Millions of Filipinos trooped to cemeteries to honor their dead in typically festive fashion on All Saints’ Day on Friday, ignoring appeals from the Church to keep the day solemn.
Filipinos use the day to plan family gatherings at the tombs.
“It’s like an annual family reunion to remember our departed ones,” said 34-year-old housewife Mary Jane Mendoza, who went to the packed Barangka public cemetery to visit the tomb of her baby, who died last year from pulmonary illness.
“We’ve packed enough for a picnic for the whole day,” she said, as she and her four other children struggled through a maze of narrow pathways.
Barangka is one of several large public cemeteries across Metro Manila. Tens of thousands of people were expected to visit it Friday.
The final resting places there are called “apartment-type tombs” and are stacked on top of one another, reaching several feet high.
Mendoza, whose daughter’s grave is on top, had to make the perilous climb up the structure just to light a candle and say a simple prayer.
The Catholic Church, meanwhile, put up a special website for the millions of Filipino workers abroad who could not come home to visit the graves of their dead.
Found at www.undasonline.com, the site is operated by the country’s bishops and allows those unable to make it home to offer special prayers for their deceased.
Visitors to the site simply have to list the names of their loved ones, and click a “prayer request” button.
Priests in Manila can then say a prayer on their behalf free of charge.
“When we celebrate the day of the dead, we also celebrate life,” said Marcelino Cabrera, a retired shopkeeper whose clan erected a sprawling tent in another cemetery.
“We shall sing songs to them,” he said as he sipped gin from a white paper cup.
Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said All Saints Day in Metro Manila was so far “smooth and peaceful.” Valte said that President Benigno Aquino 3rd had no public engagement scheduled and will remain in Malacañang on Friday and Saturday. Thousands flocked to cemeteries in the southern part of Metro Manila.
Southern Police District (SPD) Director Chief Supt. Jet Villacorte reported that as of 11 a.m. 36,139 people crowded cemeteries in the cities of Pasay, Taguig, Las Piñas, Parañaque and the town of Pateros.
The crowd was 2,500 at the Pasay City Roman Catholic Cemetery; 6,000 at the Pasay Public Cemetery; 5,000 at the Manila Memorial Park; 1,875 at the Loyola Memorial Park and 1,500 at the Paranaque Public Cemetery.
It was 3,000 at the Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Las Piñas; 2,500 at the Heritage Park; 2,000 at Libingan ng mga Bayani; 1,000 at Tuktukan Cemetery; 500 each at Hagonoy Catholic Cemetery; Bagumbayan Cemetery and in Aglipayan Cemetery all in Taguig.
In Pateros, Garden of Memories Memorial Park had 500 visitors; Sta. Martha Pateros Catholic Cemetery 1,200; San Roque Catholic Cemetery 250 and Aglipayan Cemetery 200.
Villacorte said no untoward incidents were reported and authorities continued to confiscate items banned in cemeteries.
Villacorte said that as of 11 a.m., police had confiscated 22 bladed objects, six flammable materials, and three bottles of liquor.