If there were one word that could describe all the diverse peoples in the Philippines, it would probably be unity.
The word “Filipino”, while we’ve to come to adopt it wholeheartedly—“Pinoy ako! Mahal ko ang bayan kong Pilipinas!”—actually describes a very heterogeneous nation. Within it, there are the Tagalogs, Cebuanos, Ilocanos, Boholanos, Mangyans, Tausugs, Chinese-Filipinos, and so many others.
Yet, one thing seems to be a uniting factor: the value of family, especially seen during the Undas season.
Filipinos, arguably, have the strongest family ties in the world. What sweetness it brings when a balikbayan relative comes home. What sweetness it brings when we visit our grandparents. Such a virtue must be preserved! We should never, ever be ashamed of that.
The Undas season, alongside Christmas and Holy Week, manifests this virtue. People pay a lot to fly home for two days to not just pray for the souls of the faithful departed at their tombs, but also to visit their relatives.
There, both at the cemeteries and at their homes, Filipinos spend time with their families through food and prayers. In Cebu, for example, it’s not unheard of for people to bring an entire lechon to the cemetery to feast on it after All Saints’ Day or All Souls’ Day Mass. Some even stay overnight.
We see, therefore, that though they’re Catholic by origin, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day has arguably transcended in the sense that even our non-Catholic brother and sister Filipinos go home during this time to be with their families.
The pandemic has not stopped Filipinos and their inclination to family and relatives. The rise of Zoom video calls—though definitely not the same as seeing people physically—has helped everyone keep in touch without having to go out. However, there are many Filipinos who do go out already and see their relatives, and that’s alright for as long as safety is still practiced.
In addition, in the Philippines, a family isn’t limited to those related by blood. For many, the term “neighbor” doesn’t simply refer to the ones who live nearby; respect is given to everyone. The Tagalog language demonstrates this reality—we call everyone who’s “higher than us” (so to speak) with the term po. Our friends are our families, too.
As the world once again approaches the Christmas season, may the sense of family still be very much alive. Uncertainty certainly still persists, and it’s been far too long since we haven’t seen each other; we aren’t islands meant to be apart, after all. We’re human beings and we’re meant to see and interact with each other.
So, just like during Undas, may we find ways, safely, of course, to once again be with the people we love. May the unity that brings us together be stronger than any fear we might have of the future.
The author of this article:
An accomplished young Chinese Filipino writer and media personality, Aaron S. Medina is associated with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Studies Program, the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, and CHiNOY TV. He has a passion for truth, justice, and Pokémon, too! Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aaron.joseph.s.medina/