Halloween… The Filipino Way

31 10 2009

All Soul's Day in the Philippines

In the US, people ask you “What are you gonna be for Halloween?” But in the Philippines, people ask you “What time should we meet at the cemetery?”

Although there are some who actually celebrate Halloween in the Philippines by partying or getting dressed up in a costume, most people simply do so by staying at the cemetery for a few hours, or maybe even the whole day/night. And this goes on from the 31st of October, where people start visiting relatives who have passed away and cleaning their tombs, and goes all the way to 2ND of November, or more commonly known as All Saints’ Day. I think this is mainly because most Filipino families are Catholics and have been colonized by the Spaniards for over 300 hundred years, therefore this tradition is almost similar to the Mexican concept of the Day of the Dead.

During this time, families get to spend time together that it’s kind of a clan reunion. The actual cleaning of the tomb is sort of a bonding and catching up between the older people, and kids can light up candles and setup flowers around the tomb. In most families, the tombs are usually next to each other or on top of each other, so there’s a pretty big area to clean and decorate. At night, there’s usually a prayer offering for the deceased relatives and everyone gets together to pray the rosary and offer their own personal prayer. Also, during these nights, people take turns bringing food. Cemeteries are usually so packed with people that even the parking spaces are actually filled with people’s canopies and tables, even tents. It’s kind of a picnic, but in a cemetery.

The mood is usually happy and light, and it’s more of a positive idea of remembering relatives who have passed away, instead of being all gloomy and sad about it. Older people usually tell stories about the deceased relatives to the little kids who never got the chance to meet them. Older kids tell horror stories to the little kids and then play games such as tag or hide-and-seek. As the nights progresses, kids start to huddle around the tombs where there’s a thick layer of melted candle and start playing with it. This, from my experience, is the parent’s cue that we have to go home soon because they can see that we kids were starting to feel tired and would rather sit by the candles instead of running some more.

I think this whole idea of celebrating with the family, or should I say clan, during these three days shows how family-oriented the Filipino culture is. It signifies the really strong bond not just between the immediate family, but between extended family as well. By extended family, that also includes family friends who have known the family for a long, long time. It’s pretty nice to think about this certain way that Filipinos try to keep memories of their deceased loved ones alive by visiting them at least once a year. Personally, I prefer to relax, pig out, and play fun games with the family rather than spend time and money on a really expensive costume… =)

-Z. Santos




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