Filipino Christian Burial Customs
Help & Guidance
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When a person dies in the Philippines, Christian Filipinos – such as Catholics – generally hold a wake known as lamay or paglalamay, a vigil that typically lasts for five to seven nights, but may last longer if the surviving family is waiting for someone who will be traveling from afar. During this time, the cleaned and embalmed body of the dead, placed in a coffin, is displayed at the house of deceased or at a funeral home. The exhibited casket of the departed is traditionally surrounded by funeral lights, a guest registry book, a contribution box, and flowers. Family members, relatives, and acquaintances participate in the vigil. Apart from offering condolences, the participants, guests, and viewers of the departed provide financial donations (the abuloy) to help defray funeral and burial cost. Food and warm drinks are customarily served during the nightly vigil. Typical activities conducted outside or near the vigil area include singing, guitar playing, and gambling – such as playing card games – to pass the time and to keep awake.
It is conventional that concerned visitors ask the surviving family members how the deceased died, if he or she suffered during his or her illness or last moments, or how much the hospital expenses were. Such personal questions convey valid affection and concern from the vigil partakers. Other people also customarily offer mass, novenas, and prayers for the benefit of the deceased.
On funeral day, the coffin is generally loaded into a hearse or carried by family members, relatives, and friends in a procession towards the church and the cemetery. Other members of the family, relatives, and friends will follow after the transported coffin during the funeral march. Catholic funerals involve the celebration of the mass, while Protestant funerals include singing of hymns and recitation of prayers, particularly by a preacher.
The representative color of attires for the memorial service and interment is normally black. However if white clothing is preferred, it is customary to sport a black mourning pin at the chest area.
After the entombment of the departed, Christian Filipinos, particularly the Catholics, offer prayers such as praying the rosary – for the dead every evening and for nine days, a custom known as the pasiyam or pagsisiyam (literally, “to execute for nine days”). This nine-day prayer service concludes on the last night with a novena and a formal meal with family, relatives, and friends. Such a concluding rite on the ninth day is performed because Filipinos believe that this is the day when the soul of the departed relative moves on from the world of the living. The bereavement period does not normally end with this ritual, instead extending for a period of one year. During this time, the family will still express their mourning by not holding personal or family celebrations and other communal activities. Although, it is very common to conduct an additional evening of prayer forty days after the nine-day period, then again, on the one-year anniversary of the departed.