A Filipino Tradition for the Beloved Dead

Remembering the departed loved ones is always a part of the Filipino culture. We Filipinos have deep respect for those who died. We keep their earthly belongings and sometimes still consider them part of our family here on earth. The Filipino trait of remembering the dead is made manifest during the Halloween Season, which is locally known as Undas. During this season, Filipinos flock cemeteries just to visit their departed love ones. Many people take this opportunity to go to the provinces to visit the graves of their love ones there.

The Filipino trait of remembering the dead is worthy of praise. The only sad thing is that it is being quickly forgotten as the time wore on. Instead of solemnly remembering the dead, many Filipinos use this season as another opportunity to take a long vacation or have a party. Just like what happened to Christmas and Valentines Day, the true meaning of Halloween was secularized and is just another way for businessmen to earn money from those who are riding on the bastardized version of the Halloween Season.
Undas candle

The traditional way of remembering the dead is more solemn. Here is what I read from Filipino Catholicism blog about the old Undas of Filipinos:
“An old Christian customs bids us to visit the graves of our dead on All Souls’ Day or even already on the afternoon of All Saints’ Day.

In Manila this day is solemnly celebrated, yes, even very solemnly, with an oriental gaiety and colorful bustle seemingly quite irreverent and improper to occidental minds.

On All Saints Day special traffic regulations have to be put in force on the streets and lanes leading to the cemeteries…

Early in the afternoon the migration to the cemeteries already begins, but the main traffic sets in the evening after sunset, and continues throughout the entire night. The Filipinos are holding their vigil of the dead.

To be sure, they do not pray the ecclesiastical nocturns. They provide themselves with food and drink, with cakes and cookies and ice cream, and thus, by flickering candlelight, they watch the whole night at the graves of their beloved dead.”

This was the description of Undas written in the archives of SVD. Notice that the Filipinos back then doesn't just visit the departed ones in cemeteries. They hold a night vigil as one family. They stay from night of November 1 to morning of November 2. Instead of attending Halloween parties, Filipinos in the old times prefer to stay with the departed loved ones.

Another thing to notice is that visiting the graves of the dead is done in the afternoon or evening of November 1. They do not go there in the morning because November 1 All Saints' Day. November 1 is for celebrating the victory of saints against the Satan during their sojourn here on Earth.

Today, people just visit the grave of the departed love ones for few minutes or hours and then leave so they can go back to the comfort of their homes or visit the mall. Another sad thing to note is that people nowadays prefer to celebrate the secularized version of Halloween that focuses on witches, monsters, and other occult ideas. Halloween came from the word hallow  that means holy and it signifies the holiness of the season. Sadly, people nowadays prefer to celebrate the demonic symbols and the occult instead celebrating holiness.

We Filipinos believe that the departed love ones are not gone forever. They may be placed in purgatory and are paying for every sins that they made while they are living. Some of them are already with God in heaven and serving Him as His saints. It is sad that many people ignore this truth. It is sad that they can't even give just one day to pray for their dead to aid them in being pulled out of purgatory. It is sad that the focus of Halloween is business and the occult and not the holiness that God bestowed on this season.

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  1. Di kami nagpupunta ng cemetery tuwing undas kasi cramated yung mga departed love ones namin so nasa bahay lang yung ashes. Nagtitirik lang kami ng candles at nagdarasal.

  2. Anney

    Ay ganun po pala. Kasama po pala ninyo ang ashes nila everyday. Kahit hindi po kayo nagpupunta sa cemetery eh naglalaan naman po kayo ng time to pray for them. And that is a good thing.

  3. The Chinese too - we have the Ching Ming or Tomb Festival...but as a Catholic, I observe All Souls' Day. We must always pray for the repose of the souls of our dear departed...but I always believe that we should show our love and pray for them while they are alive - that is just as important, if not more important.

  4. Loving both the dead and the living have the same weight Suitapui. As Catholics,we believe that the dead is not gone forever. They are still existing but they are on other plane of existence.

    We Catholics believe that the Church is divided into three. Church Militant, for those who are still on earth. Church Penitent, for those who are in purgatory. Church Triumphant are includes saints that are triumphant against the devil and is now enjoying the joys of Heaven.

    The Church is divided into three but we are still one Church. Each members of the Church are all important to God. That is why it is not wrong to pray for both the living and the dead.

  5. Since a kid hindi talaga ako sumasama sa cemetery kasi lahat ng kamag-anak namin nasa province yung remains. So ginagawa namin tirik lang ng candles at pray for the soul of the person we love.

  6. Guilty ako dito Ishmael. Hindi kasi ako nakadalaw sa sementeryo nung Undas. Nag-work kasi ako sa bahay nung online tutorial ko. Minsan kasi nagtuturo pa din ako sa weekends para extra income.

    Pero tama ka. "Undas" is the special time of the year where we can visit and pray for our dead loved ones. We should take this opportunity to remember and pray for their souls. Thanks for reminding us the real meaning behind this important Filipino tradition. I would definitely try my best to visit the cemetery next year.

  7. Steve

    Ganyan din ang ginagawa namin kapag All Soul's Day lalo at kung walang pagkakataon na mapuntahan sila sa kanilang libingan. Ang mahalaga ay ipinagdarasal natin sila. Ito ay para sa kanilang kapakanan at mapadali ang kanilang pagtuloy sa Kaharian ng Diyos.

  8. Lovely

    Undas is a special day indeed. Pero mas mabuti kung hindi lang sa Undas natin ipinagdarasal ang mga mahal nating yumao. Pray for them daily, yan ang pinakamainam na gawi.


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