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It’s that time of year when Filipino families spend precious moment with their departed loved ones in their respective final resting place, to offer prayers and lay food – Biko, being the most popular native delicacy for this occasion – on the grave, a tradition and a symbolism believed to satisfy the dead’s cravings for prayers and remembrance by their living.

Biko, the star of the All Souls’ Day feast.

Kalag-kalag as we call it in  Cebuano, Undas in Tagalog, Dia de los Muertos in Spanish (seen the movie Coco ?) or All Souls’ Day in English is a yearly commemoration and honoring of all the faithful departed. It falls on the second day of November for the Roman Catholic world. Other faith across the world also hold a celebration similiar to All Souls’ Day once a year. Like in Japan, Obon is held every 13th to 15th day of August. This celebration gives the Japanese families an opportunity to huddle together over servings of Sushi and Osaki in their homes, after visiting their dead’s grave.

A cemetery in Saitama Ken, Japan. Photo taken August 2015

November 2, 2018

So today I woke up unusually early. I reside quite a spitting distance away from a public cemetery where my grand parents and some relatives were laid to eternal rest. I just took a sip of hot coffee, grabbed my camera and headed out for a walk to see my dearly departed folks before the sun could go crazy hot. I don’t know if I was just too early down the road, but there was a notably light traffic as compared to yesterday’s. Dapper PNP and RTA personnel were already stationed at strategic points to maintain the security and smooth flow of traffic along Bulua Highway. Did I mention that Barangay Bulua is home to four real estates for the dead? Thus a heavier volume of vehicles plying this highway during Halloween, All Saints’ and Souls’ Days.

Flower vendors would be the first fixtures to greet you outside these samang, Cebuano term for cemetery. In the Philippines, All Souls’ Day is the second season of the year where flowers’ prices would go double or even triple. Valentine’s Day in February being the first.  Your haggling skills would be put to test on these months, though.


First Stop: Bulua Cemetery.  In case you would notice some photos are in black and white monochromes. Sunlight cast slightly a few degrees above Earth’s horizon, gives a spectacular play of light and shade on any subject. Lines, shapes, plus good light always create a beautiful black and white photo.

My beloved grandparents’ final resting place. Not a day goes by without me wishing they were given longer time on this world. Especially my grandpa who was taken away so young, taken away without warning.

Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them May they rest in peace. Amen.

After saying a little prayer for them and telling them stories about my current life (I do believe they can hear and see me), I went to my second itinerary for the day.

Second Stop: Greenhills Memorial Park

I don’t know which of these old interment sites in Bulua came the first to serve the Christian communities on this part of the city. My grandfather, Francisco, was laid to rest in Bulua Public Cemetery in 1984. I was only 3 then. I remember as a kid, after each visit to Tatay Peping’s grave we would take a quick stroll to a more serene and quiet memorial park for the city’s affluent families, just across the road from Bulua Public Cemetery. Hectares of trees and beautiful landscape make this real estate a perfect place for meditation and reflection with a departed loved one in mind and heart.

That’s me or… my shadow. Visiting a dear aunt’s and grand mother’s final resting place. They’re badly missed as well.

Obviously the sun was going almighty this time.  And my empty stomach started to murmur. So I went my way back home. More PNP personnel and Oro Rescue crew were stationed ouside Greenhills Memorial Park (  also spotted were AFP men in uniform, in the vicinity too).  Kudos to these gentlemen and women for keeping the public safe and secured all the time.

Today turned out to be huge team effort between the people, the vendors, the Church, and all men and women in uniform to make this day a significant celebration in honor of our loved ones who went ahead of us.

I’m way over scaring the heck out of people with role-playing the dead and funny costumes and make-ups. Coming of age, All Saints’ and Souls’ Days for me mean a profound time for reflection and prayers.  That we are all bound to return to dust. And before that final moment comes, that we must all be able to fulfill the purpose of this life we are given here on Earth.

– Tom Udasco




Kalag-Kalag 2018

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