Its that time of the year when the usually deserted memorial gardens and cemeteries (or you could say "land of the dead"), come alive with festivities.
Todos los Santos, or "All Saints' Day", is probably on the top three most visibly celebrated holidays in the Philippines. The other two would be Christmas (and we have a very long celebration of this starting September!), and the Holy Week (although nowadays a lot of folks seem to consider the Holy Week as the perfect time to go to the beach, rather than actual observe it).
I had the chance to go home to the province for this year's All Saints' Day. I can't remember the last time I went home specifically for this holiday. I remembered when I was I kid we'd go to the graves days before November 1 to help clean and paint the tombs. All round people would be busy with the same things. The amount of weeds we'd have to cut and clean away is an indication of how frequent we visit the graves: once or twice a year. Some people would even have a hard time finding their relatives' graves, as tall weeds and grasses have already completely covered the plots.
Nowadays we have the memorial gardens, well maintained and with well manicured gardens. Its more like a park, a park dotted with tomb stones. Our park (and I mean where my long gone love ones are) is on a rolling hill overlooking the town.
The sky was clear that night and the air was cool, probably because of the altitude where the "park" is. It was obvious that a lot of folks have been busy since morning: tents have been setup, beautiful flowers on each tombstone, there was even some families who brought projectors for movie marathon. Its going to be an "all-nighter" alright.
The mood was festive, yet "controlled", at least in where we are. Kids running around, not too loud music, and food all around. In every Filipino holiday, overflowing food is a must! Every where you go friends would grab you and ask you to sample that they brought. The initial greeting is always "have you eaten already?".
My kids loved this night. I think kids love any night when they are actually asked to go out and play some more instead of being asked to hit the sack.
As for me, it was a great time to shoot around, meet friends and relatives you would normally just see during the holidays. It was a reunion of sorts, both the living and the long gone.
The sky was clear and the stars are out. Burned out candles would be replaced, and every now and then someone would release night lanterns into the air. The night was so bright I could imagine how beautiful it must have looked from heaven.