Philippines: Predominantly Catholic Nation Observes All Saints’ Day

Luis Liwanag and Karl Romano

Millions of Filipinos traveled to cemeteries on Thursday to remember their deceased relatives in an annual tradition in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

The country observes All Saints’ and All Souls’ days on Nov. 1 and 2, respectively. Days before the holidays people flock to the cemeteries to clean tombs, paint them in festive colors, bring flowers and candles.

In Barangka Cemetery in suburban Marikina, east of the capital Manila, Filipinos move through maze-like rows of tombs stacked atop each other in what is commonly referred to in this impoverished section of the city as “apartments’ to house their dearly departed.

The Philippine National Police barred personnel from taking a day off so they could guard cemeteries and manage crowds. At the Manila North Cemetery in another part of the city, Filipinos faced strict inspections where items such as cigarettes, alcohol, bladed weapons and loud radios are banned to allow for a solemn observance.

The annual cemetery pilgrimage often turns into impromptu family reunions, allowing long-lost relatives to meet near the tombs of dead relatives serving as silent witnesses.

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