Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Filipino funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Balinese funeral traditions and Madagascar funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
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Religion in the Philippines
According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of the Philippines’ population is Catholic. Therefore, most Filipinos believe in an afterlife and follow Catholic funeral traditions, including a Catholic mass with hymns and prayers.
However, some other Filipino religious groups have their own funeral traditions. For example, Chinese-Filipinos wear white rather than black at funerals, and Muslim Filipinos bury the deceased within 24 hours after their death.
Typically preceding a Filipino funeral is a wake period that lasts anywhere from three to seven days. This way, family members who live far away have time to arrive. The immediate family members don’t usually work during the wake period. The deceased is generally displayed at home in a casket during the wake period. Decorations such as flowers, lights, mementos, and a registry book may surround the casket.
Grieving loved ones come to offer their condolences and sometimes monetary donations as a sign of respect for the family. Family members may take turns staying awake during the night so someone is always awake for the all-night vigils. There are conversations, singing, guitar playing, food and drinks, and card games going on to keep everyone awake.
Filipino Funeral Service
On the day of a Filipino funeral, a hearse takes the casket to the church in a funeral procession. After the funeral service and mass are concluded, a hearse takes the casket to the cemetery for the burial. For nine days after the burial, also known as a novena, mourners say prayers such as the rosary. After novena, the family gathers for a funeral meal to celebrate the deceased’s life. The mourning period typically lasts at least six weeks after the deceased’s death. Mourners often wear a black pin or black clothing to show they’re in mourning.
All Souls’ Day
November 2nd is All Souls’ Day in the Philippines and is a day to pay respects to the dead. All Souls’ Day is different from All Saints’ Day on November 1st, which pays tribute to saints. During this time, family members clean and decorate their loved ones’ gravesites. Some families may also visit the graves on October 31st or November 1st. They may say prayers and leave candles, flowers, food, or other significant items by the gravesites to honor the deceased.