Being a colony of Spain for 333 years, Filipinos adopted many of their traditions. One of which is locally known today as “Undas” - derived from the Spanish word “honrar” meaning “to honor.” It is a day the departed loved ones are honored and solemnly celebrated between November 1 and 2. The 1st of November each year is also known as All Saints Day and the 2nd day is known as All Souls Day.
All Saints Day originated from the Catholic tradition of honoring a large number of martyrs and other saints who could not be accorded the honor of a special festival since the days of the year would not suffice for all these celebrations. While All Souls Day became the official day for the commemoration of “all the faithful departed” beginning in the 14th century because the Catholic church acknowledged the need and duty of praying for the “souls” of the dead.
Many years after the tradition’s humble beginning, the Philippine Government declared both or either of these days, depending on the President’s declaration, as non-working holidays making it a peak season for traveling because many Filipinos come home to their hometowns to be with their family members so they can all go to the cemetery together and visit their departed loved ones. On these days, cemeteries are usually full of families gathering around the tombs with candles lighted on top of the gravestone as well as some beautiful flowers. Families usually stay for a few hours to pray, eat, reminisce about the good life of their dead loved ones, and also to catch up among themselves. It is a uniquely Filipino way of having a picnic for a cause.
However, this year will be different because of the pandemic. Based on the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) Resolution No. 72, all private and public cemeteries, memorial parks and columbaria will be closed to visitors from October 29, 2020, to November 4, 2020. They will only be allowed to visit the cemeteries before October 29 and after November 4 but the number of visitors shall be limited to a maximum of 30 percent of the venue’s capacity and everyone is expected to follow basic health protocols like the wearing of face masks and face shields and social distancing is mandatory.
Many feel sad when they do not get to do what has been a yearly tradition for most families. But many felt that it was just a rightful decision of the government to help everyone keep safe and hope to see the number of active and new COVID-19 cases lowering down each day. After all, families can pray for their departed loved ones in their own homes. 2020 taught everyone that many things can actually be achieved right in the comfort of your own home.
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