In the run up to what Tagalogs call “Undas” or “Piesta Dagiti Natay” among northerners, and “Kalag Kalag” among Cebuanos, Bishop Emeritus Teodorico Bacani of Novaliches in Metro Manila crafted a convenient counsel.
The 82-year-old bishop advised the Catholic faithful not to forget the essence of All Saints and All Souls Days in the next two days, saying these are days for prayers and not for partying.
All Saints Day, a regular holiday in this predominantly Christian Southeast Asian country of 114 million people, is a day of remembrance and honor for saints—and the names of these saints in the Gregorian calendar crowd each of the 365, if common, or 366, if leap year, boxes for days.
In an interview over the Catholic-run Radyo Veritas, Bacani said people appear to have forgotten that All Saints Day is a day to honor the martyrdom of Catholic saints who died spreading the teachings of the Lord.
He said the public could emulate the holiness of Filipino saints San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod.
The next day, on Wednesday, or All Souls Day, the faithful should remember their departed loved ones, including those who died during the pandemic, which started in mid March 2020, those who perished from tragedies, war and other calamities.
Somewhere in the Ilocos, surviving kin visit the graveyards on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, lighting up candles on the tombstones of their departed loved ones.
Some ask the priest, who goes to the cemeteries and bless the resting places of the dead, to pray for the soul of a departed relative—with an undetermined honorarium.
In one roadside cemetery, a legend is hung at the entrance with the bold letters: Vicissim hodie, cras tuus.
Good for those who do not understand what the Latin line means. But it is translated into the language of the region in another graveyard: Dakami ita, dakayo no bigat.
That means, rather eerily: Our turn today, your turn tomorrow.
It acknowledges the mortality of man and sends a strong, but petrifying, message to the living who are left to pray for those whose names they remember and, like what one Catholic priest said, those who have been forgotten.
Another line makes a wit smile, as the dropcloth legend, at the bayside Santa town cemetery entrance in Ilocos Sur, suggests in bold letters, in English yet: This way to heaven.
The Catholic and Protestant churches, including the Aglipayan sect—which has its roots in Ilocos Norte, where the first Aglipayan Mass was celebrated in the hill town of Pinili in the early part of the 20th century—celebrate All Saints Day tomorrow, Nov. 1.
But All Souls Day is also marked by the Filipino Catholics and the Aglipayans.
The Eastern Orthodox Church observes All Saints Day on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Both All Saints Day and All Hallows Eve, celebrated the day before, have roots in ancient Celtic beliefs and practices.
Tomorrow, Nov. 1, Filipinos, whatever their religious affiliations, do not just remember and honor the saints they have asked previously to intercede for them in seeking God’s blessings.
They also go to the graveyards–the manicured greens of private memorial parks in the metropolis or the now urbanized population centers or the often heavily crowded public town cemeteries often outside the populated municipal blocks.
Days before the celebration of All Saints Day, kin of the departed troop to the graveyards and clean up the tombs or uproot wayward grasses including the “cadena de amor,” the Antigonon leptopus Hook & Arn. coral vine abundant in Philippine cemeteries.
On the day itself, relatives—at least in some parts of northern Philippines—go to the graveyards to remember their departed kin 12 years and below, with those 13 years old and above to be remembered, with candles, food and Masses the day after, or the better known All Souls Day.
In the now highly congested metropolis, where Manila lies by the placid bay, the celebration—often complete with ferris wheels and bunches of imported and locally grown different petals—approximates the hilarity of town fiestas marked by marching bands.
But the executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Fr. Jerome Secillano, echoed Bacani’s point, explaining that Nov 1 and 2 are days to mark all the saints and the souls.
“We invoke the intercession of saints while we pray for the eternal repose of the deceased. In effect, those are days of prayer and not of Halloween parties,” Secillano said.
In the metropolis, while the Land Transportation Office said it is “all systems go” to ensure the safety of commuters, the Philippine National Police said they remain on the lookout for people planning to sow disorder during the holidays.