November 1 and 2 are occasions for celebrations in our parishes. Usually we call it under one heading - the fiesta minatay. Actually these are two different celebrations - one of which is the feast of all the saints in heaven (November 1) and the other is the commemoration of the faithful departed (November 2). The former is a solemnity where we praise God for the glory he has accorded to all believers. And the latter is a prayerful remembrance of our beloved dead who await their admittance in the company of the blessed. It is not a fiesta as most of us call it and in fact celebrate it. Rather it is a somber prayerful remembering of the faithful departed who are in purgatory celebrated with the sacrifice of the Mass, alms-giving and other works of piety.
Remembering our dead in our culture goes through a lot of elaborate rituals. We have the all night vigils during the wake. We have the nine day novena for a dead child which is ended with a celebration. For the older ones, we have 27 days of continuous prayers (3 novenas) and is ended with a celebration. The first death anniversary is ended with the bungkag lalaw, which literally means the removal of the clothes for mourning which is accompanied by still another celebration. Besides these days of prayer, there are other practices connected with it from the manner we cook our food to the way we groom ourselves and the dead man’s home.
For many of us these rituals have lost their meaning and has become empty practices done for the sole reason that they have been done before. For the well-educated these practices have become so stifling to the point of becoming superstitious and has lost its moorings in our fast modern world. And so with the absence of meaning, practices foreign to the idea of giving our final respect for the dead has gained ground. For many the wake has become a kind of entertainment to while away our time in gambling. Prayers have become too impersonal with paid pray-ers and priests saying a litany of masses sometimes several times a day and the proliferation of mass cards (which is an elitist expression of paying other people to pray for you, without the benefit of participating in an act of piety). The traditional clothes of mourning has given way to a more convenient symbols and the feast is celebrated not to end a fast or a period of sacrifice but just for the sake of feasting.
The vigils, however, during the wake is a time for offering sacrifices for our dead, a time for giving up something whether it is sleep, good food, or just any other daily convenience we find worth sacrificing. The vigils and days of novenas are times for prayer and sacrifice where the whole family, relatives or just simply friends participate. Even the clothes we wear in public speak of this personal and communitarian endeavor as it invites others to pray for a beloved departed. All these are however are gone, lost in time and replaced with a culture foreign to our Christian sentiments.
May this issue serve as a reminder that though our relatives and friends die, relationships are never ended. We need each other and our actions affect all, living or dead.