Years ago, celebrating Halloween in the Philippines was just an amusing idea— it’s not part of our culture, and the tradition of Undas (All Saints Day) is well-established. Today, a lot of Filipino families with their children frolic around malls and offices, doing trick-or-treats, while the rest continue to visit the cemeteries.
And meanwhile, a small population of us seems to just not care for both. Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
A lot of Christians criticize those who celebrate Halloween, and I won’t argue with them. A lot of Christians also criticize those who still keep the Undas tradition, and I won’t argue with them, either.
On Halloween, I look around at parents and siblings parading their costumed children, having so much fun and creating new memories. Sure, we do a lot of things without really understanding why we do it at all. And in a lot of cases, that’s a cause for worry. And for all the rave about Halloween opening opportunities for devil-worship (which, in my observation, is exaggerated; nowadays, the Halloween is more pop culture cosplay than actual horror stuff), the actual evil I can confirm is the proven danger of tooth decay and diabetes.
On Undas, I look around at parents and siblings parading their best-dressed children, meeting up relatives and sharing old memories. It’s not so much about actually praying about the dead; our own family would usually just clean up the grave, repaint the tombstone, light up some candles, then just talk all night about stories of the deceased family members while eating up whatever meals everyone brought. It’s a reunion— but more sentimental. We get to hear quotes we never heard before, embarrassing anecdotes and hilarious escapades and family secrets you don’t usually talk about (especially on Christmas).
Some people choose to celebrate the day by remembering those who are gone. Some people choose to celebrate the day by remembering those who are still around. And the rest of us are stuck in between. Or not.
You see, the bigger danger, the real tragedy, isn’t in the supposed evils but in our supposed good.
We all have graves, both on the fertile ground of our family’s cemetery plots as well as on the barren soil of our own hearts.
Pity not the graves of the forgotten, but those who forgot.
As we spend the rest of the day, whether it be for remembering the departed or for appreciating those who stayed, light up a candle: not just a physical one, but more. A candle that draws people together, and inspire. A candle that draws hearts together, and reminds. A candle that draws the lost to be found, those in darkness into light, and those in tears towards gladness.
And as a local joke would go, “Mabuti pa ang multo, nagpaparamdam.” (At least ghosts make their presence felt, unlike some people.)
Don’t wait until you’re just a ghost (of yourself) for your presence to be felt in someone else’s life.
And don’t forget to always be ready with something sweet, be it candies or a smile, in case someone decides to drop by.