Cemetery Picnic

Filipinos have weird traditions, like having feasts and spending overnights in funerals and celebrating death anniversaries. I don’t know if other countries have them, too, but to me these things are weird—although I enjoy them a lot. Especially the feasting part. I’m always excited about funerals where the hosts prepare delicious banquets and there’s laughter.

Another tradition I find weird, and exciting, is cemetery picnic on All Saints Day. We visit the graves of our departed loved ones and set up tents there and lay out delicious food, pastries and drinks on tables. Plus lots of laughter. Some have extras like pizzas, barbecue and ice cream. Some spend overnights there like they’re having a vacation—the time of their lives.

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We’re a few days before All Saints Day and roads to cemeteries are heavily congested. We went to  visit our parents’ graves yesterday late afternoon and we couldn’t believe the traffic and the vehicles going in and out of Himlayang Pilipino. Moreover, I couldn’t believe the feasts some people were having there! Roasted pork and chicken, roasted beef, grilled fish, barbecues, pastas, delicious native cuisines and rice, snacks galore, finger food, dim sum, spring rolls, cakes and pastries. Cemeteries never smell of death on All Saints. Well, a few years ago there were even blasting sound systems.

And it’s like a carnival as well. You see some kiddie rides, tents, makeshift colorful flower shops, candle shops, costumes, toys, street food, magicians, and some kind of street shows. Plus the tomb cleaners, balot and taho vendors, and street evangelists roaming around.

However, because we came a few days before All Saints Day, the cemetery was not that crowded, although the influx of people were still too many than usual. What more if we had come on November 1 itself, which is All Saints Day?

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We set up our igloo tent at the grave site and placed our food on a neighboring tomb. We had a big birthday cake, special cup cakes and pastries, some junk food and chicharon (super crunchy pork), thick egg and chicken sandwiches, pancit (spicy, dry thin noodles), and drinks. I just had a little bit of pancit, cake and the egg sandwich my dear wife made. We shared lots of stories with each other, jokes, and laughter. The kids played with candles. We were about 20 in all.

Most people in cemeteries pray for their dead. We come there for family bonding, remembering the dead, thanking God for our parents who knew the Lord before they died (and who brought us up well), the picnic, and laughter. If you have received Jesus into your heart, your family doesn’t need to pray for you because your soul goes straight to heaven right after you die, according to the bible. People go to heaven not because of prayers said for them on All Saints or their religion or their church or their good deeds. They go to heaven if they believe, receive and live out wholeheartedly what Jesus did for them.

When it was dark enough we called it a day at the cemetery and had dinner at Baliwag Restaurant (famous for its roasted dishes) along Visayas Avenue where I feasted on vegetables and fresh buko juice. And then we finally went home. I was so tired I just saw some TV talk shows and drifted off to sleep.

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