Cemeteries packed as millions honour dead in Philippines

Cemeteries packed as millions honour dead in Philippines

PHILIPPINES - Millions of Filipinos filled cemeteries across the country on Friday, All Saints' Day, to honour their dead in typically festive fashion despite appeals from the Catholic Church to keep the day solemn.

Police in Metro Manila went on full alert, though the yearly observance was peaceful, with no untoward incidents being reported.

There was heavy security as well at seaports and airports, with many residents of major cities rushing to get home to their villages in the provinces in time for "day of the dead" commemorations.

The Christian tradition dates back to the ancient practice in Rome, which honors all saints and martyrs who died for the faith. All Souls' Day, the day after, is often when those wanting to avoid the crowds of All Saints' Day visit the cemeteries to pay their respects.

But while the day of the dead is supposed to be solemn, Filipinos use it to plan family gatherings at the tombs, where drinking and even open-air karaoke singing sessions are held.

Family reunions

"It's like an annual family reunion to remember our departed loved ones," said 34-year-old housewife Mary Jane Mendoza, who went to the packed public cemetery in Barangka, Marikina City, to visit the tomb of her baby, who died last year from pulmonary illness.

"We've packed enough for a picnic for the whole day," she said, as she and her four other children struggled through a maze of narrow pathways in the cemetery.

The Catholic Church discourages partying on what is supposed to be a solemn day, but Filipinos tend to make a fiesta out of any occasion.

In Manila on Thursday, the Church praised a Halloween parade of children dressed as saints and angels.

But in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte province in the country's far north, the annual "Iloca-locano" Halloween festival, with a parade of vampires, witches, fantasy and action characters, went through despite rains brought by Typhoon "Vinta."

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