Search and You Shall Find

Custom Search

Add to G+ Circle

Friday, October 28, 2011

Philippine Culture and Tradition: Undas (All Souls Day and All Saints Day)

While some part of the world is busy preparing for the festive Halloween celebration and excited with their costume parties and trick or treating, I'd like to believe that most Filipinos are busy preparing for the observance of Undas this coming November 1 and 2.

Undas is the Philippines' celebration of the All Saints Day and the All Souls Day. It is an annual tradition where we honor our dead by visiting their remains in cemeteries to pray for their souls and remember them. We have our loved ones puntod and lapida (grave and memorial stone with inscriptions) cleaned and repainted for the celebration. We bring flowers, the atang (food and drink offering for the souls) and light candles. Some even bring framed pictures of their dearly departed loved ones and most stay over night reciting the Rosary and the Litany for the Dead. The living relatives also take this time to bond with each other.

Undas is a much honored religious tradition in the country which explains why it is included in our list of non-working holidays. In fact this year, the government also declared October 31st (Monday) as a non-working holiday thereby granting a 4-day long weekend vacation which means more time to properly observe the All Saints Day and the All Souls Day. This is because many Filipinos go home to their provinces where their dead are buried.

I remember how my family used to brave our way to Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City. The traffic every Undas had always been literally bumper to bumper but I never complained because I knew I was going to see my cousins. As children, we used to make wax balls out of melted candles and exchange ghost stories all through the night. We enjoyed roaming the big cemetery and never failed to get lost in the throng of people strolling to and fro. It was always hard to find our way back to our "tent" because almost everyone had their own that looked like ours, as they were also camping out in their loved ones' graves. Miraculously, our lolo and lola's (grandparents) puntod (grave) seemed to show itself whenever we were on the verge of panic and tears. My uncles and aunts would bring their own share of food as pot luck and the whole family would eat together and pray. Some of the older ones would start reminiscing and tell stories about our departed grand parents and the children would be eager to listen.

The tradition is mostly based on the Filipinos' belief, particularly the Catholics, in the "communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting..." as recited in the Apostle's Creed. We pray for the poor souls in purgatory where we believe the departed souls are being cleansed for the sins they have committed when they were still alive to make them worthy of entering the kingdom of God. Their stay in the purgatory is believed to be shortened if we constantly pray and offer sacrifices for them, in return the poor souls also help and pray for the living. The celebration of the Undas is the time to remember all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church Triumphant in Heaven (The Saints), the Church Militant on Earth (The Living) and the Church Suffering in Purgatory (Poor Souls). For a more detailed explanation, you may check out an article HERE.

How I wish that the generation next to us (nephews and nieces) would also experience the tradition of visiting the graves. However, since some of our uncles and aunts are now deceased and buried in different cemeteries and the rest of our living relatives are either based abroad or in faraway places, we now celebrate the Undas at my parents' home for some years now. Me, my siblings and their families meet and do the same things we used to do in the cemetery during Undas ... we bring food, flowers, candles and stay over night to pray the Rosary and the Litany for the the Poor Souls in Purgatory and also take the time to bond with each other. It's funny how the 2nd generation cousins also make wax balls out of melted candles and exchange ghost stories, although the night's activities do not include getting lost in the cemetery, we somehow lose them when they get "buried" in their computer games or from watching  horror movies.The aunts and uncles of today (that's me and my sibs), sometime during the night would almost certainly reminisce and share funny stories about their deceased grand parents, uncles, aunts and other relatives and close friends whose souls are being honored and prayed for. The laughter would make the children curious enough to momentarily stop what they're doing and take time to eavesdrop. I guess, the tradition goes on after all, even if the venue is no longer the same.

Let's all pray for the poor souls in purgatory 
most especially for our dearly departed 
loved ones and friends.

Atang - A food and drink offering for the souls

No comments:

Post a Comment