Celebrating Christmas Day at the Cemetery – with a lot of other people too.

I know I had a curt Christmas greeting last time. Pambawi lang ito. Do not wonder if I seem like Christmas stuck. Officially I am not, at least in the Philippines. Here we celebrate Christmas for like two months. Say around the last week of November to around first week of January marked by the feast of the Baptism of Christ. Concerning December, I was preoccupied with making greeting cards, thinking of gifts to buy and remembering people alive and dead. Yes dead. For five years now we have been celebrating Christmas without Papa. Since his death we have been going to Loyola Cemetery in Marikina to visit his grave on Christmas Day. “Queer” did not come to my mind for the odd mix of Christmas and cemetery – aaawwwoooohhhh – it only sounds queer when verbalized.

These past years of visits always surprised me. Who would have thought of bringing their families to the cemetery for Christmas!? But this has been customary to so many Filipinos – as I happily discovered.  It was just that, in my family’s case, we did not have reasons to go to the cemetery until Papa passed away. Now, we join this happy lot in subverting the meaning of death on Christmas day. Birth and death go together. You will die. I will die. Merry Christmas! What more can you ask for? Anyway, death has been the sterling issue of the human race even before feminism and LGBT groupies stormed the streets. Death is a big deal alright.

To go back. During Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus, a God who chose to be born as man. As a man he will die. I think it simply points to us the fact of our basic condition, and for us to learn to wholeheartedly accept it. Now, everything pertaining to Christ’s manhood died, his body and all. But since he remains a God, he remained alive, that is why he was able to descend into “hell” to liberate some souls who were faithful to God throughout their lives. This illustrates why death has no power over him. He was still working 24/7 after he died on the cross. A way of putting it would be that his being God brought his dead humanity back to life on the third day. I am no theologian so pardon if I have not digested this reality very well. But I think you get my point. So that was what we did. On Christmas day my family and I went to the cemetery. It does not seem so odd as it sounds. In the cemetery some families pitched tent as in All Souls Day. Others simply dropped by to lay down flowers and pray.

To our right a group of women were praying the rosary and toward end they said their petition for their dead, “Gabayan po ninyo ang aming (ama or ina) Panginoon.” In a lighter tone the one leading the prayer added, “At kami naman po biyayaan ninyo ng masaganang buhay, magandang kalusugan at maging maayos ang mga trabaho namin.”  After they made the sign of the Cross they laughed. “Ikaw ha dumagdag ka pa sa dasal,” said one. In our case we prayed the rosary, said Merry Christmas to Papa – we miss him terribly – and went home.

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