October 31, 2007

Flowers and Graves

Every day during my daily commute to work I would get off the jeepney at the corner where the flower shops are. And today would have been no different, except for the fact that instead of roses and tulips, there was an abundance of daises, lilies, and those other types of flowers usually reserved for floral wreaths of the dead.

Halloween is finally here.

I never really saw Halloween coming, or I simply just failed to acknowledge it. It's probably because I'm always distracted by a lot of things recently, and it wasn't until I saw the flowers that the thought finally hit home.

Ironically enough, Halloween, or All Saint's Day as they call it here, has always been of great significance for me. This is because every night of the first of November, my family and the families of my aunts and uncles would trek to the cemetery and pay a visit to the graves of my grandmother and grandfather. It is an unbroken tradition as far as I know; ever since we decided to stay here in the province I could almost always be found staring at the grave candles at November 1. But despite this, it was never really a solemn occassion. Except for the standard one-hour prayer vigil (usually headed by one of my more devout aunts), the rest of the night was punctuated by conversations, children making balls out of the melted wax from the candles, and the token card games of
tong-its and pusoy. And it was hard to be solemn at the cemetery anyway, as it was always crowded with people and resembled more of a busy night market than that of a place of repose. There was even one time when the family of the grave next to ours brought a karaoke machine, buckets of beer and barbecue grille (which was promptly followed by a drunken brawl, thus permanently turning our all-night vigil into an until-midnight one).

Ever since my grandfather died in 1997, visiting the cemetery became more important for me. Suffice it to say that Gramps became my surrogate father when Dad was away; a wrinkly but robust old man toiling in his patch of cassava while his skinny young grandson tailed behind. I would never forget those tall cassava stalks, nor my grandfather for that matter. And after he passed away on that fateful birthday of his that January, we would visit his and my grandmother's grave regularly. But as the years passed by the visits became less frequent, and it even came to a point where the only time we would go to his grave was during All Saint's Day. And then came the time where I went to work in Manila. That was the first time I that missed the yearly visit. And as what I have planned for myself in the near future should come into fruition, I would probably be missing a lot more visits to Gramps.

But as long as I am still here, I'll still visit him.

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