All Saints’ Day/All Souls’ Day in the Philippines.
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are two important days in many Catholic countries as people remember Christian saints, martyrs and loved ones who have died.
The Philippines is the world’s third largest Catholic country and it celebrates these feasts with great devotion as they remember in a very special way, saints who were not awarded their own feast days, as well as those family members who have died. Much of the country shuts down for these two days.
Cemeteries all over the country come to life when the living visit their dead and people flock to their family plots as they use this holiday to hold a family reunion where groups of an extended family gather together. Some go to the cemetery for three straight days. Others would spend the night at their loved ones mausoleum.
The day is filled with prayer and religious traditions, music and food. At the end of the day, people will often camp overnight in the cemetery to pay their respects to their dead relatives. This special occasion calls for much preparation as families will visit the graves of their ancestors before the holiday to clean up the area and perform maintenance. During the holiday, people will decorate the graves with flowers and candles. The cemeteries come to life during this special time. Many cemeteries will hold a special mass during the day.
Columban Sisters preparing for the day.
Families bring plenty of food and drink for their dead relatives. Some believe that the deceased are taking part in the feast alongside the living. A plate of food is set in front of the tomb or grave as offering for the soul of their relatives and friends. It usually includes the deceased loved one’s favorite dish. Priests also go around the cemetery to offer prayers and bless graves. While most bring food directly to the cemetery, other families will also leave food at home on altars for any relatives who aren’t buried in the cemetery. It is a time to reflect on one’s own mortality.
Sr. Cecilia Quezon, Ozamis, Mindanao shares some happy memories of these special days:
In communion with the Saints…November 1 and 2 are two festivals that we celebrate with joy in the Philippines. It has become a practice of some families to bring food and put up a tent in case rain comes during the night, sharing stories and sometimes staying together during the night with your beloved dead.
As a Filipina Columban Sisters, I, at one time with Ashwena Apao and another time with Sofia Natama went to the Holy Cross Cemetery, where our beloved Sisters Campion, Oliver, Clarita and later on, Amada are buried. We left the house at 4:00 a.m. at the crack of the morning dawn and arrived at the cemetery before sunrise. We said our morning prayer, sang songs and praised God while sitting on the blanket we brought. We brought food and shared it with others, especially with those who stayed the night before. There was an air of celebration floating all over. Laughter, songs and stories were shared. Later in the early morning we joined the celebration of the Eucharist in commemoration to all the dead buried in the cemetery compound. When the sun got hotter, it was time to say goodbye to our beloved dead Sisters and we said: ” farewell, till our next visit”.
With love and prayer especially at this time when we are remembering our dead with love and devotion.