Friday, October 28, 2011

The older Filipino way of observing "Undas"

An echo of the older practice, happily still followed by many Filipinos, although relatively few keep the original all-night vigil by the side of the graves of their loved ones. Photo source: LINK.

I found the following description of Undas in the SVD archives in the Catholic Trade building along Tayuman, Manila, specifically in the first page of the October – November 1941 issue of “The Cenacle Missionary”:

“An old Christian customs bids us to visit the graves of our dead on All Souls’ Day or even already on the afternoon of All Saints’ Day.

In Manila this day is solemnly celebrated, yes, even very solemnly, with an oriental gaiety and colorful bustle seemingly quite irreverent and improper to occidental minds.

On All Saints Day special traffic regulations have to be put in force on the streets and lanes leading to the cemeteries…

Early in the afternoon the migration to the cemeteries already begins, but the main traffic sets in the evening after sunset, and continues throughout the entire night. The Filipinos are holding their vigil of the dead.

To be sure, they do not pray the ecclesiastical nocturns. They provide themselves with food and drink, with cakes and cookies and ice cream, and thus, by flickering candlelight, they watch the whole night at the graves of their beloved dead.”

The passage is notable because it shows that, prior to World War II, the Filipino custom was to visit and keep vigil at the graves of the dead on the night between November 1 and 2. This is very different from the practice followed by the majority of Filipino cemetery-goers, which is to visit their dead on the DAYTIME of November 1, when the Church is still celebrating one of its happiest feast days, the Feast of All Saints. Apparently our ancestors were more conscious of the difference between the 1st and the 2nd of November. (It should be kept in mind that, prior to 1945, Masses were limited to daytime, and so by noontime of November 1 the liturgical observance of All Saints was already drawing to a close.)

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