Friday, November 1, 2013

The Philippines on two wheels - part seven

Today's All Saints or All Hallows, a major holiday. It's preceded by traffic jams exceeding, if possible, the normal traffic jams, and ports crammed with travellers heading for family hometowns.

Here, I walk early to the cemetery. Philippines cemeteries are often a hotchpotch of tombs upon tombs, graves crammed higgledy-piggledy, a maze of crosses and epitaphs, some upright, some not, and, in crumbling vaults, sights you'd prefer not to see.

To navigate in daylight, squeezing past the departed, using vaults as an elevated pathway, ducking ramshackle corrugated roofs sheltering tombs, is a challenge; at night, even with others reassuringly about, it's something I was not prepared to do. 

I usually ask people whether I may take their picture. However, as an old reporter I also know, if not sticking your camera in a person's face, it's best to be unobtrusive. Filipinos are normally delighted to be photographed, even in graveyards, so I just keep my distance.

All Saints is for lighting candles and leaving flowers, tidying up and painting.

Some sweep more than others.

A stuffy WASP, I prefer orderly cemeteries with nicely mown grass and restrained ornamentation. But, hey, be sensible: this is death in an impoverished country; love, memory and mourning are the same for rich and poor. 

I like the idea of families gathering to celebrate relatives long or recently gone. Canadian cemeteries are usually so quiet; mind you, they're good for cycling or, at least, the one in my neighbourhood is.  

Through the morning, more and more arrive.

However, a once-a-year visit to granny doesn't prevent a quick check on the phone.

Found in a book picked up in a local store: 'It's all right, even good, to leave one's hometown to experience the world when one is young. But one should return to grow old there, and to leave quietly when it's time.' (The Dumaguete We Know Jaime An-Lim, Anvil Publishing, Manila, 2012, p.33)