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Luminous night at the Talisay City Cemetery

The big cross or

The big cross or "dako nga krus" at the center of the Talisay Cemetery is aglow with fire from candles as cemetery visitors light and pray.

All Soul’s Day, undas in Filipino and kalag-kalag in Cebuano is at hand and what better way to be in the mood than a four-part series about cemeteries and the age old practice of Filipinos to honor their dead. Part 1 Part 2 Part3 Part 4.

My niece Enicka is set for the cemetery where family and relatives will gather.

My niece Enicka is set for the cemetery where family and relatives will gather.

All Soul’s Day is anticipated on 1 November. While many already visit their dead during the day, it is during the night that this traditional event gets spectacular as the light of a thousand candles and bulbs make cemeteries luminous and dazzling. Add the multitude of people and it becomes a truly memorable event.

A candle is lighted near the door of houses in Talisay City.

A candle is lighted near the door of houses in Talisay City.

As twilight signals the end of day and start of night, my family is all set for the cemetery to spend a few hours there. At the back of the multicab (left), several bouquets intended for the different tombs were already assembled; a rolled mat that will be placed on top of the tomb; several food containers for bam-i, a Cebuano dry noodle dish, empanada, suman (steamed sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves), slices of bread and several bottles of water. Paper plates, disposable spoon, fork and plastic cups as well as a cooler for liters of Coke, complete the set.

Before we leave for the cemetery, a candle is then lighted at the doorstep or at the entrance of the house. Cebuanos believe that during this night, departed family members visit us and these candles light the way for them. As one travels to the cemetery, this is a common sight in many houses.

A busy path where the living and dead crowd.

A busy path where the living and dead crowd.

A boy playing at the "dako nga krus"

A boy playing at the "dako nga krus"

Its chaotic. People are streaming in and out of a narrow road leading to the cemetery. Several vendors lining the sides add to the congestion as they are hawking their food ranging from steaming and fluffy white and violet bibingka, lechon (roast pig), several viands and puso (“hanging” rice).

There are rows of flowers placed inside cans or glass containers as well as different forms, colors and sizes of candles at one side and at the other, ukay ukay (used clothes), halloween related trinkets, fastfood and Chinese made toys. Its humid and hot and as one navigates through the maze of bodies, one can get wet with perspiration.

As one nears the mouth of the cemetery, the crowd gets denser and its hard to move except for a few small steps. People are shoulder to shoulder and there’s no angry outbursts except for a few calls to stop pushing and shoving.

Niche and tomb at the cemetery

Niche and tomb at the cemetery

Once one get’s past the cemetery entrance, a wonderful sight unfolds. Whitewashed tombs and crypts decorated with flowers are aglow with the pale golden light of candles. Hundreds of people are moving around that they all become a blur of streaming lines. Tall bamboo poles rise from the ground with lighted incandescent bulbs dangling midway and its top end electric cables connect from one pole to another.

Whiling away time at the cemetery by playing rounds of card games.

Whiling away time at the cemetery by playing rounds of card games.

Raised tombs become temporary tables for food, a round of card games or as seats where jokes are told or songs belted out. However small the space, families crowd and just gossip or talk unmindful of the passersby.

A lady with her dead fenced from the outside. It's her small private space where time is whiled away with SMS.

A lady with her dead fenced from the outside. It's her small private space where time is whiled away with SMS.

Check the slideshow at Pinoycentric.com

All around is a cacophony of voices, laughter, plucking of guitars and the occasional karaoke. The air reeks of burnt candles and taste the cool and salty breeze from the sea which is just beside the cemetery.

It is a magical, memorable and a luminous night at the Talisay City cemetery.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

11 Comments

  1. At the Calamba cemetery during the day | langyaw
    November 9, 2008 @ 12:53

    […] All Soul’s Day, undas in Filipino and kalag-kalag in Cebuano is at hand and what better way to be in the mood than a four-part series about cemeteries and the age old practice of Filipinos to honor their dead. Part 1 Part 2 Part3 Part 4. […]

  2. Cebu flower market for undas/kalag-kalag | langyaw
    November 9, 2008 @ 12:57

    […] All Soul’s Day is just around the corner and what better way to anticipate it than a three-part series about cemeteries and the age old practice of Filipinos to honor their dead. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4. […]

  3. Death in Stone: Relieves of old cemeteries in Cebu | langyaw
    November 9, 2008 @ 12:58

    […] age old practice of Filipinos to honor their dead, specifically here in Cebu. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4. This post first came out in […]

  4. kouji
    November 10, 2008 @ 4:17

    lovely photographs here. 🙂 and they capture the philippine flavor as well. 🙂

  5. miss igorota
    November 13, 2008 @ 14:53

    stumbled upon your wonderful blog! your travels are inspiring and enlightening. i have a long way to go! 😛

  6. acey
    November 16, 2008 @ 13:19

    hi, estan! for some reason, the cemetery makes me think of mexican cemeteries in the movies. very vibrant and alive and colonial. nice pics!

  7. estan
    November 27, 2008 @ 12:07

    Kouji, miss igorota, thanx

    acey, I guess, there are many similarities with the Mexicans as we share many cultural idiosyncracies brought on by Spanish colonization. Remember that we were ruled by Spain via Mexico 🙂

  8. Bolo
    December 22, 2008 @ 15:58

    Thank you for the photographs. I was born and raised in Talisay and my granmda is burried there too. I remember this place and it looks like they have the “Day of the Dead”.

    This place has a lot of memories, and did you know that in the early 90’s, someone threw a grenade by the cross on the “Day of the Dead”. Imagine that, someone wanted some attention. A lot of people got hurt, I could hear the explosion from our house.

  9. estan
    December 26, 2008 @ 10:12

    Hi Bolo, yes, I remember the bombing since I was also there. Very chaotic and sad. Fortunately, we were far from the area. Good thing that the person responsible for it is behind bars.

  10. Night of the dead | Langyaw Travel Photography
    November 1, 2011 @ 10:26

    […] Luminous night at Talisay City Cemetery. Share […]

  11. » Day of the dead at Libingan ng mga Bayani | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    November 8, 2011 @ 16:16

    […] instead of going home to Cebu, I was just in Makati and visited the hallowed grounds of departed […]

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