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President joins millions of Filipinos in flocking to cemeteries for Undas

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President Marcos joined millions of Filipinos across the country who paid their respects to dead loved ones on Wednesday, All Saints’ Day.

The President visited the tomb of his father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, accompanied by his wife, First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and their sons Simon and Vincent.

His mother, former first lady Imelda Marcos, and sisters, Senator Imee Marcos and Irene Marcos-Araneta, were also present.

Earlier in the day, President Marcos issued a statement urging Filipinos to join the Catholic community in observing All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. He said the observance of these holy days by the Filipino people has given rise to traditions that embody the essence of Filipino culture, which places great emphasis on faith and family.

Carrying flowers, candles and bags of food, hundreds of thousands of people fanned out across sprawling graveyards in Metro Manila to hold picnics on tombs or pray quietly in front of a relative or friend’s final resting place.

Among the visitors at Manila North Cemetery was Zenaida Cruz, 77, who walked slowly with her husband to the tomb of her parents and grandparents to offer candles and a prayer.

Cruz used to leave flowers at the grave site, but inflation had pushed prices of even simple bouquets beyond her limited budget.

“As long as I can walk, I will still visit, because this is a tradition,” Cruz said.

“This tradition won’t fade, but of course, it won’t be as grand as before when there were many flowers and many candles.”

The annual ritual is an ancient Christian tradition honoring all saints and martyrs who died for the faith.

HONORING THE DEPARTED. People flock to the Manila North Cemetery to pay respects to their departed loved ones on All Saints’ Day on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. Norman Cruz

In the deeply religious Philippines, the day is a public holiday to enable people to travel hours to visit grave sites in far-flung parts of the country.

Police Col. Arnold Ibay said he expected about a million visitors to Manila North Cemetery, where poor families live alongside the dead in shanties and mausoleums.

Jenny Rose De Vera, 31, was joined by her friends, family and in-laws to offer her partner of 15 years pieces of prawn crackers from a fast-food chain and half a hot dog.

That had been his favorite food before he was killed in a road accident in September.

“It’s important (to visit the dead) so they can still feel that they are still important to us and that we will never forget them,” De Vera said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that the celebration of All Saints’ Day was peaceful and well-organized, with no adverse incidents reported.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., meanwhile, reminded Filipinos to take time to remember and honor the fallen soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation.

“This season is an invitation for us to honor all the saints, both known and unknown, and celebrate the lives of our departed loved ones. We also take the time to honor the legacy, memory, and patriotic deeds of our fallen comrades who selflessly dedicated their lives in service to the country and made the ultimate sacrifice,” Brawner said in a statement in observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

He also reminded all Filipinos to use the opportunity given by these fallen heroes to rekindle their commitment to continue to serve the living and cherish the gifts of life and freedom.

Brawner noted that aside from strengthening the faith, the lives of these valiant soldiers could serve as an inspiration to all.

“I wish you a meaningful and solemn respite, and may the departed bless us with peace and grace during these days of remembrance,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army (PA), through the Grave Services Unit of the Army Support Command and Headquarters and Headquarters Support Group, joined Boy and Girl Scouts from the Fort Bonifacio National High School in a synchronized candle-lighting ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Tuesday.

“The synchronized lighting of candles was observed to pay tribute to a life ‘well-lived’ by the soldiers, heroes, national artists, and scientists, and former Philippine presidents of the country,” Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement.

Army commander Lt. Gen. Roy M. Galido said the PA is one with Filipinos in remembering the life and influence of the Filipino heroes, especially the fallen soldiers for the “Undas” holidays.

The Bureau of Immigration recorded almost 40,000 arrivals and departures per day before election day and Undas, and is expecting around 4 million passengers in the months of November and December, which are considered the peak season for travel to the country.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said these numbers are close to pre-pandemic figures, where around 50,000 to 60,000 travelers were registered.

“For the entire fourth quarter what we are projecting is that the total number of arrivals will reach up to 4 million.”

“Most of the travelers would be traveling around this season until January,” she said.

She said the bureau was ready for the surge in travelers.

“We have in place additional immigration officers. We have put up an augmentation team to ensure that there is enough personnel for our frontline operations,” she said. With AFP

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