Filipinos flock to cemeteries ahead of All Saints’ Day close



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Thousands of people flocked to cemeteries in the predominantly Catholic Philippines on Thursday for their last chance to visit deceased loved ones before the government-ordered nationwide cemeteries closed for All Saints’ Day.

Filipinos typically flock to cemeteries on November 1 for the ancient Christian tradition, with many holding family reunions at the graves of relatives.

But for the second year in a row, the government has ordered cemeteries closed for fear that “Day of the Dead” could turn into a super-spreading coronavirus event.

An official count shows more than 60,000 people have flocked to Manila’s sprawling north cemetery in recent days, where many poor people live in slums and mausoleums.

After passing a temperature check, relatives placed small bouquets of white flowers and lit candles on the graves – then left.

Hours before the doors were locked on Thursday, Eloisa Sebastian visited the grave of her 60-year-old mother, Erly, who died suddenly in April.

Flower vendors wait for customers near a Manila cemetery Ted ALJIBE AFP

“We ran to her whenever we had problems so it’s hard to accept (she left),” Sebastian told AFP.

“I still cry almost every day, even at work.”

The main cemeteries in Manila are usually crowded on All Saints’ Day – a tradition dating back centuries to the ancient practice in Rome, which honors all saints and martyrs who have died for the faith.

But the mood was calm and gloomy Thursday with relatively few visitors.

Flower seller Bebe Fernandez told AFP her sales fell this year.

“People don’t have money because of this pandemic,” said Fernandez, whose bouquets cost 35 pesos (70 cents) each.

Covid-19 restrictions have devastated the economy and thrown millions of people out of work during the pandemic, which has seen more than 2.7 million people infected and more than 42,000 killed.

Family visits relative's grave before cemetery closes
Family visits relative’s grave before cemetery closes Ted ALJIBE AFP

In the cemetery’s pets section, Zia Garcia and her mother cleaned the gravestone of their mixed Pomeranian-Shih Tzu Queenie dog, who died in February.

Flowers and candles were placed on the plaque engraved with the epitaph “We Love You Forever”.

She was “like my sister because I’m an only child,” said Garcia, 23, wearing a mask and face shield.

“It’s really sad because we grew up together – my best friend and sister don’t exist anymore.”

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