Cultural beliefs and traditions

Even in these modern times, a lot has not changed in the way the Filipinos carry out traditional funeral practices and burial customs. It has already been more than 300 years but the majority of the indigenous beliefs concerning death and the practices around it is still being followed in the country.

Respect for the dead

Filipinos, who are mostly Christians, believe in the afterlife. As a people, they take respecting and paying homage to their dead very seriously.

Funeral wakes

Funeral wakes (called “lamay”) are generally held from 3 to 7 days, sometimes extending up to 2 weeks. Wakes are usually held in the home with the coffin placed in the most spacious part of the house, usually the living room. A black piece of cloth is hung at the door or window or fence to signify bereavement. It is during the wake that relatives and friends come together and pay their last respect to the dead and condole with the family. Family members also accept cash donations (called “abuloy”) during this time.

Wakes are actually vigils. Warm drinks and biscuits are served throughout, and to pass the time and to keep people awake, card games are played near or outside the vigil area. Gambling is actually allowed, with the players paying / donating a sum to the wake’s donation box.

It is customary that all immediate members of the dead are present before the burial, hence the extended wakes, as it is common for Filipino households that one or two or a number of family members are working either abroad or in a far-away place, and will need to make plans to come home to attend the burial.

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On the funeral day (called the “libing”), the coffin is loaded into a hearse or carried by family members in a slow procession. First towards the church for the dead to be blessed by a priest and later to the final resting ground, the public cemetery. Friends and family will follow after the transported coffin all throughout the funeral march. Family members will be dressed in black. While friends and / or family members who are not in black will pin on their clothes, a black mourning pin. All throughout, clothes with shades or prints of the color red are discouraged, even disallowed, during this time to be worn by friends and family members.  

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Post-funeral activities

After the entombment, the family members offer prayers (such as praying the rosary) for the dead every evening and for nine days, a custom known as the “pasiyam” The ninth day of praying concludes the ritual, and is usually celebrated with a formal meal with family, relatives, and friends. The ninth day is believed to be the day when the soul of the departed relative finally leaves the world of the living and moves on to the “other side”.

All Saints Day and All Souls Day

Filipinos pay respect, honor and remember their dead on All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). The grave sites are cleaned and visited by family members, relatives and friends on these special dates. Candles, flowers and even food are laid on the graves as offerings.