Burial Practices: The Journey from Life to Afterlife
by [Joy F. Pavico]
Early Filipinos carefully embalmed their dead with herbs and perfume before wrapping the corpse in a clean blanket and placing it in a wooden coffin. Jewelry, weapons, gold, clothes, food, and other objects believed to be of value to the deceased in the afterlife accompanied the coffin.
It was believed that if the dead left the world rich, he would be welcomed warmly in the next world. But if he died poor, he would be received coldly.
When a datu died, a slave was usually buried with him to row his master’s boat into the new life. The datu’s people showed their sorrow by holding their spears head down during the period of mourning. Mourners refrained from eating meat but instead subsisted on camote and soft rice.
Tree trunk burials were practiced by the Manobos and their neighboring ethnic minorities in Mindanao. Trees were hollowed out to create space for the dead; the opeNing was then sealed with tree resin and turpentine.
Urn burials were practiced by the early Ifugaos as well as the Manobos. The dead were placed in a sitting position inside jars. Up to the present, most Filipinos observe certain burial practices. The dead is professionally embalmed and placed in a coffin.
In rural areas, the body is brought to the church for blessing. Interment is usually scheduled for 3:00 p.m. to coincide with the hour of Christ’s crucifixion. A band precedes the coffin during the funeral march while the immediate members of the family walk behind the hearse to escort the dead to the cemetery.
In urban areas where the cemeteries or memorial parks are far, the funeral procession is replaced by a slow-moving motorcade with the car of the family following the hearse.
The female relatives of the deceased wear either black or white while the male relatives wear a black band around their upper arm to show their sorrow.
The dead usually clasps a rosary in his folded hand. Before the coffin is placed into its niche, the coffin is opened for the immediate members of the family to view their loved one for the last time. Sometimes, they kiss the coffin’s glass window in farewell. The rosary is broken to prevent another death in the family. At night, the small children are made to wear something red so that the spirit of the dead will not come to haunt them.
A nine-day novena is usually prayed for the eternal repose of the deceased. On the fortieth day after the death, a mass is held followed by a celebration. It is believed that by this time, the soul would have been cleansed in purgatory and is now reunited with the Lord just as Christ ascended into heaven forty days after His death.
Source: Students’ Philippine Almanac, p. 486 (Posted with permission from Filway Marketing, Inc.)