Filipino Funeral Traditions
Funeral practices and burial customs in the Philippines encompass a wide range of
personal, cultural, and traditional beliefs and practices which Filipinos observe in
relation to bereavement, dying, honoring, respecting, interring, and remembering
their departed loved ones, relatives, and friends. Sources of the various practices
include religious teachings, vestiges of colonialism, and regional variations on these.
In the past and in present times, Filipinos believe in the afterlife and give attention
to respecting and paying homage to dead people Wakes are generally held from 3
to 7 days Provincial wakes are usually held in the home, while city dwellers
typically display their dead at a funeral home. Apart from spreading the news about
someone’s death verbally, obituaries are also published in newspapers. Although
the majority of the Filipino people are Christians, they have retained superstitious
beliefs concerning death.
Other Tribal Customs of the Philippines
Apayao customs also known as the Isnegs or Isnags, of the Cordillera
Administrative Region bury the deceased person under the kitchen area of their
For eight days, the indigenous people from Benguet blindfold the dead and then sit
it on a chair that is placed next to a house’s main entrance. The arms and legs are
held in the sitting position by means of tying. A bangil rite is performed by the
elders on the eve of the funeral, which is a chanted narration of the biography of
the deceased. During interment, the departed is directed towards heaven by hitting
bamboo sticks together.
Some rural area residents in Cavite use of trees as burial places. The dying person
chooses the tree beforehand, then when it becomes evident that person is going to
die soon, either through sickness or old age, a hut is constructed close to the
chosen tree. When that person dies, they is entombed vertically inside the hollowed-
out tree trunk.
Filipinos in the Ilocos regions of the Philippines also have their own funeral and
burial traditions, known as the pompon or "burial rites". An example would be how
a dead husband is prepared by the wife for the wake, known in Ilocano as the
bagongon. Typically, only the wife will cloth the corpse, believing that the spirit of
the spouse can convey messages through her. Placement of the coffin is also
important, which is to be at the center of the home and must be corresponding to
the planks of the floorboards. Lighting a wooden log in front of the house is also
customary because the smoke assists the spirit of the dead towards heaven. This
log is kept in flames during the wake to repel wicked spirits. The ceremonial attire
of the female family members for the vigil is clothing with black coloration. Their
heads and shoulder area are shrouded with a black handkerchief known as the
Burial superstitions of the Ilocano people include closing all windows first before
taking the casket out of the home, preventing any part of the coffin to hit any part
of the dwelling (to prevent the spirit of the dead from loitering to bring forth
dilemmas to the household; to some Filipinos, a coffin hitting any object during a
funeral means that another person will soon die, and washing the hairs of family
members with a shampoo known as gogo (to remove the influence of the spirit of
the departed). rice cakes and basi to attendees after each prayer offering session.
On the ninth night, a feast is held after the praying or novena. They will again
recite prayers and a feast after one year.
The Ilongot is buried in a sitting position, and if a woman, has her hands tied to her
feet, to prevent her "ghost" from roaming.
The Itnegs of Abra have a customary habit of burying their dead under their
One of the ancient customs for burying the dead in the Philippines is through the
use of burial jars known as Manunggul jars. These ancient potteries were found in
the Manunggul Cave at the island of Palawan. A characteristic of the jars for the
dead is the presence of anthropomorphic human figures on the pot covers. These
figures embody souls riding a boat for the dead while seafaring towards their
sanctuary in the afterlife. These containers have been dated to be from 710 BC to
890 BC. There are also figures of boating people steering paddles, wearing
headbands, jaw-bands, and persons with hands folded across the chest area. The
latter is a method of arranging the remains of the dead
The Bilaan people of Mindanao wrap their dead inside tree barks. Being enveloped
as such, the dead person's body is then suspended from treetops.
Superstitions in Davao City include cutting rosaries that are placed within the hands
of the departed (to sever the possibility of having a series of deaths), placement of
a chick on the coffin during wakes, preventing teardrops from reaching coffins (in
case of brutal deaths), breaking plates prior to taking the coffin out of any edifice,
making children walk under a hoisted coffin before loading the latter into the
hearse, and smoking feet with smoke coming from burning dried leaves or paper
when leaving the burial ground.
Elements of other Filipino superstitious beliefs entail the involvement of the sudden
appearances of certain animals, particularly those that are black in color. Examples
are the following: the appearance of a lingering black-colored butterfly around an
individual is taken to indicate that a next of kin of that person died; the sighting of a
black-hued cat by an ill individual heading toward a hospital would mean that he or
she may not survive his or her disease; the detection of an owl near the home of a
sick individual signifies imminent death for that person.
Funerals in the Philippines
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Christian Filipinos customarily remember, honor, and pay respect to the dead on
All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). The grave sites are
cleaned, visited, and adorned by family members, relatives and friends on the eve
of November 1, to stay at the cemetery, to light candles, to pray, to lay flowers,
and bring food for the consumption of the attendees. Others, like the Ilocano’s,
offer food for the dead. Some children habitually gather candle wax during this
time for the purpose of play or reselling to candle makers.
Asian Funeral Traditions
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