Friday, February 3, 2023

Silent Cemeteries

by Zarelle Glen Dorothy A. Villanzana | November 2, 2021

On regular days, cemeteries, memorial parks, and columbariums are mostly quiet. The living is busy with earthly matters and the departed souls are kept merely in thoughts and at heart as they rest six feet underground. However, during special occasions, families come together to spend time in gravesites and make up for the silence that has long surrounded the tombstones. But with the brief visitings and early closures implemented for Undas 2021, it seems that the quiet will be carrying on. 

Every second day of November marks a time of commemoration towards the beloved departed. In a country with strong Christian faith and mostly Roman Catholic influences, All Souls’ Day is considered to be a significant holiday for many Filipinos as it encourages the act of praying for the deceased for them to be cleansed of sin and to finally enter heaven. Aside from these, it also gives the chance for many to spend some time with their departed loved ones when they couldn’t due to busy workdays. 

Even during pre-COVID times, many have opted to visit earlier than the actual date of celebration. This was to avoid adding to the number of people in the location and to make sure one had space to park their vehicles. Still, there would be distinct chatter in the distance and little crowds of people gathered. Tents and mats would be present everywhere, and tables or trays would be filled with bountiful servings of food. Relatives from distant places would travel back home just to visit their late loved ones, thus the arrangement of a small family reunion. 

During the late hours, some would eventually bid farewell to the dearly departed after having lit candles and prayed for them, while others would choose to sleep in the cemeteries overnight and bid farewell in the morning.

Today, the gravesites are still. As they have been scheduled to close on the holiday itself, more people had to visit early. None were allowed to stay overnight, and with the allotted time given, all they could afford to provide during their visit was a quick prayer and candles that flicker by themselves, sitting along with the basket of flowers at the side. However, this is not a first for us. Similarly, last year, there were also literal ghost towns in the cemeteries on All Souls’ Day. What’s left behind now are wilted flower arrangements and melted wax from candlesticks.

Although there is not much of a celebration held close to our loved ones’ tombstones this year, the silent cemeteries do not mean we cannot commemorate them from our homes. Just as long as we keep them in our thoughts and prayers, we continue to reassure them that they have not been forgotten.

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