Funeral Customs: Philippine Funerals

Posted by Coakley Hilton on Mon, Jul 23, 2012

philipine wake

In the past and present times, Filipinos believe in the afterlife and give special attention to respecting and paying homage to the dead. Wakes are generally held for 3 to 7 days because of this. Although the majority of the people are Christians, they have also retained some traditional indigenous beliefs concerning death.

When someone dies a wake is held either at a person’s home or at a funeral parlor. During this time the embalmed body of the dead is placed in a coffin and displayed. The exhibited casket is traditionally surrounded by funeral lights, a guest registry book, a contribution box and flowers. Participants, guests, and viewers are expected to provide financial donations to help defray funeral and burial costs. Food and warm drinks are customarily served during the night vigils. It is not uncommon for those holding night vigils to sing, play instruments or play card games to pass the time and keep awake. 

On the day of the burial itself, the coffin is generally loaded into a hearse or carried by family members in a procession towards the church and cemetery with other family and friends following in a funeral march either by car or walking. 

After the entombment of the deceased many families hold evening prayers for the departed every evening for nine days. This nine-day service concludes on the ninth day with a novena and formal meal with family, relatives and friends. The Filipinos believe that ritual on the ninth day is performed because this is the day when the sould of the departed moves on from the world of the living.

The bereavement period extends for a period of one year. During this time the family will not hold personal or family celebrations nor partake of other communal activities.

Elements of Filipino superstitious beliefs surround death and dying. This includes the sudden appearances of certain animals, particularly those that are black in color. The appearance of a black-colored butterfly indicates that a next-of-kin of that person died. A black cat by an ill person heading toward a hospital would mean that he or she may not survive. An owl near the home of a sick individual signals imminent death for that person. More superstitions include not allowing family member to leave the home of the deceased until used utensils have been washed, consuming sour fruits in the evenings, avoiding taking photographs with three persons together and lifting children related to the deceased over caskets before the entombment to hinder the ghost of the dead relative from visiting the children after death.

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