Happy All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day

At this very moment in Rome, Catholic bishops and leaders are meeting with Pope Francis for the Synodal Assembly on synodality, to discuss and understand God’s will for the Catholic Church in the third millennium. It’s a major event and many of the that 85.7 million Filipino Catholics in the Philippines and millions more outside of the Philippines look forward to the outcome of this Synodal Assembly on synodality to be concluded at the end of this month.

While Catholicism is waning in the United States, Filipinos remain steadfast to the Church and helping to keep Catholic Christianity strong and vibrant into the third millennium.

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes the important role global Filipinos play in the Church. An example, in 2021, Pope Francis celebrated in the Vatican the 500th Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. Pope Francis has held a special mass for the Filipino community in 2019. Also in 2019, he’s done a Simbang Gabi mass in Rome.

The Simbang Gabi, nine-day series of Masses attended by Filipino Catholics in anticipation of Christmas, has been held in Catholic dioceses around the world, in New York City, Seattle, Madrid, Barcelona, Italy, Dubai and other major cities wherever there are Filipino communities.

Why is Catholicism thriving still in Filipino communities around the world? Because it’s undeniable that much of Filipino culture is intertwined and has its roots in Catholicism, the Simbang Gabi is just one among others.

One can say that one facet of Filipino identity is linked to Catholicism.

All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day
Besides Simbang Gabi, another Filipino tradition that has its roots in Catholicism is the observance of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. In the Philippines All Saints’ Day is called Undas, but collectively both days are celebrated as one, either a one-day or two-day celebration for our deceased loved ones.

How is it practiced? Traditionally, Filipinos would go to the gravesite of their departed, bring food and Filipino desserts, and sing songs and say prayers in what is believed to be a communion or reunion with the deceased. The modern practice is that such celebrations are held at home or even virtually.

If you think about the concept behind this cultural practice: how special, unique and mystical that we have a special day that is dedicated to being in communion with our deceased loved ones.

It says a lot about our values systems, as well as our belief systems that we maintain a special place for spirit, esoterica and mysticism within our culture similar to the mystical sects of old Christianity, Kabbala Judaism and Sufi Islam.

Keeping Filipino culture alive
All Saints and All Souls’ Day observance is arguably the most unique cultural expression we have in Filipino culture, even though it’s similarly practiced worldwide in other Catholic countries as well.

All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days observance precisely for its uniqueness also explains why it’s not as widely practiced among Filipinos in the United States. Some have even called it superstitious.

But is it really superstitious to think that our departed loved ones are watching over us and can be in communion with the living? Perhaps, no one knows that answer.

Whether we believe in this or not, Filipino culture as a whole should and must be promoted and passed down to our next generations.

At the very least, our youth should be made aware of our centuries-old Filipino traditions, beliefs and customs. And our youth can decide which ones are fit to be practiced and carried on, and which ones left behind in history.

For our millions of Filipino brothers and sisters globally practicing All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, we wish you a happy celebration. And we honor your ancestors, our ancestors for the role they’ve played in building our community to what it is today.

We think it’s honorable that our ancestors are at least given one special day to be respected and celebrated for the life they lived and the lives they gave to us.

Mabuhay to celebrating Filipino culture. Mabuhay to the memory and legacy of our dearly departed.

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