I was commuting on the way home when I overheard a young family talked about the wife's mother arriving early from a trip. When they called her, they learned that the reason for her early arrival was that she had a dream of her late husband --- and that she just have to visit his grave, say her prayers, and light a candle there come Halloween.
I am bad at delivering scary stories, so I do not have ghost stories, or dark tourism to share. I can only paint you a picture of how Filipino families celebrate Halloween. It is an interesting sight that you only get to see during this holiday. We call it Undas in Filipino, and from a region with Bisayan dialect, it's Kalag-Kalag.
Aside from scary costumes on Halloween parties on events, and offices. It is before the year ends when you see vendors lining up on the streets near the cemetery to sell candles and flowers to light and adorn the graves of loved ones who passed away. Families will make their way to the cemetery bringing food, and large umbrellas and setting up sitting areas near the graves, or at the family mausoleums and stay there for a couple of hours, or until the next day. It is chaos --- of good kind.
This year, granny asked us to visit her parents. It has been a while since we visited their mausoleum. Being the constant companion of granny when we were young, I was made to lead the way. This time we do not have papa to guide us, and with granny and the trusted house help staying at home --- it's high time to let the great grandchildren of these couple find their way to them in the old public cemetery that was like labyrinth in memory. We visited it yesterday to check if it's clean, and well-kept, but more so to avoid throngs of people.
It is also nearly 6 years since papa's passing. I would visit his grave, and take photos of it to share with my siblings away from home. It has been like that, and my siblings would wait for photos to be uploaded, and look forward for updates, and news from home. I'm always home around these times. This year was no different. We visited his grave early this morning before the sun was high up, and before tents from other families were set up. They will be staying at the grounds of this cemetery for 2 days the most. And the gardens will be filled with laughter from families of jokes told, and recounts of events passed, children running around, of colorful flowers on the tomb stones, and the flickers of candles on these graves. It is the marry of the dead, and the living.
You get a few days in a year to celebrate loved ones who passed away, the lives they lived, and the ones they left behind. Even at an early preschooler age then, granny would get me to accompany her to visit her parents, and every relative who passed away. Filipinos, being family oriented, shows how important family is, even as we commemorate our dead during Halloween.
Of offering prayers, remembering them with stories of the past, and leaving lighted candles, and flowers on their final resting places -- this year, we found just ourselves. Traditions, and practices handed down, and are now expected to carry them on. I am saddened at the thought of that --- it means time, and more is, and will be passing.