Sunday, November 2, 2008


On Nov. 1, the dead come alive in the Philippines, so to speak. It's that only time of year when graveyards overflow with candles and flowers and thousands of people set up mats and tens right next to where their beloved departed are lying six feet under. Yesterday, Pa, I and Frits went, despite the drizzle, to see the spectacle of whole families visiting their dead. After an eat-all dinner at Buffet Palace, we left mama in the car and walked to where everyone was heading. 

It was like fiesta indeed. Vendors of all ages selling halloween trinkets that blinked red, green, white, orange in the dark. We chuckled at how one family had set up a tent where everyone huddled under blankets, watching TV. Gezellig. Perceptive Frits noticed, of course, how the rich had their graves inside airconditioned marble houses. "That's something for emperors!" Frits said. Funny observation. He wanted to take a picture pa in front of one structure but we had forgotten the camera. 

Last time I went to Pista Minatay was with Timoer and I remember Eminem was blaring in the chapel shouting f*** obscenities. Nobody seemed to mind. Disco music. Lotsa beer. People playing cards, laughing out loud, praying, eating lechon right in the cemetery! Surreal.

This year's Pista Minatay was less noisy. (A pity.) The guards at the entrance frisked everyone and told Frits to get rid of his cigaret. (Maayo nalang.) What was really funny was that Frits still wanted to go dancing afterwards. It had been two months since he last went kuno. Katawanan. I told him that in da Pilipins, no one goes to the bars on Nov. 1. Everyone spends the night at the graves. It's a weird custom but I like it. Spending one night in the year sleeping beside the dead is, well, typically Filipino. Just like it's typically Filipino to say say yes without nodding your head but raising your eyebrows instead, pointing with your mouth, smiling back at strangers, or striking up a conversation with the person sitting beside you in the jeepney. 

That's why I love living in the Philippines. Despite everything.

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