Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Burial
05 December, 2006


Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu - recalling events from a month ago.
Previous Post: Home Service



I woke up at dawn with what could very well be the whole of Santa already milling about my grandparents' place. They were being served tea, coffee, biscuits, and pandesal (breakfast bread), by the househelps and volunteers - who in between making sure the guests were comfortable, were already preparing a post-burial feast.

I put on the only black long-sleeved dress shirt, and the only non blue jeans that I managed to pack.

The funeral procession was going to depart no sooner than 0700. First stop, the Santa Parish Church for a final service. And then, Santa's cemetery, where Lola will be placed right beside Lolo.

Outside a horse-drawn carriage was already awaiting the white metal casket containing Lola's remains.

A few more moments later, the band that was going to lead the whole procession arrived and began playing the loudest, most off-key, musical rendition of funeral procession-worthy ballads.

During a lull in their performance, I requested a theme from the Godfather movie, "Speak Softly Love". Despite the absence of strings, and despite their terrible rendition of other songs, the strictly wind and percussion band made this one sound relatively alright.

All this - the food being served, the loud band playing music, and all the people socializing - made me feel as if I were in a fiesta as opposed to a funeral.

And I rather liked it. Just me I guess. I mean, if I were the one lying in a casket, I wouldn't want to see anyone cry over me - I'd want them to have a grand time. Serve them good food. Play loud music to them. Make them feel great when they see me off so that they may associate my departure with a festive atmosphere.

But then Tito Pete pulled me aside and remarked, "Is ALL this needed?"

He continued: "I don't think that my mother needs all this to gain entry to heaven. A loud off-key band, a fancy carriage - none of these are necessary. Aren't her good deeds enough?"

He continued by telling me how for his late wife, my Tita Grace, he had the simplest and most solemn of gatherings.

He finished by saying, "I told my sister, your mother, about this and she replied, 'That's the tradition!'. But to heck with tradition I say. It's time we looked at these things and see how ridiculous it is to have a party at a funeral."

I wanted to disagree with him. I wanted to tell him that, I think, funerals are more for the living than for the dead. And if those still alive wish to honour whoever it is who has died in any way they wanted to, then so be it - if it eases their mourning that way, then so be it.

Instead, I just said, "We think alike".

A lie? Nay. An omission.

I thought the very same thing, but on a different occasion.

That day he questioned the need for a feast and a band. The day before I questioned the need to say prayers from a script monotonously and repetitively - as if all that was needed to convince God to take in Lola. Also, at the same time, I respect where he's coming from. Being the eldest son, he just wanted quiet reflection and silent prayers for his Mother.


The procession from the house to the Church went without any incident - save for the confusion on when everyone was going to mount the vehicles to save them from walking the full distance (about 5 km). The service was, again, in the Ilocano dialect.

From the Church, it was just another kilometer or so to the cemetery.

This cemetery is no exclusive 'Memorial Garden' of sorts - it is instead, just the town cemetery - but it has to have one of the most beautiful views ever. To the east the mountains serve as a tombstone for everyone who has it as a final resting place. And to the west the sea and its secrets disappear into the horizon

After returning to the house, while everyone enjoyed the lunch feast provided, I snapped this photo in the mango orchard just behind the house.



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Next Post: Goodbye Santa


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