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Remembering Halloween in the Philippines

By Chris A, Quilpa

Happy Halloween, everyone! Trick or treaters, are your Halloween costumes ready? Be safe out there and have fun, when you go house to house with your parents or guardians.

Front porches, yards and houses are decorated with seasonal flags, carved pumpkins, jack-o’-lanterns and creative Halloween decorations.

I imagine there will be kids in their Power Ranger, Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, police, firefighter or princess attire. Some will be dressed up in just casual clothes with a mask, and with their plastic or canvas bags on hand, hopeful for assorted goodies. Some will be dressed as ugly, scary beasts, vampire-like creatures or witches.

Kids will be going door to door around the neighborhood, escorted by parents or guardians, greeting homeowners with a shout of “Trick or treat!”

By the way, Halloween tradition came to North America from Ireland more than a century ago. Today, it has become a big industry, from Hollywood movies to the aisles of the nearest discount or grocery chain stores.

Kids of all ages, even young teens and adults, still get a kick out of the cheap thrill of a good ghost story or a horror movie this time of year. This is just an indication that fear is a part of life.

It’s normal, I believe, to be afraid or fearful sometimes, and it’s OK to have fun with that fear sometimes. Yes, we do celebrate and capitalize on the “ugly” and “scary” part in us.

Meanwhile, in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, where I was born, Filipinos don’t have this Halloween event for children. Instead, they go to public cemeteries and clean the tombs or graves of their beloved dead the last week of October. They prepare the cemeteries to be visited, and tombs are freshly painted.

For all Catholics, Nov. 1 is All Saints’ Day (a holy day of obligation), and Nov. 2 is All Souls’ Day (the commemoration of all the faithful departed), which are declared non-working holidays in the Philippines. Public and private schools and colleges are closed. College students in big cities, like Manila and Baguio City, go home to their provinces to pay respect to their dead.

Besides paying homage to their deceased loved ones, Filipino Catholics also honor the Catholic Church’s saints. They believe saints like St. Anthony, St. Anne and St. Mother Teresa inspire and guide them in their daily lives. Whenever they pray, they ask for their favorite saint’s intercession, so their prayers become meaningful, and they hope their prayers and hopeful wishes will be granted.

In the Philippines, people go to cemeteries in late afternoon or early evening and light candles at the tombs, while offering flowers or wreaths and prayers. In other parts of the country, townsfolk even offer food to and for their dead.

Mass for the dead is also said and celebrated by a town priest or pastor, who then blesses and sprinkles holy water on the graves.

The two-day events also offer a great opportunity for townsfolk to interact with their friends and families who may have been away from the community for a time. Thus, public cemeteries serve as a venue for annual faith, family and community gatherings and fellowship.

To all Catholics worldwide, my wishes for a Happy All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. And to all kids in all of us, have a safe and fun Halloween!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.