Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin
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When I was a child, cemeteries were scary places for me. Just the thought that dead people were buried there --
and many scary movies had cemeteries as regular locations where gory things happened at night-- was more
than enough discouragement for me to join adults to visit those graveyards during All Saints Day and All Souls Day
(November 1-2) every year. However, that was long before I personally witnessed death among my close relatives
and my own family; and in adulthood, the scary part of the equation faded away completely, leaving genuine
feelings of grief, loss, and emptiness. To me, the cemetery has become a place of reverence, and the grave of our
dear departed a sacred place to personally “talk” to them and offer prayers for their eternal peace and happiness in
In the Philippines, we call these two days of celebrations Todos Los Santos and Undas. A few days before the
main events, we clean up our graveyards, repair whatever is needed to get repaired around the tombs, and repaint
the place. Flowers and other plants “beautify” the graves, and lighted or scented candles brighten the nights as families get together to pay
respects to loved ones, friends, or relatives who went ahead of everybody else. Church people are on hand to provide group prayers and blessing;
while some enterprising individuals offer their “prayer services” for a fee. The mood inside the cemeteries is always festive during these special
days, as lots of home-cooked food and non-alcoholic beverages flood these places, and people meet up and talk for hours just about anything.
New “relatives” are introduced to families and sometimes, we meet new friends in the process.
I was in two cemeteries this past weekend—in a private and a public one – to visit and offer prayers to my Tia Onor (at Himlayan ng mga Anghel)
and to my cousin Consy’s whole family, particularly her daughter, Atty. Joy Cambel, who passed away a few years ago. After completing my
mission, I walked around, saw some acquaintances, and noticed abandoned tombs. I felt a sense of pity for the dead lying in those graves. In our
tradition, we always take care of our loved ones’ graves, making sure they are clean, weeding out unwieldy grasses, just a simple way to let our
dear departed “feel” that we will continue to care for them even if they’re gone. All I could do was to offer a silent prayer for these unknown dead,
and made mention of a thought that maybe their living loved ones had very pressing matters to attend to these days. I thought of the years I was in
the US, missing many funerals of relatives and friends in this country as well as seasons like this, and realized I was also guilty of non-presence
at times when I was needed to help comfort those left behind.
(and another), with almost no extra space for visitors to stand nor sit
down for a longer stay. Regardless, I saw family members still
making the best they can to pay respect to their dead and enjoy their
moment of togetherness.
I am sharing some photos I took that weekend, just to show our
readers…this is the Philippines, on All Saints and All Souls Days.
I also noticed that in these
cemeteries, the difference
between the rich and the
poor is also apparent.
Those with more have
mausoleums or bigger plots
with concrete enclosures,
most times home-like,
complete with rooms and
bath, grilled doors and
windows. Those with less
tombs one on top of another