At the start of October, while many in other parts of the world prepare for Halloween, we prepare for the observance of All Saints’ Day on November 1.
Catholic churches begin issuing prayer lists for our departed relatives and loved ones. This is a practice that evolved from offering masses or prayers for our departed loved ones. This was done verbally to the priest who used to go around the cemetery in our town when I was a child.
Those in the list are included in the daily masses for November.
I used to fill this out with my mother dictating the names of our dead relatives. Aside from my father and grandparents on both my father’s and mother’s side, she made sure my auntie, her sister who died unmarried and my uncle, my father’s brother who died a bachelor, were included. She said they were both single and didn’t have families/children of their own so we must make sure that they were remembered.
Now that my mother has passed away, I’m continuing the mass offering. The firs time I wrote her name, I was teary eyed. Memories flooded my mind. I was pensive. I thought about mortality, how fragile life is, and the inevitability of death and change. And I said a prayer:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Traditionally, we don’t celebrate Halloween. We celebrate All Saints’ Day on November 1 and and All Souls’ Day on November 2. On All Saints’ Day, we go to the cemetery and visit the tombs of departed relatives or friends , light candles, offer prayers for them and bring flowers . We also go to church or offer masses for the dead.
On All Souls’ Day, we go to church and those who were not able to go to the cemetery the day before do so on this day. There are those who visit the cemetery a few days before or after All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to avoid the large crowds as these days are usually big reunions for families and friends. It’s a celebration for the living.
Slowly, because of the internet, movies and social media, Halloween has been observed in malls initially, then themes for parties and TV shows and lately in some villages. But even with the concept of Halloween creeping into our tradition, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are still days for remembering our departed loved ones.
However, there were traditions that have been forgotten through the passage of time.
All Saints’ Day, in addition to the visit to the cemetery, which is still observed today, was celebrated with “pangangaluluwa,” very much like caroling. I remember the songs sung then. The more popular one had these lyrics:
Kami po’y kaluluwang tambing
Sa purgatoryo nanggaling
Ang gawa po namin doon
Araw, gabi’y manalangin
Sa tapat ng durungawan
Ginigising ang may bahay
Di ba ninyo natatalos
Na ngayo’y Todos los Santos
At humihingi ng limos
Kung kami po’y lilimusan
Dali-daliin po lamang
At baka kami’y pagsarhan
Ng pinto ng kalangitan
There was another one which was mellower and more melancholic, with a slower tempo.
Kung gabi ng mga kaluluwa
Tayo’y nagdarasal para sa kanila
Hinahandugan ng mga bulaklak
Ipinagdarasal sa magdamag
The song was followed by a greeting “Magandang gabipo!” Or “Nangangaluluwa po.”
My parents also told us kids then the All Saints’ Day tradition in their youth, which already disappeared during our time. But they had mixed reactions, a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of gratitude. It was a night for pranks. There was that neighbor who left clothes in the clothesline overnight and found them at the town plaza the next morning. Then there was a town mate whose chicken in the yard was found hitched in the neighbor’s yard.
This year however will always be remembered as the year that we were not able to celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day as we have traditionally done because of restrictions imposed due to COVID 19. Many were willing to celebrate within the restrictions and went on designated days starting Mid October ,following health protocols but on November 1, super typhoon Rolly (international name Goni) landed and totally killed the celebration of the day for the dead.
The portion on past traditions on All Saints’ Day was a part of the author’s article published inPanorama, The Manila Bulletin Sunday Magazine.