twenty pesos." And then I asked, if I could take his photo. He said, "sure!" and went back to painting. Several other people flocked around me as I took his photo. One teased him saying, "ah gwapo!" which meant handsome! He didn't even bother to look at us as he was engrossed in his task.
Clean Up and Repainting
On November 1, our first stop was always the Cebu Chinese Cemetery. Sadly this place is no longer what it used to be. It used to be a clean memorial garden bustling with many people. Through the years, due to neglect, a lot of people have transferred to other cemeteries. But if you want to see how the old mausoleums look like, this was the perfect place to visit.
Cebu Chinese Cemetery Philippines
The tombs are usually adorned with flowers. Our mausoleum had a built in vase attached to the wall so all we needed to do was place water and the flowers are readily inserted into it. This was a pretty good idea as we don’t have to carry vases anymore.
The flowers brought life and color to the sombre place. It was a wonderful reminder for those who are still alive to honor the gift of life, to be continually fascinated by beauty. And if we can take the time and spend money to give flowers to the dead, that we may also give to those who are still alive.
Amidst the preparations, I caught sight of a boy wearing sunglasses and bringing a handful of flowers. I just had to capture it in my camera.
Lighted candles are also offered to the dead to signify hope, joy and love. And that this love will burn brightly and cross all time and space. Personally, I light the candles with a prayer that the soul of the dearly departed may have found the light and be one with the Divine One, the Source of All That Is.
There are many colors of the candles – red, white and yellow are the most common ones. However, one can see other colors like pink and green in the marketplace. We normally buy the white one for those who have died recently and the red or yellow for those who have passed away for several years.
Having a Chinese descent, our Chinese traditions are combined in our celebration of All Souls Day. Aside from the floral offerings, we offer fruits (esp. those that are circular in form like apples, oranges and pears) and other foodstuff. This comes with the belief that the souls too share in the simple feast. Two Chinese sticks or “incense” are lighted for the souls and another offered to God (one stick or three sticks). And then lastly, Chinese money/joss or kim are folded and then burnt as an offering of prosperity for the departed souls.
There are still a lot of Chinese traditions that we do not even follow anymore. But we still offer fruits, food and the money. Whenever we are preparing all these things, I would often jokingly say that when I die, can they just offer me pizza please?
Chinese money offered to the dead
Here is a photo of my grandparent's mausoleum. This is from my mother's side. The parent's of my father is placed in another city. Someday will have to take photos of that too.
You will see on the photos the whole stuff that we prepare, flowers, fruits, drinks, foodstuff, incense, the paper money that is not yet folded. The candles are found on the ground. I am also grateful that the photos of my grandparents are still intact.
My Grandparent's Mausoleum
You will also see vendors selling ice cream, snacks, or drinks/water in the area. This really creates the festive atmosphere. The vendor in the second photo has always set up her table beside our mausoleum since as long as I can remember. It’s silly I know but even in the cemetery it does feel nice seeing someone familiar every time I go there.
Vendors inside the Cemetery
Most people go to the cemeteries bringing food and drinks. They set up tents, food, tables and chat and laugh all night through. But as lunch drew near, we packed all our stuff and end our half day visit at the Cebu Chinese Cemetery.
After lunch, we proceeded to the Phu Sian Temple.
Phu Sian Temple
Our Chinese relatives who wished to be placed in the temple is found here. Their body had been cremated and their ashes placed in the jar. It's a quiet and peaceful place.
My brother remarked, "How different it is here from the Cebu Chinese Cemetery!"
We do not stay long in the Phu Sian Temple. Our final destination for the day was the Benevola Memorial Garden. This was newly made so there are still a lot of vacant places around. Here lies the body of my cousin who died at the age of thirty.
Benevola Memorial Garden
Life Goes On
The whole day is mostly spent reminiscing about souls and the memories of our loved ones. Yesterday, as I sat in the Benevola Memorial, a pear from the plate suddenly dropped and rolled to me. I laughed out loud and asked my cousin's soul if she wanted me to eat. "You knew I was hungry" I voiced aloud. I returned the pear to its place and thanked her in my heart. I spent a few minutes praying for her.
As day turned into night, we packed our things and leave the other stuff behind. When I glanced back, I see the cross amidst the green wall and the flowers and food and candles. Life goes on for us who are still alive. Today I am reminded of those who have gone before us, their presence in my life, how their life was lived,how they touched me in one way or the other. And it gently beckoned me to live the life I want so one day when it is my turn to depart, I will do so gladly and without regret.
Just remember, if you need to offer food, can you bring pizza please?
BY: MICHELLE SIMTOCO