If you aren’t Filipino, you would find wakes and funerals in the Philippines a bit weird.
When you think about death, an image of sad and crying people would probably pop up in your mind. You might also picture them all in black and reserved in stature (if they aren’t bawling).
The case isn’t the same in the Philippines though. Here, wakes are enjoyed by most visitors. If you ask a Filipino how their funerals are like, you’d probably get a same trend of answers.
Without further ado, here are some pretty common things that Filipinos share in their funerals:
Games — when you arrive at a funeral home, you’re sure to find a group of people all in a bunch laughing if not serious as hell in playing card games. Usually, it would be a lighthearted game among kids. But when you see the teens and adults playing, money will be, more ofthen than not, involved. Games vary from mahjong, Uno, traditional card games and the like. Funeral gambling sessions range from a few stacks of coins to countless crumpled cash scattered all over the table. You might be thinking how disrespectful this is to the dead, but strangely enough, it’s kind of a normal thing.
Coffee — it is an absolute essential at any Filipino funeral. Here, watching over the dead at all times is a highly valued practice. Family members of the deceased are seen exhausted as they take turns in sleeping shifts. This does not apply to just the nuclear family members. The extended family is also more likely to be present. Funerals become more of a family reunion as they commemorate the deceased’s life over coffee and long hours of both night and day.
Guests staying overnight — if you think that non-family members are not allowed to stay the night, you’re wrong. Somehow, there would always be visitors that would spend the night with the family. The ones who were close to the dead or to the dead’s family are understandably grieving for/with them. However, there’s almost always at least one person who isn’t close with the family or the dead or that no one knows at all. People just choose to let them stay because they might have been close to the dead somehow.
Alcohol — this one involves a group of titos (uncles) that get together near the funeral home if not in the actual funeral home. The reason for this usually varies for everyone. A common reason is grief. Another, is merriment. It may be weird, but it actually happens.
Biscuits and candies — Filipinos will surely recognize those biscuit cannisters that look like buckets or pales. Inside, one will find different sorts of biscuits. The family passes these around in plates along with candies and juice packets.
Beliefs and superstitions — death, like many other cultures, is usually tied with a lot of beliefs and superstitions. An example of these are how members of the family are not allowed to sweep because of the belief that it would cause a series of deaths in their lineage.
Serving food — if you think that all you’d get are biscuits and candies, think again! Filipino families serve actual meals during wakes and funerals. This also depends on the family’s financial budget. Some serve full course meals, while others can only afford bowls of hot sopas (macaroni soup)
Nightly prayer services — being in a country dominated by Catholicism, most Filipino families hold prayer services every night of the wake. This ties more into one’s religious roots than it being a norm. But then again, even the most “unreligious” families tend to hold prayer services too. This just shows how Filipinos want to send loved ones away with peace in their hearts. Peace that even though they may have not lived a religious life, that somehow they would be with the light in their afterlife.
The common things in Filipino funerals showcase how its culture values family and how the Filipinos are very welcoming in general. This also may not encapsulate how ALL Filipino families do it, but it’s safe to say that this is how it works for most.
Commemorating one’s life during their wake and their funeral may not be the same for all of us. Some may do it the Filipino way or the however-they-want-to-do it way, but I guess the main point is that the deceased’s life would be the center point of it all. After all, if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be eating those biscuits and drinking that coffee.