Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day of the Dead

Few days from now is All Saint’s Day. While in many countries, this is a solemn holiday set aside to remember the dead, in the Philippines the holiday is a day of festivities. November 1 marks the beginning of the Filipino "Araw ng mga Patay," the celebration of the dead. The memorial continues through the next day, All Souls Day. If for others it is sincere and solemn, for some it is a day of fun and pleasure. Do you put faith in stories about the return of spirits of the dead, of witches, and of ghosts and goblins? If you are from my country and was born in the 70’s, you are surely familiar with the all the sequels of Shake, Rattle & Roll or see Noli de Castro delivering his spiel “Magandang Gabi, Bayan” in a dark, spooky graveyard.

Before November 1, people would cram to Divisoria for the candles and flowers. Also, join thousands of people who gather early in the cemetery to decorate their dead relatives' tombs. Cemeteries consist mostly of mausoleums instead of grave plots and generations of ancestors are often buried in one tomb. The mausoleums are gaily adorned with balloons and flowers.

Going to the cemetery is another story. Not only you spend for the candles and flowers, but you are also doomed to get stuck in the traffic and realized that everyone is out this time of year. And if you are visiting dead relatives in the province, you should have saved enough for the family to survive the entire vacation.

However, the true November 1 experience happens in collecting used candles, eating toasted corn nuts and salted snack foods, playing games and sharing stories while sitting on the ledges of tombs. In this festive atmosphere, it's not unusual to hear the echoes of the old and young laughing.

It is indeed not really just the living visiting the dead, but it is more of coming home to place that brings you back where you are rooted, to where you will more likely rest in peace when your own time comes.

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