There are three times during the year when Filipinos interrupt the normal run of their lives to return to their hometowns in observance of holidays rich with both religious significance and family tradition.
One of these times is today, November 1, All Saints’ Day, which together with All Souls’ Day tomorrow make up the revered Filipino celebration of Undas. On this occasion, we take time out to visit the graves of our loved ones, with many city residents travelling all the way to the provinces where the old folks are buried. The two other times are Holy Week which we observed last March and Christmas which will soon be here in December.
These are all basically religious observances and church ceremonies remain at their core but family gatherings are an important part that draw Filipinos together even if they live and work in scattered faraway places most of the year.
While the city’s cemeteries will be full of people today, the normally traffic-jammed city streets will be clear as thousands have left for the provinces to visit the family graves. It is also a time to meet with old friends from the old times.
We share All Saints’ Day with many other countries – in Spain, Portugal, France, Austria, Germany Belgium, Hungary, Italy, etc., in Europe; in Argentina, Guatemala, and, most notably, Mexico, in South America. Pre-colonial Filipinos visited the burial caves of departed family members, but our Christian celebration of Undas came via Mexico.
Last Sunday, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) pointed out that while we remember the saints and our departed loved ones on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days, these occasions are actually a celebration of life –with flowers, lighted candles, and food, all signs of life.
In the last few weeks and months, the nation has been going through the travails of rising prices, along with reports of massacres and fiery denunciations over billions of pesos worth of drugs slipping into the country despite the government’s most stringent anti-drugs campaign.
Through all these difficulties, the nation has stayed together and moved forward and a big part of the reason is our families. They are holding us together and they draw strength from holidays — like the Holy Week last March, like All Saints’ Day today, and like the Christmas season which will soon be here in December. .