Friday, November 02, 2012

My Undas 2012 Experience

Like millions of Filipinos, I visited the grave of a loved one  buried in the Eternal Gardens to celebrate 'Undas' (All Soul's Day)  today, November 2, 2012.

In my hometown in Bukidnon and in any 'Visayan country', we call it the celebration of the 'Kalag-kalag' (Remembrance day for the Souls). 

I know that this celebration is tied up to the religious traditions brought by Christian invaders like the Spanish, but there are some elements of the original traditions of our Malay ancestors which have remained. One of them is the offering of food for the dead. I gathered that this was also practiced during the time of Buddha.  Perhaps, some of the Indian traders who came here during the height of the Madjapahit Empire or the adventurous Chinese traders, brought  some of their own religious practices and shared these to the natives. 

 My great grandpa named Silveriano Caneos also did the same food offering,  and even extended this to the spirits in his farm. His makulit apos consumed the food when he's gone, to his delight the next day thinking that his offering was taken by the spirits, expecting that he will be showered with  blessings in return. 

In public cemeteries in Dangcagan town, people also include alcoholic drinks like tuba and Datu as part of the offering. For incorrigible drunkards, this is a welcome news because they have something to drink the same night when these offerings are left unattended on top of burial tombs.

I saw this grave littered with flowers and a plate full of food. Not all the people in this cemetery practice the same. A few meters away, I saw a group of people partaking of the food that they brought during their visit. During the 'prayers before meals', they mentioned the name of the relative, wishing him happiness in heaven  and inviting him to join the feast.

This is the tomb of my father-in-law, a Chinese migrant named Chua Bon Long, a native of Xiamen, China. He was buried here in 1984.  

Our loyal grave caretaker

The resting place of Harvey's Chinese grandpa is well maintained. Our secret weapon? A loyal and dutiful grave caretaker.

Gentlemen, meet Nelson 'Nixon' Tigulo, 39, of Tuboso, Negros Occidental. He started working here when he migrated to Manila in 1994.

Nixon shared to me his interesting life story as a grave caretaker (sorry to the Tomb raiders). 

I invited him for a short chat under the shade. Harvey, the uzi boy, listened intently as Nixon narrated his own adventures. 

He escaped the grinding poverty that he experienced as a young man in his village in Tuboso, a sleepy town with vast haciendas planted with sugar cane by big landowners.

There were occasional clashes between Army soldiers and the New People's Army, forcing them to flee for safety at times. He decided to try his luck in Manila where he had some relatives who talked about economic opportunities there.

He found himself working as a grave caretaker since his arrival in 1994. He said that he sustains his family through his earnings.

"I get an annual payment of P1,200 per grave site that I maintain here. I am taking care of at least 100 grave sites so I use this income to buy our provisions and send my children to school," he said.

He was proud of his decent income but it also has some limitations. Most of his clients pay him only during 'Undas', forcing him to borrow large sum of money for his family's needs from '5/6' money lenders.

"I am one of the richest men around during Undas but the problem is that I also pay my creditors right away. By paying them as promised, I maintain my credit line and borrowing is easier".

He also said that a few of his clients forgot to pay him their dues. At least two of them have not settled their dues in the past 3 years.

"I believe in 'gaba' (karma), that God will do something about it. What is important is that I am honest and have a word of honor," said Nixon, a father of 3 children.

I am proud of Nixon because of his principles. He is just an ordinary guy but he got a big heart and a sense of responsibility that every Filipino must emulate.

To reward Nixon for his outstanding Filipino traits, I gave him extra payment as a gift. 

An hour later, I meet him beaming with smile as he pedaled his way back home in Leland village.

Tomb for the 'royals'

This is the section of the Eternal Gardens where some rich people are being buried. You can see the difference by merely looking at the big mausoleums built for them. Well, some people are so lucky that they are born rich. Of course, we must also accept the fact that many of them had worked hard towards financial freedom. You can see their economic status when you see their burial place. (I am reminded of the  burial chambers that can be found in the Valley of the Kings in Southern Egypt and the Great Pyramid of Giza.)

The younger sister of Harvey's lolo is interred here. When she joined the Creator early this year, she was buried beside her husband who died a long time ago. According to Chinese traditions, a red candle is offered for those who died more than 3 years and a white candle is for those who died within the year. They also bring bountiful food during Undas but these are served to all the relatives who come.

The soldier, my hero

Near the entrance gate, I saw some soldiers who were directing the traffic. They were not able to visit their own loved ones because of their duties.

They were members of the National Capital Region, Regional Community Defense Group (NCRRCDG) led by Col. Corlito 'Corly' Vinluan.

They were among the hundreds of military reservists deployed inside cemeteries to assist the police in keeping the peace. This is part of our so-called 'Bayanihan' missions aimed to win the hearts and minds of the people.

Hijos and hijas; achi, ahya; meet Sgt Cielito Vallente, 50 yrs old, of Caloocan City. I first met him during the relief  operations organized by Sagip Kapamilya- ABS-CBN during the onslaught of Habagat.

He said that he and 19 of his companions were deployed to assist the management of the Eternal Gardens during the celebration of Undas starting on October 31, 2012.

"We are proud to be of help to our kababayans here. I am happy that there were no untoward incidents during our watch," said Vallente, a tricycle driver during regular days. 

These military reservists receive no salary but they are doing a great job during celebrations like the Undas

I am very proud of them. Reservists like Mang Cielito are our modern day heroes too.


  1. Ranger C,

    Allow me an opinion okay?

    These days, forming rules and mandating cemetery visits should be implemented. I was just in the Libingan ng mga Bayani for two days straight. Spent the night there and to my dismay, too much disrespect for the surroundings.

    I was wearing my flops and while I was walking in the wee hours of the morning. Can't afford to step on spoiled food, trash, etc.

    There were even people shouting and driving along the prohibited areas.

    If the family is going to serve their late love ones food, they should consider not leaving it there. Camping shouldn't be an option as well as this will be welcoming karaoke, drinking sessions, and other uncalled activities.

    Well, this is just my opinion. We should move on to a more stricter way of doing things.

    Best Regards,
    Drey Roque

  2. Ranger C,


    This is not because there was a flaw in doing things by the military people there. They were actually doing great, I can even see those two green-wearing uniform men fighting sleep.

    So I'm not pointing the negative about them... =)

  3. Drey,

    Let me see. I know there are established rules implemented by the Grave Services Unit of the Philippine Army.

    But, we are also aware that these 'pasaways' violate the rules as if they have obedient vassals who will do all the dirty works for them.

    What we need is self-discipline. We need to behave properly even if no one is looking and sans all these rules.

    You might wonder that these 'pasaways' are the most behaved guys when they are in Singapore which implements stricter laws.

    Pag dito sa Pilipinas,bansagan kang diktador kung maging istrikto sa regulasyon.

    Pero tama ka, kung ako lang masunod, me kalagyan yang mga nagkakalat ng basura sa LNMB during Undas. Kabastusan yan sa ating mga bayani. Pati kaanak nila ay binastos na rin nila.

    Pareho yan sa isang mama na pumasok sa LNMB don sa likurang bahagi lumusot, para mag-sideline na magtabas ng puntod. Nang hinuli sya, ang sundalo pa ang ginawan ng istorya at merong kasalanan dahil 'kinasahan' sya ng baril (pero kung totoo ay mali ang sundalo). Nakalimutan din nya na trespassing sya sa LNMB.

    These are part of the challenges met by LNMB administrators.

    We will try to improve the situation.