For my final report in Psychiatry, I chose this topic to make an essay on. I texted my Lolo Danding ( Eduardo O. Apa) throughout the creative process; frequently asking questions and translations. Little did I know that four days later on October 18, 2011 he will go to heaven.
This helped me a lot on my mourning and grieving process. It also helped me and my family perform the necessary rituals.
It is my hope that this essay help prepare you as it did to me. The italicized grey words are add ons from what I have experienced during Lolo's wake and burial.
Mourning is our way of dealing with our grief over the death of someone. It is a cultural complex of behaviours in which the bereaved participate or are expected to participate.
In the Philippines, there are regional differences. This is no wonder since we are made up of 7,107 island. Our Christian beliefs are still peppered with animistic beliefs. The Spanish and Chinese has also greatly influenced us on how we mourn.
Our Thoughts on Kamatay (Death)
Filipinos has always believed in life after death. As a predominantly Christian nation, it is within this premise that we try to do good deeds and repent before our time is up.
Upon death, the body should be blessed by the priest to ensure that the soul is going to heaven. This is called Santolana. This is also performed on people who are in the brink of death.
The “Lamay/Daraw/Nagtataguminatayan” (Wake)
The Waray waray wake is known as lamay, daraw or nagtataguminatayan. This typically lasts from five days and up until a relative from a far off land arrives. It is a social event very much like a family reunion. Everyone is gathered and all personal business stops except for those which are necessary. Family members would often file a leave so that they could keep vigil.
If the dead is a female, it is dressed in a white dress and if it is a male it is dressed in his best barong tagalog. No jewelry and shoes are worn. Socks are optional. A cut rosary is then placed on the deads hands. The dead is then placed in an open casket.
Their best framed blown up picture is placed on top of it together with a box for the ambong or abuloy (contribution), a variety of mass cards from the mourners and lanterna (light made of coconut shell, oil and wick). If justice needs to be served, a chick is placed on the glass part to knock on the conscience of the wrongdoer. On the inside part of the casket lid, ribbons with the name of the family members are pinned.
The casket is then surrounded by ornate lights and coronas (wreaths). The coronas would sometimes be made from fresh flowers or colored paper. A ribbon would then be taped across it with the mourners name on it.
The wake is often held in the dead persons house but if you are living in Tacloban and you are well off it will be more likely held in a funeral home. On the entrance to a wake, you can find a guest registry book. This is often largely ignored. (One mourner even wrote the amount of his abuloy on the address part. I got a laugh from that.) In the 1990’s Funeraria Gomez was the choice of the well to do. These days, St. Peter’s is the more popular choice with its easy payment plan, one stop shop and high tech live streaming of wake.
The family members, relatives, and acquaintances are expected to take part in the vigil. They are also expected to wear either black or white clothing. It is a mortal sin to wear red and any other loud colors. Black mourning pins are worn on the left breast.
No laughing is allowed. It is expected that you wear a sombre face, be respectful and to never crack a full smile during the wake or funeral. Everyone talks in hushed voices. You greet the bereaved when you arrive but never ask for their permission when you leave.
Biscuits and other foods are customarily served together with coffee. Mah jong and other card games like tong its and sikitsa are also played to defray the costs and to keep the people awake. There should always be one person awake to accompany the dead.
Concerned visitors would usually ask the surviving family members how the deceased died, if he or she suffered during his or her illness or last moments, or how much the hospital expenses were and what the burial cost is.
Expressions of grief varies. For women they would either openly cry out, flail their arms and repeatedly ask “ Kay ano mo ak guin bayaan?” (Why did you leave me?”). You would usually observe this on the news. Without the camera though, the atmosphere is more serious. There is less dramatics. The men on the other hand put up a tougher facade and are more reserved.
Other people would also offer mass, novenas, and prayers for the benefit of the deceased. Mamaratbats are also present to chant prayers during the wake.
The “Lubong” ( Funeral and Interment)
As a public display of bereavement, the funeral and burial service acknowledge the real and final nature of death. It counters denial.
On the burial date, the casket leaves the house feet part first. An old lady with a bowl full of water and kalipayan leaves will shower the concoction on you. If you have already left the house, you are not allowed to walk back in.
During the lubong or funeral, a mass will be held. The relatives are urged to pass under the casket before the procession would ensue. The coffin is then either carried on the male relatives (never from the immediate family) shoulders towards the cemetery or else on a hearse. When a hearse is used, “ Hindi Kita Malilimutan” would be repeatedly played along with “ The Warrior is Still A Child”. The casket and its bearers leads the procession towards the cemetery followed by relatives, friends and acquaintances in that order. If the cemetery is just a short distance the mourners would usually be on foot. This is called “pagdul ong”.
The head goes in the pantseon first. Mourning pins and flowers are then sent off together with the casket six feet under the ground.
One doesn’t immediately head home from a funeral. He must instead take a circuitous route to avoid the dead persons spirit from following him home. Upon reaching home, you should wash your hands in the kalipayan concoction which by now is in a dirty brown color.
` The funeral and burial gathers support for the bereaved. It encourages tribute to the dead, unites the family and facilitates community expression for sorrow.
The Days After
After the burial, the Catholics with the help of the mamaratbat would offer prayers for the dead every evening for nine days. This is known as the pasiyam . On the ninth day, the family will prepare lots of food for the relatives and friends. It is believed that on this day the soul of the departed relative moves on from the world of the living. Prayers will still be offered to the dead for three more days and this is called amen.
On the ikakwarenta or forty days after this, a similar event will be held. It will still have prayers and eating. On these forty days you are not allowed to visit your dead relative. This will then be repeated on every death anniversary or tapos. This allows a continous emotional support, coming to terms with reality, remembering, emotional expression and conclsion of unfinished business with the deceased.
For a year, the family will show their mourning by not holding personal or family celebrations. Weddings are avoided for fear of sukob which brings in bad luck.
All Souls Day or Kalag Kalag
A few days prior to All Saints Day or Undas (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2), the relatives would visit and clean the grave sites. They will be painting the tomb a new coat of white. In some parts of the country, they paint it pink or blue.
On November 1 itself, they would go to the cemetery to say prayers, light candles, and to lay flowers. As a child, I remember hopping from one tomb to another to gather candle wax. I then roll them into a ball.
Food and tuba would often be brought and laid on top of pancheon. There will be singing and merry making. It is like having a picnic!
On this day, there is a fiesta like atmosphere in the cemetery. This might be the reason why it is also called the Fiesta hin mga Minatay.
These ceremonies and beliefs protects the survivors from isolation and vulnerability. It also set limits on their grieving.
All of these things reflects our Filipino identity and consciousness. Our mourning practices are products of years of various cultural influences on how we deal and cope with our grief.
This since time immemorial our practice of private grief and public mourning.