Its pagan origin notwithstanding, it has evolved into a primary religious event of Christendom, with all the diverse forms of rituals and pageantry in different countries.
Most of the western countries observe the day in sheer simplicity of visiting the graves, bringing flowers to the tombs and praying in silence.
The Mexicans have a festive mode highlighted with a procession on major streets of the town.
The Americans originated the “trick or treat” flavor for the kids in the neighborhood which tradition spread to other countries through the years.
What was supposed to be a solemn day of remembering the dearly departed has for years transformed into something more than an event of solemnity and silence dedicated in prayers and memories of the dead.
For as long as we can remember, Piyesta Minatay (the vernacular term used by Ilonggos for All Souls’ Day) has always been observed by most Filipinos every November 1st instead of the following day. The first day is supposed to be dedicated to the saints of the Roman Catholic religion, but for still unexplained reasons has since been marked when families converge on the place where their loved ones have been laid to rest.
The day, which has always been a public holiday, transforms into a reunion of sorts for relatives and friends. In some instances, the graveyards become picnic grounds of tables loaded with food.
In the years passed before they were banned, loudspeakers blurted out sounds from all directions.
The lighted candles and bouquets on top of the niches were overwhelmed by the activities of the living ones.
Going with the throng to the cemeteries on this day is a tradition that reminds the living of an obligation not to forget. How a departed is loved or treated by his family can best be summed on how his niche or epitaph appears on the day of the Piyesta Minatay. Most of these graveyards would have freshly trimmed grass coverings, newly painted gravestones, lighted candles and fresh flowers placed carefully on the site. A few graves, however, lay untouched, left unattended and not a single evidence of anyone to have visited for quite a time.
Piyesta Minatay refreshes the feeling of a family member or a friend to be in front of the graveyard of someone who has left fond memories in life. Keeping the tradition of coming over, even for just this day, is a fulfillment to most, like performing an obligation of keeping up with a promise to remember. As the old Pashtun proverb states: “You are not dead unless you are forgotten!”
We have been used to marking the first and second day of November to spend most of our time in the place where the mortal remains of loved ones are laid to rest. This year, we have to accept the fact that part of our tradition will have to be broken because of the epidemic. After all, the dearly departed remains in our thoughts and hearts, and that is the real essence of this very special day./WDJ