Basically, Undras (or “Undas”) is Día de los Muertos for the majority of Filipinos. It’s not as ‘festive’ as its Latin American cousin–no parades, no costumes, no sugar skulls–but it’s certainly one of the busiest times of the year.
Supposedly a corruption of the Spanish honrar (to honour), Undras is both a religio-cultural and secular bank holiday in the Philippines, reserved for honouring one’s dearly departed. Whilst the local Catholic Church has long discouraged the practice of ancestral veneration on a festival ‘supposedly’ dedicated to the Church’s deceased holy men, nobody really cares. The ancestors get both All Saints and All Souls to themselves. My pagan heart rejoices.
A welcoming feast of both Eastern and Western foods for the ancestors and honoured dead on the eve of Undras.
We prepared little paper boats with the names of our departed loved ones and left the offerings to stand by the door. (It’s also customary to leave a lighted candle or lamp for the otherworldly visitors.)
As with Anthestêria and Parentalia, Undras is a time when the shrine to the All-Gods is veiled to avert miasma. Naturally, the lower part of the shrine for the ancestors and the Underworld deities is left open.
Every year, for two days, the cemeteries are filled with the living, and–with them–their love and devotion to their beloved dead. Despite it being a festival for people who are no longer with us, you’d be surprised to find nothing but glee on the streets as the living remember their departed with happy hearts, and feast and sing in their names.
We bury our offerings on the third and last day. Deep in the black earth, in the flesh of the ‘mother of all and eldest of beings’, we plant our love and remembrance for our dead.
… We pour them milk and alcohol and sweet honey. May they never thirst and may they always have enough in the lands beneath.
With palms facing the earth, we say goodbye to this year’s Days of the Dead, and look forward to another year of making our beloved and honoured dead proud of our deeds.
Hail, beloved and honoured Dead! When it is time for us to join you, may we do so with pride. But until that glorious time, may we live through our long years in health and happiness, peace and plenty, and many victorious deeds.