Sunday, July 15, 2007

All Saints' Day


In the crease of the road leading to the next town between the Cruztel Station and a mechanic shop is the “cemetario”. Trikes are sitting on each others tails carrying 6 people with candles, bags of food and flowers. The street smells like lechon, roasted pork and hot dogs. It is only 2 pm but the sky is clear, the sun is hot and there are too many people in the small, narrow footpaths between mausoleums. People are getting off and on the trikes to greet their friends near the entrance of the cemetary, further slowing down the progression of traffic. The chief of police is making a useless effort to get the attention of trike drivers and keep them moving along to make room for more visitors.

The grave plots/mosaleums are teired and seem to cut into the side of the mountain like the rice terraces. On the ground floor of the cemetario graves take up every available spot. Next to eleborate moseleums with benches around the inside of the room with a gate and windows and even paintings or candeleras gracing the walls are coffins above ground in the pie piece corners between these structures that seem bigger than most of the houses in Siniloan. But moseleums are not only used for holding their dead, it is a place to meet and greet relatives and honor their departed family members properly. Surrounding the foot, head and every available inch around the coffin with flower arrangements and candles as small as tea candles and 3 feet high monstrosity meant to last until midnight that night when the celebration ends. Someone in the family, usually college students or young relatives watch the graves later in the evening, accompanied by friends.

Most graves have crock pots, plates and jugs of spring water lining the wall and several people sitting talking, laughing and eating. Others had set up a small concession stand in front of their grave site: selling gum, chips, juice boxes, candy. (Many people can barely afford to keep their dead in the ground. It is very expensive and once the body has decomposed, if you aren't paying the rental fees, the bones are removed from the coffin and tossed on the ground!) Organizations such as the Rotary Club and Rotaract also had stands and were selling sugo juice, lemonade and balloons on sticks to raise money for those who couldn't afford to keep their dead in the ground.

Children feeling restless no doubt after being at the grave sites since early morning, climb to onto the eves of the moseleums and call out to people below they know, including myself. One child was actually lying restlessly over the side of unattended coffin plot.

In the evening, I went to visit my friend, Lyss, who's mother is the mayor of Magdalena. I went to their very large open air plot which was surprisingly simple. I sat and ate pansit and a SIPPS juice box and met various relatives of hers. She's super social. It's a shame she isn't interested in running for office. She could undoubtedly win. She has the personality. She is the Magdalena elementary school librarian. I think that she likes being so close to home and being able to spend time with her son. (Her husband works overseas so she is the soul caretaker of her son. Of course, there are house servants in their enormous house. It must have five bedrooms which is unheard of in the Philippines at least in comparison to most of the two bedroom houses I've seen families squeeze into.)

It was stunning to see the graves lit by candles without any street lights to harbor their glow. They flickered and waved in the slight breeze, bringing a sense of solemnity to the evening that the day time activities lacked. (Maybe people were just quieter because they were tired after the long day. Only half the students showed up for school the next day.)


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