Monday, November 4, 2013

Celebrating the Dead

As it is said, "a picture is worth a thousand words." And so, I believe they can display a deeper meaning of All Saints' Day than my description. Although, I will give a little background.

Here in the Philippines, Halloween is not widely celebrated or really even mentioned. All Saints' Day, the day after Halloween, is traditional, family holiday. Almost everyone has November 1st off of work. This year it fell on a Friday, so it was a long holiday for everyone. Our office closed at noon to allow people to travel. Buses and Jeepneys were completely packed. People even talked about how if some wanted a ride they would have to stand or sit in the aisle. It's one of the busiest travel times of the year.

It reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving weekend. Where families come together to share a meal and give thanks. Oh, and especially, the part about travel nightmares being abound.

However instead of giving thanks, families remember and celebrate their deceased loved ones. According to an Episcopal Church bulletin, "in the New Testament, the word 'saints' is used to describe the entire membership of the Christian community." Therefore, All Saints' Day includes all deceased Christians.

The morning of All Saints' Day I attended a service at St. Mark's where candles and flowers were blessed and about 100 names were read to pray for the dead. Then Sir Patrick, Sir Junior, Samuel, and his 4 year-old son, Sik Phi, accompanied me to the public ceremony to witness the celebration.

I try not to have expectations, but this was beyond belief. People were everywhere trying to connect with their family, buying and eating food, lighting candles, singing, painting graves, and simply enjoying fellowship. The sight was incredible and I don't think the pictures do it justice.

Masses of people searching for their families' grave sites.

I followed Samuel and his son climbing up and over hundreds of graves trying to find people from St. Mark's. We didn't succeed but trekking through the public cemetery gave me appreciation for the significance of the day to Filipinos.

Next, we stopped by the private cemetery across the way to observe the contrast. Instead of street vendors, tarps or loose sheets, simple flowers, piles of weeds, graves on top of one another, the private cemetery donned tents, restaurant and fast food vendors, manicured lawns, and organized headstones. The economic affluence of those who can afford to bury their loved ones in a private cemetery was quite apparent. The stark differences in appearance shocked me, but the meaning behind the day was all the same. People traveled to spend quality time with their family, living and dead.

Painting a gravestone.

Piles of recently pulled weeds.

Samuel and his son leading the way through the maze.
Balloons for sale to place at your loved ones' place.

The site of the private cemetery.

Thanks for reading!

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