I’ve lost a loved one and I don’t know what to do. My best friend’s brother passed away and I felt the full breadth of pain, sorrow and grief. Everyone has his own way of grieving — emotions run high, with mixes of grief, sorrow, anger and rage filling the hearts of those left behind.
It’s never easy. It wasn’t easy for me.
If it’s anything I’ve learnt about mourning the loss of a loved one, it is that the Filipino community will always be very close-knit and that we hold our Christian values strongly.
Every culture has its own funeral customs and rituals designed to pay tribute to those who have passed on. The Filipino culture places funeral customs and beliefs in high regard, because respect of the dead is very important. A Filipino funeral encompasses a variety of traditions and allows for healing of those who are mourning a loss of a loved one. Traditionally, guests, relatives, and participants are expected to donate money to help with the funeral costs. And oftentimes, food and warm beverages are served for those staying up for the night vigil, providing comfort and respite during a difficult time.
Having grown up in Australia, I feel that I am often quite detached from my own Filipino heritage and home-grown practices. This was my first Filipino funeral experience in Australia — it was both a sorrowful yet heart-warming experience that helped me grieve.
We all know a Filipino wake is not designed to be short or quick as most of them last at least 7 to 9 days. Respect and homage for the dead loved ones is displayed through an outpouring of love and the obedience of rituals. The length of the wake is in part to allow visiting family members enough time to journey home for the final farewell.
There’s a lot to be said about the memories you leave behind — but more to be said about the family, friends and acquaintances that are also there for you when you leave. I learnt that mourning with my family and friends pays homage to a mixture of Christian values and indigenous beliefs — Filipino funeral customs represent a unique blend of ancient and contemporary traditions. In times both past and present, Filipino culture has valued a specific set of funeral customs to ensure peaceful transitions into the afterlife.
When the funeral is over, family and friends gather together for a meal, otherwise known as a novena, after 9 nights of prayer. The last night of prayer ends with a huge feast that is meant to celebrate the life of the dead. It is believed in our culture that this is the time when the soul of the dead finally goes to be with his Creator.
Death is a part of the cycle of life. It takes time and willpower to get through the loss of someone very dear. By incorporating Christian practices with traditional Filipino beliefs, the funeral customs of the Philippines preserve a unique respect for loved ones transitioning from one life to the next.
Most importantly, these practices helped me grieve the loss of a loved one and reconnect me with the values and social ties of my Filipino heritage.