Undas is a Filipino fiesta

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

By Elfren S. Cruz/The Philippine Star – For Filipino Catholics, the proper day to visit the graves of their deceased loved ones is actually on Nov. 2 which is All Souls’ Day. This is supposed to be a day of mourning for the dead. There should be no parties or merrymaking on that day.

On Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints’ Day. In the Philippines the term for this day is Undas. There are different stories of the origin of this Tagalog word. The story I like best is that the word undas is derived from the Spanish word honra meaning respect. In this context, the word refers to “respect for the dead.”

Certain aspects of celebrating these two days have changed. However, the core celebration has remained the same. In the October-November 1941 issue of the Cenacle Missionary, there was an article on how this Filipino custom was celebrated.

“An old Christian custom bids us to visit the graves of our dead on All Souls’ Day or even already on the afternoon of All Saints’ Day. In Manila, this day is celebrated, yes even very solemnly, with oriental gaiety and colorful bustle seemingly quite irreverent and improper to occidental minds. On All Saints’ Day special traffic regulations have to be put in force on the streets and lanes leading to the cemeteries.

Early in the afternoon the migration to the cemeteries already begins, but the main traffic sets in the evening after sunset, and continues throughout the entire night. The Filipinos are holding their vigil of the dead. “To be sure, they do not pray the ecclesiastical nocturnes. They provide themselves with food and drink, with cakes and cookies and ice cream, and thus by flickering candlelight, they watch the whole night at the graves of their beloved dead.”

Today, because of the terrible traffic situation, visitors to cemeteries can be seen going to cemeteries days before undas. While many still bring food, the presence of fast food kiosks in cemeteries have become the principal source of food. Finally, candles, along with flowers, mainly serve as decorations for graves and not for lighting.

The durability of this tradition can be attributed to the fact that undas is both a religious and cultural tradition for Filipinos. In his book “Culture and Community in the Philippine Fiesta and Other Celebrations,” Florentino H. Hornedo wrote that celebrations and specialty fiestas endure in this country because “…it is rooted in the communitarian and expressive instincts of human nature…it is a durable venue for Filipino cultures and expressions…and is a symbol of Filipino sense of community.”

Hornedo sees Philippine fiestas as a cultural anchor helping the Filipinos define their national character: “It is to this small community, that is annually recreated by the fiesta that he goes home to renew his identity and sense of belonging – belonging to a home and familial village.”

This seems to be the best explanation why the Filipino goes home every Christmas and Holy Week. The memory of ways of celebrating Catholic feasts is evidence that there is a distinct Filipino culture that serves to bond us all together as one people.

No matter in what corner of the world we may be, we remain truly Filipino.

FULL STORY

Find more like this: Opinion

  • DOH says FDA Philippines to recall blood pressure drugs
  • CHED to hold order removing Filipino as required college subject
  • Filipino musical ‘Marco Polo’ ends successful preview run in Berlin
  • Balangiga bells expected to begin journey to the Philippines after Nov. 14
  • Duterte signs Filipino Sign Language into law
  • Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

    Entertainment

  • Filipino musical ‘Marco Polo’ ends successful preview run in Berlin
  • Pinoy graphic novel ‘Trese’ coming to Netflix
  • Singer Rico Puno dead at 65
  • Filipino singer Marcelito Pomoy to guest on Ellen Show
  • Cassette Store Day debuts in Philippines on October 13
  • MORE...

    Features

  • Showcase of PH culture, heritage
  • US and Philippines: Friends, Partners, and Allies
  • A Transgender Paradox, and Platform, in the Philippines
  • The Box That Brings Christmas to the Philippines
  • ‘Pinoy Aquaman’ swims 23 kilometers for peace in Mindanao
  • MORE...

    Tourism

  • Philippines island Boracay reopens for test run following huge cleanup
  • Philippines closes ‘cesspool’ tourist island of Boracay
  • Boracay Set to Ban Tourists for Six Months During Island ‘Rehabilitation’
  • Boracay: the good, bad and ugly sides to Philippine island for tourists
  • El Nido to impose daily visitor limits in 3 iconic tourist sites
  • MORE...

    Sports

  • Pinoy gymnast Carlo Yulo earns historic qualification in worlds
  • Finding a way to bring the NBA to the Philippines
  • First Filipino table tennis Olympian Ian “Yanyan” Lariba dies at 23
  • Skateboarder Margielyn Didal wins 4th gold for Philippines
  • Asian Games gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz receives Air Force promotion
  • MORE...

    OFW News

  • DOLE suspends OFW deployment to Kuwait
  • Some OFWs turn to vlogging to beat loneliness, share life abroad
  • Overseas Filipino Bank to serve immigrants, workers
  • The ‘bagong bayani’ of the Philippines
  • Which countries pay OFWs the highest?
  • MORE...

    Environment

  • Boracay Set to Ban Tourists for Six Months During Island ‘Rehabilitation’
  • Boracay: the good, bad and ugly sides to Philippine island for tourists
  • Luzon has greatest concentration of unique mammals
  • Mindanao plants 3M trees in an hour, challenges world record
  • Fighting for sharks in the Philippines
  • MORE...

    Pinoy Places
    and Faces