8 Things Filipinos Do on All Souls' Day

8 Things Filipinos Do on All Souls' Day

8 Things Filipinos Do on All Souls' Day

Every November, Filipinos can take a short break from work or studies and stream to the provinces for All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day, collectively known as Undas. This yearly tradition has grown its own set of practices amidst all the whispered prayers and bent candles. Some of these traditions are now engraved in many Filipinos’ childhood memories (most likely including yours). For the sake of nostalgia, here are 8 interesting things Filipinos usually do during Undas.

8 Common Filipino Practices on All Souls’ Day

1. Visiting Departed Loved Ones
Most vehicles won’t be able to squeeze through the cemetery entrance because it’s either too narrow or too crowded. You’ll probably have to get down and continue on foot at some point. At the same time, though, you can count on your family to find their way to every single deceased relative’s headstone. In fact, you may have gone with them so many times that you’ve come to memorize the series of turns leading to, say, your great-great-grandfather’s tomb. It only makes sense that this has become an unfailing tradition, however. If your family won’t light a candle in memory of those who have gone ahead, who will?

2. Going Home to the Province
Bus terminals and airports might just rival cemeteries when it comes to Undas crowds. Everyone’s set on heading to their hometowns for the back-to-back holidays, which sometimes even form a long weekend. We hope you’ve bought your travel tickets in advance! You may also want to get armfuls of pasalubong ready for the folks at home.

3. Preparing Late Relatives’ Favorite Dishes
Don’t be surprised if you see servings of late relatives’ favorite food lying around the house. Known as atang, this practice stems from the belief that if you prepare some of Lola’s favorite sopas or a helping of the tokwa’t baboy your uncle so loved, they’ll be able to dig into their comfort food in the afterlife. You can place the offering at the relative’s grave or in their favorite spot at home.

4. Catching Up With the Rest of the Family
Mama and the titas will probably be up early on November 1 to prepare party-sized portions of biko and spaghetti. After all, you’ll be sharing these dishes with not just one or two uncles but with the whole family, in-laws and balikbayans included. Regardless if it will be done in the privacy of the family mausoleum, tents, or even on picnic blankets spread on a loved one’s tomb, it’s your chance to catch up with relatives you haven’t seen for long.

5. Sharing Horror Stories
Have you picked up the story about the white lady that roams your elementary school after sundown? Or do you have the latest issues of True Philippine Ghost Stories? Gather round and see who can deliver the most chills. It’s the time of the year when people ‘crave’ for horror stories ‘til they can no longer stand them--just try not to make your baby cousins cry.

6. Lighting Candles at the Doorstep
Unable to visit the cemetery? Another familiar sight during undas is the lighting of candles at the doorsteps of homes when the clock strikes 6pm. The number of candles usually represent the family members who already passed away. This tradition is symbolic as it has been told that the light of the candles will serve as guide for loved-ones who might be visiting places they frequent when they were still alive. Others believe that it will also help your late relatives walk along brighter roads in the next life.

7. Playing with Melted Candle Wax
Ever tried dipping your fingertip into the hot liquid wax next to a burning wick? What about dipping all five of your fingertips? Other Filipino kids prefer stripping off the slightly cooler wax from the sides of candles and shaping them into balls. While old folks warn against playing with candles, kids and kids-at-heart have found a way to kill time while in the cemetery by creating wax balls, in between praying and eating.

8. Watching Horror Movies
Turn on the TV once you get home, and you’ll find horror specials on your favorite local channels. With enough channel surfing, it would also be easy to find showings of Feng Shui, Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara, or those Magandang Gabi, Bayan specials that made your hair stand on end when you were younger. Call your cousins and grab the popcorn!

All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day may be worldwide occasions, but practices like these make Undas uniquely Filipino. You might remember this list while lighting candles for your great-grandparents this year. Don’t be shy to laugh about it with your loved ones!

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