Health Measures Push Filipinos to Visit Graves Early for All Souls’ Day

Jojo Riñoza
Dagupan, Philippines
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A statue of an angel stands guard as people pay respect to their loved ones at a Catholic cemetery in Dagupan city, Philippines, Oct. 27, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A woman shields herself from the sun as she prays for her loved ones ahead of All Souls’ Day, Oct. 27, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


Youths who accepted a payment climb up to place candles on a stacked tomb in the Dagupan cemetery, Oct. 27, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A man lights candles in front of a loved one’s tomb in Dagupan, Oct. 27, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A man clears weeds from around tombs in Dagupan, Oct. 27, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A man walks near “apartments” – tombs stacked on top of and next to each other in the Dagupan cemetery, Oct. 27, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A cemetery worker prepares a marker to be placed on a tomb in the Catholic cemetery, Oct. 27, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]

Filipinos emerged from their homes this week to visit the gravesites of loved ones ahead of Day of the Dead celebrations in Southeast Asia’s largest Roman Catholic-majority country. 

The threat of mass gatherings turning into COVID-19 super-spreader events forced the Philippine government to shut down all private and public cemeteries, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 – dates that encompass All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

On the second of these holy days, Catholics and other Christians pay tribute and pray for their departed ones.

Because they have been barred from visiting cemeteries on those actual days this year, Filipinos instead were urged to visit their dead in small numbers this week.

For some families, the visits were more poignant because loved ones had died since 2020, the year the calamitous outbreak hit the Philippines and other countries around the globe. More than 42,000 Filipinos have died after being infected with COVID-19.  

“My husband died due to injustice,” said Norma Llamas, 56, of Dagupan City, north of Manila.

Her husband died of a lingering chronic kidney disease, Llamas said, but she blamed a lack of medical attention that resulted from the pandemic. 

“We knew it’s fatal, but we could have prolonged his life so he could see our children who were away living in other provinces with their own families. The lockdown gave them a hard time getting travel permits, until my husband died,” she told BenarNews. 

This week, local governments in Dagupan and throughout the Philippines monitored cemetery visits strictly and divided the public into small clusters. 

Before the pandemic struck, graveside visits on All Souls’ Day visits were a time for joy, an occasion for families to reunite.

Now, weeds have overgrown the once well-manicured patches of green between the tombstones, where children used to run and play on Christianity’s holy day of celebration for the dead.


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