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Millions of Filipinos pay respects to their dead

Publication Date : 02-11-2012


Millions across the Philippines thronged cemeteries yesterday to pay their respects to their dead in an annual tradition that combined Catholic religious rites with the country’s penchant for festivity.

At Manila’s Loyola Memorial Park, families camped overnight, pitched tents and brought in food for a daylong All Saints’ Day picnic by the graves and tombs of their dead, just like in other cemeteries.

One of the major problems at Loyola was the huge number of vehicles inside, one of the few cemeteries in the capital where cars are allowed.

“About 60 per cent of the requests sent to us here at the parking booth were about parking problems,” said Jonathan Sevilla.

“The other 35 per cent were about children gone missing,” he said. All were later reunited with their families.

The other 5 per cent were about garbage disposal problems in the tight space.

In crowded public cemeteries elsewhere, police confiscated knives, spoons and forks, alcoholic beverages and banned gambling to maintain peace and order.

Hundreds of medics and volunteers also set up field clinics to provide medical assistance. Radio reports said many fainted due to extreme heat in densely packed cemeteries. At Manila North Cemetery, dzMM radio provided free wheelchair service to move the elderly through crammed streets.

“This occasion serves as our family reunion,” Fely de Leon, 80, a retired businesswoman, said as she laid out an assortment of food on small tables around the plots of her late father and brother at Loyola.

“We will be here for the rest of the day, and we expect more or less 30 family members to arrive.”

Nearby, loud music blared from a portable karaoke machine—singing is a national past time—as a family ignored appeals from the Catholic church to keep the occasion solemn.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) warned the public against fake priests roaming the cemeteries and reciting prayers for unsuspecting families in exchange for monetary donations.
And for millions of Catholic Filipinos overseas who could not come home to visit their dead, the CBCP said it had put up a special portal ( where they could log on and request special prayers and Masses.

Decline in numbers

The site also offers podcasts on the significance and liturgical meanings of All Saints’ Day, it said.

In spite of the generally good weather, police reported a notable decline in the number of people who throng the cemeteries in the capital on All Saints’ Day.

As of 1pm, Supt. Remigio Sedanto estimated the people at Manila South Cemetery at around 39,000 compared to 100,000 last year. He said people passed through the entrances at ease, not having to jostle as in previous years.

Reporters at the North and La Loma cemeteries said that while the crowds remained dense, they were not as thick as in the past.

Sedanto’s team of 80 police officers confiscated cans of paint and paint thinner, forks, scissors and other bladed weapons as part of security measures. The items were returned to the owners on leaving the premises.

An elderly man was irked when he was asked to hand over the can of paint at the cemetery’s entrance. “How could you do this? This is just paint. It won’t explode,” he said.

Vendors were not happy at all with a thinner crowd. Gary Eusebio, at a makeshift stall at a street corner inside the cemetery, described business as “sluggish”.

At one cemetery, agents of a company providing death care services had a pink coffin where people could pose for photographs.

Apart from imagined ghosts and thieves, “epal-iticians (credit-grabbing politicians)” were also present in Manila South Cemetery.

Almost all the tents that served as information and help booths near the cemetery’s entrance bore pictures and names of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.

The picture of Binay’s running mate in the elections next year, Marjorie de Veyra, is on a tarpaulin at a booth offering free bottles of water.

At Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque, a security guard found two envelopes at the tomb shared by national hero Benigno Aquino Jr. and his wife, former President Corazon Aquino.

Addressed “To the President”, referring to the couple’s only son, President Benigno Aquino III, the envelopes were turned over to police.

“We don’t know what’s inside the envelopes. What if they contained some sort of explosive or chemical? We have to protect the President,” said Lamberto Peña, the park manager. “Besides, it’s a high-tech world now. You can just e-mail,” he said with a smile.

The Aquinos’ tombs were adorned with yellow and white flowers.

Peña said that as of noon yesterday, the president had not et visited the cemetery. “Last year, he came on November 2,” he said. One of the president’s four sisters, Viel Aquino-Dee, dropped by in the afternoon.

Like fiesta

At Libingan ng mga Bayani, visitors set up colourful tents and tables filled with home-cooked meals near the tombs of their beloved.

“The atmosphere is festive,” Col. Renato Verceles, commanding officer of grave services unit, said. “It’s fun here.”

No crime or any commotion was reported. People are very disciplined, probably because the visitors are relatives of soldiers, he said.

Lydia Mellendes’ family was among the largest there. More than 40 relatives paid their respects to her father Marcelo Lappay, a former military man.

“We visit his grave every All Saints’ Day,” she said. “The kids are so excited because it’s like fiesta.”

On their table were pancit, puto and “sticky” food like biko and suman, her father’s favourites.

Some people waited for former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, who was not able to secure permission to visit the graves of her parents, former President Diosdado Macapagal and his wife, Evangeline, at Libingan ng mga Bayani. Arroyo’s son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo, however, showed up there.

With reports from Rima Granali, Nathaniel r. Melican, Niña Calleja and Jaymee T. Gamil, and AFP


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