I was surprised to hear reports from tri-media particularly broadcast media, aggressively promoting Halloween related activities in the Philippines. Even in my social media pages, with mostly “Filipinos” in the friends list were like having fun with their Halloween parties and trick-or-treating during the Halloween eve. Likewise, in the residential area where my temp place stands at the moment, resident families with kids in tow have observed the said festivity, decorating their houses with spooky characters, wearing their chosen costumes, and knocking on door-to-door asking for treats. It was actually fun to see them excited to win the best Halloween character for the night!
However, a big question mark was hovering above my head. Do Halloween celebrations have really become increasingly common to all Filipinos?
When I went abroad, Halloween celebrations in the Philippines were not as rampant as now. Only the kids and teens in posh villages and subdivisions were agog about these fun-filled activity. But now, I was amazed to see Halloween decors in mall stores and children accompanied by their guardians roaming around the mall, hopping in and out from one store to another, and hoping that their Halloween pumpkin treat bags or buckets be filled with goodies. However, this was in a grand shopping mall. I would surmise other malls would have this kind of commercial and marketing displays as well. How about in other regular neighborhood/streets in Metro Manila? How about in the provinces? Are these activities likewise happening?
Some people have noted that Halloween celebrations and trick-or-treat activities are obviously not a customary practice or a tradition in the Philippines unlike in the United States or in Europe, specifically Ireland (the birthplace of Halloween) where the said activity are traditionally known and observed. Filipino migrants in these countries, especially in North America (NYC and Canada) have somehow adapted to their present societies and environment and this is understandable. Here are some photos of kins and friends based in NYC and Canada. Look at these cute cheeky thrillers! Lj in her regal princess vampire attire, Prince Piel in his garden gnome costume, Lady princess Rachel in her cat woman get-up and cuties Jacob and his lil bro’ Gavin in their animal inspired fashion trend! Oh, yes it was the first treat and trick gigs for Lj and Piel and I’m sure there will be more!
Oh yes, I remember…. and 5 years thereafter, the fun still remains! Such nice and warm people!
In the Philippines, it is customary for family members to prepare for their annual visits to the cemetery to pay respect for their departed loved ones. Filipinos’ strong ties and relationship are just one of the reasons, among others. Normally, few days before November 1 (All Saints Day) and 2 (All Souls Day), Filipinos would clean or refurbish the mausoleums or graves in preparation for their visits. Others would opt to go to church, attend mass or merely stay at home and offer prayers in memory of those who passed on. For majority of the Filipinos, this event is called: “Araw ng Mga Patay, or Piesta ng Mga Patay, or Undas, or Todos Los Santos.
While remembering and visiting the graves of departed loved ones call for a somber mood, it turns out to be a happy occasion for some of the families. Apart from flowers and candles, others would bring tents, food, water, chairs, pillows, blankets and other things they need for a 1 or 2-day stay at the mausoleums and graves of their loved ones. The said gathering is like a family reunion to them as they get to see other relatives whom they have not seen for quite a while who happened to pass by the grave and pay respect. This kind of activity is something unique to Filipinos. As others would naughtily say, “Only in the Philippines”!
There is nothing wrong with the Western influence on us about the modern way of Halloween celebrations if only for fun sake. However, I prefer the old school way of commemorating November 1, to honor the saints and November 2 for the dead. I liked what our priest said yesterday, that November 1 and 2 are not scary days. He suggested that instead of wearing spooky costumes, perhaps the kids can represent and wear their favorite Saint’s attire. In so doing, the parents shall be able to share their Catholic Christian faith to their children. Just like this photo below which was sourced from the CBCP news media. Don’t these kids look great and holy?
November 1 and 2 used to be official holidays in the Philippines. However this year, the present administration declared November 2 as a regular working day. I hope it’s not the Western influence which made them decide to do this! In the U.S., November 1 and 2 are not federal public holidays.
Indeed, November 1 and 2 are a big deal for majority of the Filipinos. Praying for departed loved ones and visiting them in their burial places once in a blue moon are something memorable at the same time an obligation to them. To most of them, there is that guilt feeling when they fail to visit their loved ones who have gone ahead of them. As such, All Souls Day should remain a public holiday so everyone is given the chance to do their usual thing. You see, not every one can afford to go to the cemetery in advance and be absent from their work with no pay. So, please bring back November 2 to where it used to be, as in the past decades.
While Halloween festivity is now becoming a norm in the Philippines, it should be noted that November 1 and 2 are not originally meant for this. The reasons cited above are most meaningful and relevant for us Filipinos, ever!
Happy All Saints and All Souls Day lovely peeps!