Day of the Dead Philippines

Day of the Dead in the Philippines

Day of the Dead is as synonymous with Mexico as tequila and mariachi bands. The truth is, however, that many other Latin countries like Colombia and Ecuador celebrate El dia de Los Muertos too. What you might find surprising is that the Philippines observes the Day of the Dead too as:

  • Araw ng mga Patay. 
  • All Souls’ Day.
  • All Saints’ Day.
  • Undás.

Continue reading to discover the origins of Day of the Dead and how the holiday started in the Philippines.

When is the Day of the Dead in the Philippines?

Day of the Dead takes place in the Philippines every November 1st and 2nd. Contrary to popular belief, Day of the Dead isn’t the same thing as Halloween. They do, however, share themes around death and the afterlife. 

Additionally, both holidays occur around the same time, with Halloween falling every October 31st, while Day of the Dead begins a day later.

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Day of the Dead celebrations in the Philippines

Day of the Dead celebrations in the Philippines

Unlike other countries and scenes from popular culture, Day of the Dead in the Philippines is a sombre affair. Filipinos observe the day by heading to cemeteries to visit the graves of their family members. Once there, Pinoys will clean their loved one’s tomb, light candles, say prayers and leave offerings, such as perfume.

Top tip: Where possible, ask before taking pictures of mourners. Day of the Dead is a religious ritual, so you should respect the privacy of those who observe it.

If you’re in the Philippines, try to visit a few cemeteries. That way, you’ll see how the various cultures in the Philippines celebrate the holiday. As the Day of the Dead ranks only behind Christmas and Semana Santa for many Pinoys, it’s a spectacle worth witnessing.

A banquet-style feast usually signals the end of the Day of the Dead. In the Philippines, families will typically serve jugs of tuba (coconut wine) and kaldereta (goat meat stew), followed by a session of karaoke.  

What are the origins of Day of the Dead?

The word “Undás” comes from the Spanish word Honras, meaning honours.

Like many historical events, the origins of Undás or Dia de Los Muertos are unclear. Some say it traces back to the Aztec people who used skulls to honour the dead. Other accounts attribute the holiday to Los conquistadors who brought the tradition to Mexico from Spain. 

As a former colony of Spain, the Philippines inherited the holiday with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

The principle behind Day of the Dead is that mourning the dead is disrespectful. That’s because the Aztecs believed that death was a natural phase in life’s long journey. The ‘Dead’ were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit, and every November, they temporarily returned to earth. 

Did you know, during meals on the Day of the Dead, an extra plate (known as alay) is offered to each departed soul?

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