IT WAS Wola, my dog, who woke me up with his wet muzzle this morning so I can go to the cemetery early to visit my dead relatives. I really hate it when he wakes me up with all his doggy saliva on my left cheek. But I love Wola because he’s not like any ordinary dog. He’s so special, he knows the right time of day to rouse me from sleep.
The sun’s high up when I went down Valencia Street towards the direction of Parola (now Navy Tide Pole) where the Old City Cemetery is located. I thought it’s a bit in a hurry too like the people who have started showing up at quarter to 7 a.m., bringing flowers and candles for loved ones who had passed away.
I opted to go to the cemetery early so I won’t get myself caught in traffic. I know that the moment the clock hits 8 a.m., it would be difficult to move out of there.
I parked Leonardo several manageable meters away from the old cemetery. If I was early, the policemen and the traffic enforcers were way there earlier. Food snacks, flower and candle sellers were also ahead of time to set up their stalls.
Not so long ago, people can still park near the cemetery just outside its perimeter walls. Walking wasn’t a hassle unlike today. It’s like self-administered punishment, very early for next year’s Holy Week. I believe that’s called “self-flagellation,” especially if you’re bringing flowers and your whole kitchen (Filipinos love to bring food when visiting) to spend a day with dead relatives. I was happy it’s my mom who’d be bringing the flowers.
Maybe my grandmother and my grandfather (lola Santi and lolo Mauricio) and the rest would understand why I didn’t buy them flowers this year. Last year, I brought them mums and roses bought from a friend, but I heard that as soon as nighttime came, there were people who were not restrained by moral or ethical principles who stole and resold them next morning. Weird business, I don’t know if they didn’t feel guilt earning from dead people’s flowers.
Since 1998, I’ve acquired this feeling of being lazy going to the old cemetery on November 1 to visit them. I go the next day instead, November 2. Sorry, but that’s the feeling you get when you feel spaces there shrinking because some people just bury their dead anywhere. You actually needed to step on another dead person’s grave just to get to where you wanted to go. It never entered my mind to find a baby’s grave right in front of my lolo and lola’s burial places, it’s pathway! Everyone’s passing there and they’re stepping on little poor her.
Old people say it’s bad to step on graves because the dead owners get mad since they’re being disturbed in the after life. Although I don’t believe in it (I’m a Christian), I still think they deserve respect. But sometimes, people can’t avoid doing that – especially if they have no choice.
The management of the old cemetery shouldn’t have allowed it. It was like getting inside a giant maze; each move doesn’t bring you anywhere unless you face a challenging risk — stepping on dead people. There’s a regulation about this, I’m not sure why it’s not implemented.
Sure, we’re not supposed to complain because it’s a public cemetery. But it wasn’t like that before. It was orderly like a private one and you don’t feel guilty because you don’t disrespect anyone stepping on their graves. How could you get mad and demand that they take out that little girl’s burial place out of the pathway? No one’s visiting her, who are you going to talk to?
The old cemetery has expanded several square meters wide on both sides (Circumferential Road and down Petron depot) to accommodate more… ahm… dead people. In front of it, in what used to be a salt farm, Loyola Memorial Park is building a high-end cemetery. I wish I’m rich enough so I can transfer lolo, lola, Tita Virgie, Tita Emma, Lois, Rommel and Uncle Big there so they’ll have beautiful gardens surrounding them and a serene view of Puerto Princesa Bay.
Day of the Dead… I wish dead people would visit those in charge of the cemetery so they’ll do their work right and not allow burials on pathways. They need their relatives too to visit them and remember happy moments when they were still alive.
If it’s so difficult to get to them, only a few would get the interest to visit. I felt that feeling, and it was disgusting. I love them and it’s frustrating to be in a situation where you can’t get to where they are given pathway blocks like little babies’ graves, and it’s not even their fault. It wouldn’t be half their parents’ fault too if they were not allowed in the first place.
I miss lola and Uncle Big so much…