MANILA (UCAN): “A cemetery is a place to pray for the souls of our dear departed and not a place for a party,” said Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozami, the Philippines, said as the predominantly Catholic population troop to the provinces to visit the tombs of their dearly departed on November 2, All Souls’ Day.
Classes in schools and work in government offices were suspended as early as October 31 to allow people to drive or commute to the provinces.
For many, the day to remember the dead is not limited to lighting candles and offering flowers in cemeteries, it’s also an occasion to party.
Filipinos head for the cemeteries, sometimes days before All Souls’ Day, to offer prayers and flowers, light candles and meet up with relatives.
They spend the night there, passing the long hours by playing cards, eating, drinking and singing. And because it’s a party, they even offer food, which is prepared days earlier, to the dead, leaving offerings on tombs.
This year, Church leaders have reminded people that cemeteries are no place for parties but for prayers.
Bishop Jumoad also appealed for people to make the observance of All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2 litter-free. “Respect the place and do not just throw your garbage anywhere,” he said.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, made the same call. He noted that the observance “has turned into a de facto feast for litterbugs as cemetery goers leave tons of trash on what is supposed to be sacred ground.”
Bishop David said, “Let us break away from littering and other disrespectful acts and celebrate [the occasion] in a prayerful way instead of a wasteful occasion,” adding, “Cemeteries are hallowed ground, not a dumping ground for leftovers and disposables.”
Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, director of the media office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the observance is “not a time to get drunk. It is a religious activity for our beloved dead, which we should respect,” adding that “we should not gamble on top of their tombs.”
Authorities, meanwhile, have implemented tighter security measures as millions of Filipinos flock to cemeteries this long weekend.
Debold Sinas, a brigadier general and head of the police office in the capital, Manila, said a red alert status has been in force since October 30 to tighten security in public places, especially in transport terminals and cemeteries. This means all police leave is canceled and officers are required to be on duty.
Police assistance desks have been set up in 118 cemeteries across Metro Manila while sniffer dogs have been deployed.
At least 5,000 police officers will be deployed in the capital alone for this year’s observance of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day.