Saturday, November 9, 2013
Dust to Dust
Undas, the local translation of "Day of the Dead" (Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day that run from the eve of October 31 to Nov. 2 and are declared pubic holidays), is a festival that is both religious and a cultural practice in the Philippines.
It is a time of gaiety and family gatherings in cemeteries all over the land. In the same way that Christmas and Holy Week are times for going home, Undas builds horrific traffic snarls on all roads leading to cemeteries.
If I were an active participant of this practice, I'd need not a day (with the bumper-to-bumper thoroughfares) but a week to visit all the cemeteries where my loved ones are buried—in Manila and the provinces.
But I believe that those who bade us good-bye and left earth are no longer in the plots where we laid them to rest. That's why I do not leave home on Undas. My siblings make time to meet up and visit our parents' tombs in the province, and Tony drives 50 kilometers to Holy Cross to visit our Adrian's plot—not on that exact day but thereabouts.
This year, he planned on going again and I planned on staying home. But two days before Undas, we both had to attend a planning meeting for our clan reunion in a home close to Holy Cross. He decided to drive to the memorial park early before attending the meeting.
Since he owns the steering wheel, I was totally at his mercy. He left me with no choice but to ride along.
As he does every year, he called a caretaker to cut the grass and scrub the tomb clean. The sun was harsh and the heat was oppressive, but waited we did till the caretaker had finished all her chores.
These shots tell the story of the ritual of remembering: the cleaning time, the waiting time, the surveying time, and the paying time.
What looks like a mother grieving is actually an old lady shielding her eyes from the glare.
I cannot speak for Tony but for me, although Adrian will forever remain in my middle, Grace has taken away my grief; in its place came peace and understanding that someday I will see my son again in that great beyond where he and I, and all our loved ones buried in all cemeteries combined, will meet for the grand reunion.
Cemeteries remind us that our mortal bodies, created from dust, will return to dust. "All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return." Ecclesiastes 3:20 (NIV)
Then all believers in the saving grace of Jesus will be given glorified bodies to live with Him for ever and ever. ". . . and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:7