Undas

In the Philippines, it has been a tradition for surviving family members to visit their loved ones who had been summoned to the “House of Many Mansions” ahead of them. From the oldest to the youngest family members they troop to memorial parks or cemeteries to be with their departed loved ones unmindful of the heat and traffic jam. In Filipino lingo the occasion is called Undas, pronounce as “On-das”. Undas is derived from Spanish word “Honrar” in English, to honor. This is happening every All Saints and and All Souls day, 1st to 2nd of November.

Most of us prefer to visit on the 1st of November, being All Saints Day, some would visit the 2nd being the All Souls Day. It is also acceptable if we visit early to avoid the traffic jam. I prefer to visit my parents’ resting place before the 1st of November or on the 2nd of November .  Prior to the occasion, family members would clean up the tomb. Freshen up with new coats of paint making sure the epitaph on the head stone are readable.  For those who can afford to pay, they would hire someone to do the job.

We are allowed to bring food for the whole family members to partake. In case family members are unable to bring food, fast foods are allowed inside memorial parks for a fee. For small entrepreneurs who cannot afford to pay, they just settled themselves at the entrance. That I guess is to set orders inside memorial parks. Otherwise the place would look like a market place.

Additionally, to set orders and to preserve the sanctity of the departed loved ones. All memorial parks and cemeteries ban liquor, playing cards, loud music, sharp-objects. The are police officers inside memorial parks and cemeteries to take care of misbehaving folks. Some pick pockets could take their chances to do their business in crowded memorial parks and cemeteries. The uniformed men would somehow scare them off.


Tents of different sizes and colors are set up for those who vigil during the night. I have yet to experience night vigil. The crowded bathroom would make me feel uncomfortable. Candles of different colors and sizes illuminate the night. Floral arrangements simply entice a feeling of love and festive mood among those who vigil at night. Aside from candles and flowers as offering to our departed love ones. Some religions offer prayers and masses.

I recalled a survey made by one television station in Manila as to – “What makes most Filipinos happy?” The reply was unanimous. “Family” That explains why departed loved ones are still remembered by most Filipinos between primarily the dates of 31st of October to the 2nd of November.
I would say celebrating Undas is second to Christmas and eve of New Year, when Filipino families are gathered together, to celebrate the occasion.

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