I love living in this era of instant communication and wireless connections. I can talk to anybody halfway across the world in real time at no cost to me.
However, this technological advancement brings change, and as with any other changes, there’s a payback, and that’s the loss of some traditional practices that are replaced by commercialized activities adopted from other countries and cultures.
In cities across the Philippines, for example, more and more neighborhoods are doing trick and treat during All Saints Day. Are the children even aware why they’re dressing up in (oftentimes gory) costumes and going around, asking their neighbors for sweet treats, and saying Happy Halloween?
Parents buy the costumes, stock up on candies, and encourage their children to participate, all because they’ve learned of this activity from the media.
That’s why I look forward to going home in the provinces during the holidays. Nobody in our town is buying into the commercialized Halloween (yet), and on All Saints Day (November 1) or All Souls Day (November 2), whole families would troop to the cemeteries to pray for their dead, with the tombs already cleaned a few days before.
They would bring candles and rosaries, while some would bring food, either for themselves or to leave on the graves of their loved ones.
Our family had lost a few beloved, including our father and grandfather. My parents bought a big lot in the cemetery for the family, and we would all go there—aunts and uncles and cousins and other relatives, bringing food and drinks.
Before the prayers would start, the head of the clan (usually my grandfather’s oldest son, my Uncle Pergen) would assign the various readers, and he would give us each a copy of the libretto of prayers that he had personally typed (with a typewriter!) years ago.
We would go through the libretto, and sing the songs I had loved hearing when I was a child—my favorite was the “Old Rugged Cross,” and I would sing along with them, despite my definite lack of musicality.
After the prayers, all of us would ask for blessings from our elders by taking their right hand and bringing it to our forehead (we call it la mano), then eat, drink, and just talk to each other, sharing stories, and playing games.
The children would play and run around, the responsible ones would clean up, while some of us would visit the graves of friends and our friends’ families.
Once it would get dark, somebody would light a fire just in front of the mausoleum, using fresh grass to create a lot of smoke. Every member of the family then steps over the fire, even babies and small children are helped to do so.
My father told me that this is to make sure that the spirits of the dead won’t follow us back home, and everyone is required to do it, regardless whether they believe the practice or not.
Yeah, our family and majority of the people in our town still practice these beliefs which other people may scoff at and call superstitious. Still, I would take it over the commercialized trick or treating, comforted by the thought that at least a lot of Filipinos are still aware of and practice their traditions.
As to until when this is done, though, I don’t know. Judging by the times, maybe by the next generation, all these will be gone.
Until then, I will observe All Saints Day the way my parents, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents had done it all these years ago.
How about you? How does your family observe All Saints Day?