Undas is a major holiday that we observed as the “All Souls Day” (Nov. 2) in the Philippines.  It is celebrated along with All Saints Day (Nov. 1).  It is a Catholic tradition that was adapted from ancient Mexican rituals of honoring departed loved ones (um, I think).

During the Undas, families and clans reunite.  They go home to their respective hometowns or regions, clean and repaint the tombs of deceased relatives, and cook up a simple feast (usually kakanin or glutinous rice delicacies like biko) to take with them to the cemeteries. Families would have picnics by the graves or tombs, offer flowers or food, play cards, camp out, eat and pray.  On the downside, there would be lots of traffic jams along major highways and naturally, plenty of headaches and occasional petty traffic spats and squabbles.

Offering flowers, lit candles and prayers for Mommy (Oct. 30, 2008):


Picnicking on the memorial park grounds at night and watching out for shooting stars together with Sis, Doc, Pchi, Paw, Levic, and Lolo Daddy.

Traditional holiday food: Biko prepared at home, made from glutinous rice, sugar, and coconut milk:

I remember when we go to the memorial park way back in the 80’s to visit mama.  There were a lot more people back then.  There was generally a festive atmosphere at that time.  There were food stalls all around and many families would stay for hours and hours or set up huge tents on the grass so that they could camp overnight.

Now, I have noticed that the number of people visiting the park during the Undas have dwindled down considerably during the past years.  Or that if they do visit, they will stay for a short time, and then leave.  Or some visit ahead of time (like what we did) so as to avoid the traffic hassles and headaches.  Times are changing, I guess but I am pretty sure the tradition will continue to live on…  After all Undas is all about remembering.  As an Irish blessing goes: “May you never forget what is worth remembering nor ever remember what is best forgotten.” Nobody wants to be forgotten so let’s hope we all live a life that is worth remembering… Have a Safe and Happy Undas, Pinoys!

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