Filipino tradition of visiting the dead moves into cyberspace

Published October 30, 2020, 7:21 AM

by Betheena Unite

  • With cemeteries and memorial parks closed from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, the Filipino practice of visiting their dearly departed will take another form.
  • Cemeteries and memorial parks offer ways to continue tradition through virtual visits, virtual candle lighting, virtual prayers, even blessings through the internet.
  • Family members will still find time to gather at home to remember their departed love ones with candles and a meal.
  • A cemetery has created a holding area to detain those arrested for entering the property on the days of the closure order.

The well-revered Filipino tradition of visiting departed loved ones on November 1 and 2 will move into cyberspace this weekend and will totally change the way we pay respects to our dearly departed.

(Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)

The All Saints Day and All Souls Day ritual (popularly referred to as “undas”) gathers families together, most of them making the special trip home for that purpose.  And because the family members are together, tents, buffet tables, and picnic sets had given a festive air to cemeteries and memorial parks.

This weekend, all that will be absent from the places where the dearly departed are buried. A government advisory has closed all cemeteries and memorial parks from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, plus 20,000 policemen have been deployed around the country to prevent large crowds and the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Strong tradition cannot fade away

A strong tradition like that, though, cannot be erased by a pandemic.  Technology will allow the Pinoy to keep tradition with virtual visits, virtual prayers, virtual blessing of gravesites, virtual lighting of candles, and even virtual family gatherings.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Radio Veritas, and Quiapo Church opened their respective online platforms to receive intentions from devotees, one of them for the dearly departed.

Virtual visits, prayer, candle lighting

Virtually visiting a departed loved one’s grave, lighting a candle, and saying a prayer for them can now be done online through CBCP’s “Undas” website which accepts prayer requests that will be included in the masses celebrated from November 1 to 8, 2020.

Visit through Google Maps street view

The website also embedded the Google Maps street view of the Manila North Cemetery so the public can virtually visit their dearly departed’s  resting places in the cemetery.

(Screenshot from CBCP’s Undas platform / MANILA BULLETIN)

You can even light a candle virtually while reciting a prayer provided on the website. Audio and video reflection will also be shared on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day on the platform.

‘Virtual Dalaw’ and flowers too

The Himlayang Pilipino in Quezon City also offers “Virtual Dalaw.” The cemetery announced on its official website on October 22 that the public can avail of a flower package that will be placed at the grave of their dearly departed on their chosen date. They may also avail of other services like tomb blessing and tomb cleaning from October 31 to November 2.

(Himlayang Pilipino / MANILA BULLETIN)

The flower package and additional services can be availed via Himlayang Pilipino’s Facebook page, Viber, and Gmail or through their contact numbers that can be accessed on Payments are also made online through money transfer via Gcash.

‘Undas Veritas’ prayers

The Radio Veritas Philippines has also launched “Undas Veritas 2020: Remembrance, Prayer, and Recognition in connection with the observance of the Filipino people of Todos Los Santos” which aims to receive prayers and supplications for deceased loved ones through their website.

Love offerings for frontliners

Love offerings to pray for the frontliners who died  in the fight against COVID-19 may also be sent through email.

Old rituals at home

 Meanwhile, rituals created by those who live too far from their hometowns’ cemeteries will likely be replicated in many homes this weekend. 

One ritual is lighting a candle for each dearly departed at the family altar or near the door on November 1.


A few set aside a meal as food offering for the departed at the altar at home. Violy Laddaran and her family from Marikina, practice this All Saints’ and Souls’ Days as the gravesites of her departed loved ones are in Bicol.

“’Di talaga tradition sa bahay yung Undas. Wala rin kaming mapuntahan na sementeryo kasi wala na rito yung labi. Pero sama-sama pa rin. May padasal. May atang na pagkain sa altar (It’s really not our tradition to celebrate Undas because we don’t have departed loved ones to visit here but we make sure to be together. We pray and we offer food at the altar),” Violy said.

Family gathering

What will continue will be the gathering of families but only for members who live in the same city or town as traveling to the provinces is not easy these days.

Norman Angelo Aberia, a resident of Bulacan, who was looking forward to visit his mother’s tomb for the first time during Undas, said he understands the situation and the family will just be together at home.

His mother passed away in June 2019 and by the time the first death anniversary came, it was already the time of the lockdown.

“She used to be the one leading the cleanup, prayer, and other activities every Undas. This could have been the first time that we can pray together for her because we were not able to do it last year as her musoleo was not yet completed that time,” Norman said. 

For those who had commemorated the Undas by spending as much time at the memorial parks, even camping out overnight, the ritual will definitely not be possible this time.

Samantha Nicole Salaysay, a resident of Pasig, usually takes Undas as a time for her whole family to spend quality time at the Loyola Memorial Park in Paranaque.

“Usually sa Loyola Memorial Park kami sa Parañaque with the whole family in Manila. Bumibisita kami sa pamangkin ko. Nagtatayo kami ng tent. Natutulog kami doon ng isang gabi tapos nanood ng horror movies with my pamangkins (My whole family usually visits my late niece at the Loyola Memorial Park in Paranaque. We pitch a tent there. We camp out and watch horror movies with my nieces),” she said.

For now, she said they will just look forward to their next “camping” when everything is back to normal.

Visitors are now regarded as violators

This weekend will definitely be different at the cemeteries and memorial parks.  Unlike in the past when cemeteries were packed with millions of visitors and vendors selling flowers, food and beverages, this weekend, there will be peace and quiet in those places where the dearly departed have been laid to rest.

Members of PNP led by NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas inspect the Manila North Cemetery
(Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

At least 20,000 policemen will be deployed in all cemeteries, memorial parks, and columbaria across the country to ensure that no visitors will sneak in.

Individuals who will try to visit the cemeteries until November 4 will be arrested.

The Manila North Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries in Manila, which was padlocked on October 28, has a holding area for detaining the arrested violators.