November 1, in other parts of the world may just be an ordinary day but here in the Philippines it marks the beginning of a two-day national holiday where people take time off from work (or from school) and visit the graves of their loved ones that have passed away.
All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2), have been celebrated ever since Filipinos can remember. There might be a few changes of how this holiday is celebrated but the root of it all is still centered on family — gathering together, eating traditional food and reminiscing the memories of those who have already gone.
Arriving at the Cemetery
Expect to see a lot of tents, chairs, canopies, candles, flowers, snack stands and food booths. Usually, many families already prepare their own food to bring to the cemetery for everyone to share. Most foods are usually traditional but these days families bring picnic snacks like sandwiches, chips, soda and etc.
Families make it a point to put their loved ones in one area (next to each other if possible) so when this holiday comes, the entire family will do the same. Once the Filipino families are gathered the usual family conversation about the kids, about life, about work and etc, takes place.
The Love for Food
Filipinos love to eat, especially when family is around so the usual scenario is to buy some other snacks like pizza or more chips or waffles even if the pre-prepared snacks have not run out yet. That’s probably why you’ll see a lot of food stands around.
Best Looking Grave Beds
You’ll be surprised to see that most grave beds are made of granite. Not all grave beds are made of expensive material but just before November 1, families would pay someone that works at the cemetery to give their loved one’s grave bed a good scrubbing and a fresh coat of paint, ready for the placement of candles and beautifully arranged flowers.
Because of a high demand in arranged flowers, expect the downtown areas to be filled with vendors that sell just these. It’s a great idea to buy the flowers ahead of time (bu not too early of course) because the prices usually go up, especially when it reaches Nov 1.
The price, however, goes down right after Nov 2 so if you want to spruce up your home with flowers, now is a good time to buy a whole bunch of them at a cheaper price.
Sponsored mass is also being held a nearby chapel specially dedicated to pray for a certain family’s loved one. If the family doesn’t have time for a long mass, what they would opt for is the prayer of a priest. Many priests with assistants go around the cemetery to cater to this need.
You’d expect to spend a good 3-5 hours in the cemetery and this may be no problem with adults, since they have infinite things to talk about, but the kids usually get bored after an hour or two. So what Filipino kids do is play with the melted wax from the candles, shaping it into a ball.
Recently, furry members of a few families have been spotted in the cemetery, all dressed up and taking a walk with their owners.
Visiting the cemetery only takes one day and lately, most families have decided to go before or after Nov 1 to avoid the rush and the traffic. Many don’t stay that long at the cemetery and most families do make it a point to go home during dinner time.
Since visiting the cemetery only takes one day, the remaining day (or days) from the holiday is spent some place else like at malls, restaurants or parks.