October 27, 2018

Expat’s Guide to Filipino Undas Season

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  • Filipinos may not be big on celebrating Halloween, but they make sure to honor the dead during this time through Undas. Undas is the Filipino term of celebrating both All Saints’ Day on November 1st and All Souls’ Day on November 2nd. It is the time when the departed loved ones are honored and remembered.

    There is no definite rule on how Undas is celebrated in the Philippines, but here are a few things Filipinos usually do to commemorate the deceased during the season.

    Also read: Halloween in the Philippines

    Going back home

    Preparation for Undas often starts a few days before the holiday. Since November 1 and 2 are declared as non-working holidays, people use it to go back to their hometowns and provinces. Those who do often buy and reserve tickets ahead of time as seats sell out fast during this time.

    And since people are going back to their hometowns to visit their departed, heavy traffic is expected as major roads are congested with vehicles and bus stations are brimming with passengers all-day. 

    One thing you should take note with Filipinos celebrating Undas is that going home often turns into a reunion of some sort for families and relatives.

    Also read: Holiday Rush 2018: Things You Should Know About the Craze in the Metro

    Preparing a simple feast

    As with most Filipino traditions, Undas season often involves food. Family members not only cook meals for relatives who are coming back home, but they also prepare food that would be shared during the visit to the cemetery.

    Aside from the usual snacks like sandwiches, rice, and viands that do not spoil easily, Filipinos also bring their favorite kakanin or Filipino rice snacks in the cemetery as most prefer to spend hours or even stay overnight. 

    Another thing you should expect with Filipino cemeteries are the street foods, stalls, lighting sticks, balloons etc. that goes around the whole place.

    Also read: Get to Know Filipino ‘Merienda’ Food

    Cleaning up the graves

    Most graves are cleaned and tended to a few days before Undas starts. Cemetery caretakers are often asked to cut and plant grass around the graves or to repaint the gravestones of the departed. 

    Offerings to the dead

    If there’s one more place that is the busiest during the Undas season it is the Dangwa or the famous Flower Market in Manila. Aside from providing an array of flower shops, the famous market allows for the cheapest flower buys in the Metro. These flowers are offered to the deceased, together with the candles.

    Aside from flowers and candles, some families commemorate the dead by preparing their favorite food and offering it on their graves. They also do prayer offerings and prayer brigade during Undas and as for Catholics, mass intentions are usually done for the souls of their departed.

    Visiting the departed

    Some families start going to cemeteries as early as October 31 to avoid the throng of people during the actual Undas. Along with them are the foods and snacks, tables, chairs, and mats they’ve prepared as well as candles and flowers for the graves. 

    Some families who want to spend more time with their departed loved ones opt to stay the night in the cemetery. They often set up camping tents to shelter them for the night. This is also another reason why some families bring a lot of food to the cemetery.

    Lighting candles on the doorsteps

    For the graves of the departed that are too far to visit, some families commemorate them by lighting up candles in front of their doorsteps. Some who do not have the time to visit the cemetery also do this instead. 

    Also read: How Filipinos Celebrate All Souls’ Day

    How about you? How do you celebrate the day of the dead? Let us know in the comments below!

               
               
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