‘Undas’ tradition remains a family affair amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 24) — The annual “Undas” tradition will be slightly different again because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the strong family ties remain the same.

Just like in 2020, the Inter-Agency Task Force ordered the closure of cemeteries, memorial parks and columbaria from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. With the upcoming restrictions, some decided to visit the memorial plots of their loved ones early.

Five days before the closure, some braved the bad weather and COVID-19 threat to avoid large crowds and pay respects to their dearly departed.

In many public and private cemeteries in Metro Manila this weekend, there was a common sight: families solemnly gathered but mindful of social distancing and offering prayers for their deceased relatives.

For Shamira Areopagita, a student, the yearly tradition remains a family affair despite the pandemic.

Shamira said this year’s Undas is very important for her family, having lost their grandmother to the deadly virus. But not everyone was able to pay their last respects when she passed away due to restrictions. Now that the rules have been eased, she said they were able to reunite while honoring their late grandmother.

“Sobrang lapit lang sa amin ng lola ko lalo na she just recently died earlier this year so we really took this chance to come here kasi she’s really special…Even though I have school and work, talagang pinilit ko pumunta dito kahit umuulan,” she said.

[Translation: Our lola is very close to us and she just recently died earlier this year, so we took this chance to come here since she’s very special to us…Even though I have school and work, I really wanted to go here even if it’s raining.]

Shamira said their family values the time they get to spend with each other, while being able to fulfill the Undas tradition and staying safe.

Benito Tan, a Manila local official, said they wanted to go early to avoid the rush of visitors ahead of the closure. He added they wanted to go as a family and this Sunday was the only time they could visit the cemetery with everyone present.

While it’s important to remember our departed loved ones, Tan said it’s also wise to find other ways to do so given the COVID-19 threat. He advised those unable to visit to just stay home and offer prayers or masses.

Public and private cemeteries are implementing strict health protocols this year, including limiting the number of visitors in a group, banning the installation of tents, and deploying guards to ensure the observance of social distancing.

Metro Manila mayors back the Undas closure, but some provincial leaders are still appealing the move. This is the second straight year cemeteries will be closed to prevent mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: IATF urged to rethink cemetery closure during Undas