Top 10 Activities Pinoys Love to Do During Undas
It’s that time of the year again, when spirits are said to roam the earth and people huddle together and tell each other horror stories come nighttime. No, we’re not talking about Halloween, although it’s an occasion that comes around at about the same time. We’re talking about Undas, that time of the year when millions of Filipinos flock to the cemeteries to pay their respects to their departed relatives.
We Filipinos have just started celebrating Halloween (a typically Western tradition) in recent years. But we also have our own older tradition that we take part in a day after Halloween on October 31: Undas, which we commemorate on November 1 to 2. Such an occasion is in celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, both Christian festivals that are in commemoration of all Christians saints and souls that have departed from this earth. Undas, which is also called Todos los Santos, has a lot in similarity with Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos. On this occasion, we offer prayers and flowers and light candles to the souls of our departed loved ones. Here are the top 10 practices that we engage in during Undas and that are uniquely Pinoy:
10 Things Pinoys Love to Do During Undas
1. Visit the cemetery.
Undas is the time when the crowds come out, and they all converge at the one spot that’s particularly popular at this time: the cemetery. But they’re not just there to visit the graves of their departed loved ones; they’ll also meet up with friends and relatives (the living and breathing kind, of course) and walk the side roads of the cemetery like their own runway.
2. Dress up to the nines during undas.
Speaking of runway, Undas is also the time when people, for some reason, dress up in their best clothes or costumes. Some dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes, while others opt for more lowkey but fashionable styles.
3. Offer atang (food and drink) to loved ones who have passed away.
Mothers and titas are also especially busy at this time of year as they cook the favorite food and drinks of their departed family members and bring them to their graves or to a special altar at home that’s been set up for them.
4. Eat a lot of food and drink with relatives and friends.
The food and drinks prepared by the mothers and titas are not just for the dead; they’re also there for the family members and visitors to partake in and enjoy. Alcohol is usually prohibited in cemeteries, but that doesn’t stop people from sneaking in their favorite liquor and having fun, lighthearted drinking sessions with friends and relatives. The sidewalks also feature stalls that sell all sorts of snacks, refreshments, street food, candles, flowers, and even toys for the little ones.
5. Scare each other with stories of ghosts and ghouls.
This is one element that Undas has in similarity with Halloween—telling scary stories. Families gather and scare each other with tales about white ladies, ghosts, headless priests, disembodied voices, aswangs, manananggals, kapres, and other paranormal experiences. Often, these tales are often ones the listeners have heard of before countless times, but that doesn’t lessen their terrifying impact in any way.
6. Have a spontaneous mini-concert during undas.
Filipinos, being the musical creatures they are, will always find a reason to engage in on-the-spot mini-concerts, like birthdays, graduations, family get-togethers, and the like. Even the solemnity of the Undas is no exception to this tendency as some people take this time to bring out their rented videoke machines and sing to their hearts’ content.
7. Light candles and put them on doorsteps or outside homes.
This is another practice wherein one candle is lit for each departed relative’s soul and placed outside of the house or right on the doorstep. It is the common belief that this practice will light the way for the souls of the dead on their spiritual journey after death.
8. Watch Undas TV specials.
Any Filipino family’s commemoration of Undas wasn’t complete without watching the annual Magandang Gabi Bayan Undas special, where host Noli de Castro would regale viewers with local ghost stories that made the flesh creep and the hair on one’s neck and arms stand up. Nowadays, our Undas habits include watching marathons of scary movies and TV shows and the annual Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho annual horror special.
9. Hold sleepovers in the cemetery.
In the Western part of the world, it would be unthinkable to camp out in a cemetery overnight, unless you were on an actual ghost hunting expedition. Here in the Philippines, it’s been a tradition to spend an entire day in cemeteries and even sleep overnight in it until the next day. Some families bring actual tents, and others sleep atop their loved ones’ graves without thinking anything of it.
10. Play with melted candle wax.
Everyone has done this: take a lighted candle and scoop up the melted wax and play with it like it’s Play-Doh. It was always so much fun playing with the wax and letting it dry on your fingers or making a big ball out of it; of course, you had to wait a bit to let the wax slightly cool.