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.
On November 1, All Soul’s Day is anticipated. 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.
Practices and rituals
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.
A candle is lighted at the entrance of the house before we leave for the cemetery. 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.
At the Talisay cemetery
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. These range from steaming and fluffy white and violet bibingka, lechon (roast pig), several viands and puso (“hanging” rice).
Flowers placed inside cans or glass containers. There are candles of different forms, colors and sizes too. At the other side, ukay ukay (used clothes), halloween related trinkets, fastfood and Chinese made toys. One can perspire a lot as its humid and hot as one navigates through the maze of bodies.
Inside the cemetery
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.
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.
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.
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.
@anglangyaw 'Palina' means 'to smoke,' and it is a #smokebath done before exiting cemeteries and many Cebuanos do this ritual. This belief is done so that the spirit of the dead will not follow the living. #cemetery #cemeterytiktok #rituals #superstition #undas #undas2022 #halloweenrituals #kalagkalag #allsoulsday #diadelosmuertos ? Slow Cemetery – DJ BAI
lovely photographs here. 🙂 and they capture the philippine flavor as well. 🙂
stumbled upon your wonderful blog! your travels are inspiring and enlightening. i have a long way to go! 😛
hi, estan! for some reason, the cemetery makes me think of mexican cemeteries in the movies. very vibrant and alive and colonial. nice pics!
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 🙂
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.
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.