Filipinos poured into cemeteries by the millions on Friday for a rite to remember their dead, blending expressions of grief and faith in a party-like ambiance.
Vendors hawked cartoon-themed balloons and police seized karaoke machines at graveyard checkpoints, while inside families swept tombs clean and prayed before candles as part of All Saints’ Day.
The ritual, celebrated on Nov. 1, stretches back centuries to ancient Rome and honors saints. But in the Philippines, it is also a day to pray for—and most importantly remember—the deceased.
Among the mass of people at a Manila cemetery was 17-year-old Clarissa Limbing, who had come to visit the mother she lost to cancer six years ago.
“When we don’t visit them, someone from the family gets sick and we know it’s her making her presence felt,” Limbing said. “It’s important.”
Carlito Ortiz, 50, paid his respects to parents who had died when he was still a teenager.
“I feel that my parents want me to see them,” he said. “I do it so their souls may rest in peace.”
With offices and schools closed, dense crowds carrying bouquets as well as bags heavy with picnic supplies and the odd bottle of beer poured through graveyards.
Cemeteries in the Philippines range from quiet fields of wooden crosses to dense “apartment” tombs stacked meters high in the capital, which is home to some 13 million of the living.
Many tombs were freshly whitewashed and drizzled with the melted candle wax and topped with religious icons.
Church officials in Asia’s Catholic outpost emphasized the reflective aspect of the day, insisting people interested only in “drinking, merry-making, chatting” do so elsewhere.
“If you’re going there just merely for a reunion, without praying for the dead, it defeats the purpose,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, spokesman for the nation’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
The annual pilgrimage to the cemeteries triggers a mass exodus from the capital, with millions traveling back to their home provinces where relatives are buried.
Bus stations, airports, and roadways were thick with travelers, while police were deployed in large numbers across the country.
In the capital, more than 350,000 people trooped to the Manila North Cemetery, the biggest in the city, to pay respect to their loved ones. More than 80,000 visited the Manila South Cemetery, city officials said.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso prohibited vendors from selling inside the Manila South Cemetery and Manila North Cemetery this year to provide more space for visitors. He noted that the vendors inside public cemeteries contribute 90 percent to the garbage collection after All Saints’ Day.
In a statement issued Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his hopes that this year’s observance would inspire the public in strengthening faith and upholding tradition, which he said “deepen our bonds as a nation.”
“Let us dedicate our time, skills and knowledge so we may make a positive and meaningful impact on our society while we pursue meaningful goals for our people and country,” Duterte said.
“I wish everyone a solemn and meaningful observance,” he added.
All Saints’ Day, also known as Feast of All Saints, is a Christian festival celebrated in honor of all the saints.
Celebrated on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day is commemorated by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as some protestant churches including Lutheran and Anglican churches.
All Saints’ Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs in 609 A.D.
Meanwhile, the All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2 is universally acknowledged for commemoration of all the baptized Christians who are believed to be in purgatory.
The Roman Catholic doctrine holds that the prayers of the living faithful will help cleanse souls in order for them to be fit in heaven, and the day is dedicated to prayer and remembrance.
Duterte visited the resting place of his parents, Vicente and Soledad Duterte, at the Catholic Public Cemetery in Davao Thursday evening.
Also on Friday, Party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo urged visitors to cemeteries to bring only what they can consume to reduce the amount of garbage that is left behind. With Maricel V. Cruz, PNA, and AFP