Ask any Filipino what the three main family holidays in the country are, and they’ll tell you: Holy Week, Christmas/New Year… and All Saints’ Day. After the Halloween festivities are over, Filipinos all over the country are either making plans to go out of town or go back to their provinces to visit their dearly departed in time for Undas. Being the intensely filial people that Filipinos are, this means there will inevitably be a family reunion.
This doesn’t mean the entire point of the ‘holiday’ is forgotten. What sets Undas apart is how it has led Filipino families who stay overnight to turn cemeteries into camping sites: the likes of Manila Memorial Park or North Cemetery become Lunetas for the day, where you can see kids playing, families jamming to music or uncles telling jokes and random stories.
With so many people to see, logistics to plan and even food to cook, a lot of important things are overlooked by those who are in charge of making sure the family plans push through. It’s important to note them down for a more meaningful (and relatively painless) Undas gathering with the entire clan.
Buy your flowers and book grave cleaners way in advance
As Undas is pretty much a national holiday, flowers for the dearly departed and cleaning services for graves are in demand. It doesn’t seem right to not do these things when you go to the cemetery, and it would be a great idea to secure these weeks before. Unless of course, you’d want to clean the graves on your own but that would take time too, and it might be hard to do once the cemeteries start to fill up. It won’t hurt to have it done earlier.
Load up on insect repellent
For most of the year, besides the immediate days before and after Undas, cemeteries are free of large crowds and are only regularly maintained by staff and those who visit loved ones sporadically. It’s a pretty safe bet that stagnant water can be found around the area, which is the favourite breeding ground of mosquitoes and other insects.
Take note: insect repellent is not just for little kids. It’s equally important for adults to protect themselves from insect bites to lower the risk of diseases such as dengue. It won’t hurt to ensure that you don’t get sick after such meaningful time with your family.
Follow a ‘buddy’ system especially if you will be with toddlers and little kids
Filipino extended families are rarely small in number, and family reunions in the cemetery mean there will be a LOT of people. It is so easy to lose little kids especially if they continue to run around while playing with their cousins. Make sure they continuously check where the other is, similar to the ‘buddy system’ teachers use when they take their class on field trips. The stress that a missing kid will cause any family can ruin a reunion, and maybe even impact nearby groups.
Cook food that is not easily spoiled
Unless there is a way for you to bring a refrigerator to the cemetery (not very likely), it’s not just ideal but a MUST for you to bring food that will not easily spoil, such as adobo, barbeque, and oil-based pasta. There is also a tradition of bringing the deceased loved one’s favourite food. If it’s something that is easily spoiled, consume that first and stick to the ‘safe’ food for the rest of your time in the cemetery. For sure, there will be establishments and food stalls within the cemetery but the lines will be long. Having your own stash is more convenient, and it’s also more affordable and practical.
Undas in the Philippines is almost like a fiesta, but with a more somber and prayerful tone. Preparing accordingly can make the holiday more fun and stress-free, which is why it’s best to start early and have the entire family pitch in.