Thousands of Commonwealth residents took an unofficial two-day holiday at the start of November and made time to visit their departed loved ones in cemeteries, clean their grave sites, and offer a flower or candle as part of the annual tradition.
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day follow right after Halloween, drawing hordes of people to cemeteries across these predominantly Catholic islands on a day intended to honor the dead.
A woman who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity visited her family’s gravesites during work hours.
“These sort of events do not necessarily guarantee a day off. However, that doesn’t take away the significance it may hold to the people here on island. I just want to come by and make sure they [deceased relatives] received something and I will be on my way,” she said.
A recent widow, Sandra Jakosalem, along with her son and other close family friends, would visit the grave of her late husband, Silvino Jakosalem, at the Kagman cemetery.
“It’s just a tradition to go here [cemetery] to visit him every All Souls’ Day,” Jakosalem said.
A Northern Marianas College student, Sam Santos, also participated in the two-day event. According to Santos, he and his family attended the Mass held at Mount Carmel cemetery.
“I [went] to the cemetery to join my family and honor the dead as well as attend the celebration of the Mass. You know how they say the Mass is the highest form of prayer? I feel that it [Mass] really helps in praying for the dead.”
“Honoring the dead on these two days is not only for islanders but for Filipinos as well. It is a tradition for us to pray for the dead during Nov. 1 and 2. It’s a very spiritual and sentimental experience, to be able to find a sort of spiritual closeness with our loved ones who have gone before us,” Santos said.
Phillip Canuto, who owns the flower shop Island Touch, also finds ways to participate.
“I usually sell and provide fresh flowers for people to decorate their relatives’ tombstones with. However, sometimes I have to go on site to deliver them so I also make it a habit to fix other people’s flowers that have tumbled over or got blown off,” Canuto said.
The legions of foreign workers who are unable to visit the gravesites of their loved ones usually light candles in front of their homes to mark the occasion.