11/02/2023, 11.06
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All Saints' Day: the Philippines celebrates death through life

by Santosh Digal

In the Philippines, the first of November is called 'Undas', a holiday that gives people the opportunity to reunite their families, living and dead. A tradition shared with Mexico after being brought to both countries by Spanish colonisers

Manila (AsiaNews) - November 1 and 2 in the Philippines are respectively called Undas (All Saints' Day) and the Day of Souls, the equivalent of the day of the dead. Many families remember their deceased every day to the point that some take the beds to cemeteries.

For most people, Undas is an opportunity for a family reunion even for those who live and work far from home, an occasion so heartfelt that many people make this trip, even though it is usually a long and expensive process that includes planes, boats, ferries, cars and more.

Tradition - brought by the Spanish when they colonized the coasts of the Philippines - has families cleaning the graves when they go to the cemetery. Then flowers are also bought and placed near the grave. For Undas in particular, flowers are very important: they can be simple or in imaginative bouquets. Thai florists are very busy at this time of year: people even buy floral arrangements just outside the tomb gates, just as happens in Mexico which shares Spanish colonization with the Philippines.

Lighting candles or incense is another important element in honoring the dead, along with prayers. A lot of food is also prepared for this Philippine festival, especially that which was preferred by deceased people. A gesture that is considered a real gift to demonstrate that living people still think about the dead. The family enjoys food in their honor.

Finally, some people spend the night with their loved ones at the cemetery: "In these tombs that surround us rest our loved ones who loved us, cared for us and believed in us. That's why we visit them, to show them our love", he said Don Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, professor of theology at Adamson University in Manila.

“Why bring flowers when they can't smell them? Why even bring food when they can't eat? Why do they keep lighting a candle they can't see? Our answer is: because they live. They will see, they will hear and they will know that we are here today ", concludes Don Pilario who recalls that in the conception of the Filipinos, there is no real difference as in other parts of the world between All Saints' Day and the Day of the Dead. “All of them are alive and with God.”

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