All cultures celebrate the passing of a loved one in different ways dependent upon their traditions, religion, and country of origin. The Republic of the Philippines, for example, has a very rich and complex history that has led to most Filipino people having strong Catholic roots. As a result, many of their traditions are very similar to what we are familiar with here in predominantly christian North America. If you want to know what to expect at many Filipino funerals, keep reading...
Catholic Filipinos will hold a wake that typically lasts three to five days - enough time for distant relatives to come to pay their final respects. Some wakes last a full week.
During this time, the deceased loved one is usually placed in a casket inside their home. Mourners will come and go to say their goodbyes, leaving behind little mementos like flowers or candles. Many people will donate money to the family in the aftermath of a significant loss. This is called Abuloy and is done as a gesture of goodwill and also to help offset some of the significant costs associated with the funeral and burial.
During the night-time hours, family members often take shifts to ensure that the deceased is never left alone. However, rather than being somber, these sittings are seen as an opportunity to celebrate the life of their friend or family member and these late-night hours are typically filled with wonderful conversation, singing, music, games, and food.
On the day of the funeral, the casket is removed from the home and transported to the church in a hearse. You can then expect a typical Catholic service complete with hymns, prayers, and Scripture readings. When the ceremony itself is over, the hearse transports the casket to the cemetery for burial.
Overall, the customs are very similar to those found in other Catholic communities in North America. However, there tends to be exceptionally large turnouts for Filipino funerals because death is viewed as an extremely significant event and loved ones from all over the world make it a priority to attend the service.
In the nine days following the death, Filipinos who were close to the deceased will say the rosary each day. This period of time is referred to as the novena. When they reach the end of the nine days, they mark the occasion with a celebratory meal. The rosary is repeated again forty days after the death and again at one year following the passing of their loved one.
While it is customary to wear dark clothes to the funeral, many Filipino families will choose to continue to wear black to demonstrate their grief. They may wear all black, tie a black ribbon around their arm, or wear a black pin to symbolize their mourning. Many do this for roughly six weeks following the passing of their loved one. If particularly close with the individual who died, they may choose to wear black clothes for up to a year.
It’s true that the majority of the Philippines is Catholic but that does not mean that all Filipino people will have a Catholic funeral. Filipinos of other religions tend to do things differently than the ways we mentioned above.
For example, a Muslim Filipino would not have a seven-day wake because they customarily bury the body within 24 hours of the passing. Also, some religions prefer to wear white instead of the customary black funeral attire.
Most funerary traditions are based on the religion of the deceased. Although predominantly Catholic, there are a lot of variations among the numerous Filipino funeral traditions. This guide, however, should give you a good idea of what to expect.