MANILA - Millions across the Philippines visited cemeteries Thursday to pay respects to their dead, in an annual tradition that combines Catholic religious rites with the country's penchant for festivity.
At Manila's Loyola Memorial Park, one of the city's biggest private cemeteries, families had camped overnight, pitched up tents and brought in food for a day-long All Saint's Day picnic by the graves and tombs of their dead.
In crowded public cemeteries elsewhere across the city of 15 million, police confiscated alcoholic beverages and banned gambling to maintain peace and order.
Hundreds of medics and volunteers also set up field clinics to provide medical assistance. Radio reports said many had fainted due to the extreme heat in densely packed cemeteries.
"This occasion serves as our family reunion," said Fely de Leon, a retired 80-year-old businesswoman as she laid out an assortment of food on small tables around the plots of her late father and brother.
"We will be here for the rest of the day, and we expect more or less 30 family members to arrive."
Nearby, loud music blared from a portable karaoke machine - singing is a national past time - as a family ignored appeals from the Catholic church to keep the occasion solemn.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) meanwhile warned the public against fake priests roaming the cemeteries and reciting prayers for unsuspecting families in exchange for monetary donations.
And for millions of Catholic Filipinos overseas who could not come home to visit their dead, the CBCP said it had put up a special portal (www.undasonline.com) where they could log on and request special prayers and masses.
The site also offers podcasts on the significance and liturgical meanings of All Saint's Day, it said.